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Masters Academics FAQ

What is Economics?

Economics, first and foremost, is a social science. As such, economics helps to explain the complexities of how people and society operate. Economics isn’t a business degree, although economics teaches important business skills.

Economics falls somewhere between the practical and the theoretical; it deals with theories, but there are many economists who use theories to advise governments and large corporations.

Economics is essentially the science of choice in a world of scarcity. The analytical skill of economists is useful in evaluating alternative methods of achieving society’s goals and objectives, and then formulating strategies and policies that will help to achieve these objectives.

Economics most basic and enduring strength is that it provides a logical and ordered way of looking at various problems and issues. It draws upon history, philosophy, and mathematics to confront topics ranging from how an individual household or business can make sound decisions, to societal issues such as how to fight unemployment, inflation, and environmental decay. As a result, economics is widely recognized as a solid background for many jobs and professions.

Economics concerns us all. Some of the important questions we try to answer include: “Why do we have so much unemployment in a nation as rich as the United States?” and “Who determines how much money is circulating in the United States?” If you like to understand wealth, poverty, growth, trade, money, jobs, income, depression, recession, prices, monopoly–and study what makes the world work from day to day–then you will be fascinated with the field of economics.

Nature of Work?

Economists study how society distributes scarce resources such as land, labor, raw materials, and machinery to produce goods and services. They conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends, and develop forecasts. They research issues such as energy costs, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, business cycles, taxes, or unemployment levels.

Economists devise methods and procedures for obtaining the data they need. For example, sampling techniques may be used to conduct a survey, and various mathematical modeling techniques may be used to develop forecasts. Preparing reports, including tables and charts, on research results is an important part of an economist’s job. Presenting economic and statistical concepts in a clear and meaningful way is particularly important for economists whose research is directed toward making policies for an organization.

Many economists specialize in a particular area of economics, although general knowledge of basic economic principles is useful in each area. Microeconomists study the supply and demand decision of individuals and firms, such as how profits can be maximized and how much of a good or service consumers will demand at a certain price. Industrial/organizational economists study the market structure of particular industries in terms of the number of competitors, and the market decisions of competitive firms and monopolies. These economists may also be concerned with antitrust policy and its impact on market structure.

Macroeconomists study historical trends in the whole economy and forecast future trends in areas such as unemployment, inflation, economic growth, productivity, and investment. Financial Economists study the money and banking system and the effects of rising interest rates. International Economists study international financial markets, exchange rates, and the effects of various trade policies such as tariffs.

Labor Economists study the supply and demand for labor and the determination of wages. These economists also try to explain the reasons for unemployment, and the effects on labor markets of changing demographic trends such as an aging population and increasing immigration. Public finance economists primarily are involved in studying the role of the government in the economy and the effects of tax cuts, budget deficits, and welfare policies.

Econometricians are involved in all areas of economics and use mathematical techniques such as calculus, game theory, and regression analysis to formulate economic models. These models help to explain economic relationships and are used to develop forecasts related to the nature and length of business cycles, the effects of a specific rate of inflation on the economy, the effects of tax legislation on unemployment levels, and other economic phenomena. Many economists have applied these fundamental areas of economics to more narrow areas with specific applications such as health, education, agriculture, urban and regional economics, law, history, energy, and the environment.

The Occupational Employment Statistics, Published by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, estimates the employment, annual wage and mean wage for economists. This data is available through its reports such as National Estimates for Economists, Industry Profile for Economists, State Profile for Economists and Metropolitan Profile for Economists.

Why do I need the Master’s degree?

A master’s or PhD degree in economics is required for many private sector economist jobs, and for advancement to more responsible positions. Economics includes many specialties at the graduate level, such as advanced economic theory, econometrics, international economics, and labor economics. Because of the importance of quantitative skills to economists, courses in mathematics, statistics, econometrics, sampling theory, survey design, and computer science are extremely helpful.

Whether working in government, industry, research organizations, or consulting firms, economists with a bachelor’s degree usually qualify for most entry-level positions, or for various sales jobs. A master’s degree usually is required to qualify for more responsible research and administrative positions. Many businesses, research, consulting firms, and government agencies seek individuals who have strong computer and quantitative skills and can perform complex research.

A master’s degree is usually the minimum requirement for a job as an instructor in junior and community colleges. In most colleges and universities, however, a PhD is necessary for appointment as an instructor.

A master’s degree, coupled with a strong background in economic theory, mathematics, statistics, and econometrics, provides the basis for acquiring any specialty within the economics field. Those skilled in quantitative techniques and their application to economic modeling and forecasting, and who have good communication skills, should have the best job opportunities.

What can I do with the Master’s degree?

Graduates in economics learn tools of analysis and a method of thinking that are applicable to a number of different careers. Economic majors have a variety of employment opportunities in:
Business, Banking/Financial Services, or Government/Academia.

Economists in Business

Economists working for corporations are involved primarily in microeconomic issues such as forecasting consumer demand and sales of the firm’s products. Economists working for corporations might also analyze their competitors’ growth and market share and advise their company on how to handle the competition. Other economists working for corporations monitor legislation passed by Congress, such as environmental and worker safety regulations, and assess its impact on their business.

Economists in Banking/Financial Services

Economists provide corporate management information needed to make decisions on pricing of company products including the profitability of new product lines. Banks employ economists to not only study the macro conditions that make our economy work and make predictions, they also study the micro elements of business and make projections.

Economists in Government and Academia

Almost all government agencies hire economists, and most high school and colleges hire economics teachers. In the federal government, both Congress and the Executive Branch have economic advisors. As well, most departments have agencies established to perform economic research and analysis. For example, the Labor Department relies on the Bureau of Labor Statistics to act as the principal fact-finding agency in the broad field of labor economics and statistics.

The Commerce Department relies on accountant, preparing estimates that illuminate key national, international, and regional aspects of the U.S. economy. The Department of Agriculture relies on the Agricultural Research Service and the Environmental Protection Agency relies on the Office of Policy, Planning, and Development. State and local governments also hire economists to perform similar tasks as their federal counterparts.


  • A student who completes the M.S. degree could expect a career in analytical, financial, and international economics; or economic consulting; teaching at some community colleges; performing research at a government agency or think tank; or preparing to enter a Ph.D. program in economics or a related business field.
  • Moreover, with the M.S., you are more qualified to do research oriented positions because you will be much more familiar with technical economic concepts. If potential employers place a greater emphasis on extensive technical quantitative skills, they will surely notice the M.S. degree. Some employers pay a premium for employees who maintain this skill set.
  • When selecting a Graduate Program, it’s important to focus on the skill set a particular degree provides. Although, the name of the degree is important, the skill set a degree provides is even more important. You don’t need to know what you want to do for your entire career, but you should have an understanding of the skills that are essential to qualify for certain professional positions.
  • We encourage students to do some career research and figure out if the skill set that our Masters Programs provide is in alignment with the skills that jobs indicate on their postings. If not, then this may not be the right program for you.


What makes UB Econ different?


There are various Economics Departments throughout the world that offer a Masters in Economics. The Masters Economics Programs at the University at Buffalo places educational emphasis on building analytical and quantitative skills, based on economics as an applied science. This serves three broad clienteles: students interested in private sector jobs (investing and banking, insurance and financial services, or consulting); students interested in government and public enterprise positions; and students interested in attending the program as a stepping stone to the Ph.D. degree. We attempt to focus on skill sets that are required and in high demand among these clienteles.


Traditionally, Masters Economics Programs are considered the consolation prize for PHD student who fail to complete their doctoral program. Our program is a stand-alone programs that focus on analytical and research skills. Our department realized that we couldn’t offer a full array of specializations and worked with professionals schools (business, medicine, law) and other departments (math, geography) to develop certificates that students could market themselves in the working world. The market niche is apparent by the success of our graduates.


The Masters Economics Programs have a unique structure and offer a great deal of flexibility. The Master of Arts (30 credits), the advanced certificate component (15 credits), and the Master of Science degree (45 credits) fit different students depending on educational and career goals. This variety of programs give offer optional flexibility in achieving these goals.


  • Starting with 23 students in Fall 1998, the Masters Economics Programs have reached major league status as there are 150 students in residence for Fall 2012 semester.
  • Student hail from over 31 countries and 5 continents. About 70% of Masters students are international.
  • The rate of enrollment growth, has been increasing annually, and has not yet slowed down, with student quality measures remaining high and steady.
  • As a result of the program’s success, it has become the largest graduate program in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.
  • The size of our program allow us to provide a fine variety of courses and maintain good faculty-to-student ratios.


For the past few years, there has been rampant inflation in the cost of tuition at all levels of American higher education. Since 1970, tuition in various forms of education have risen. Tuition in higher education are now so high that prospective students at undergraduate and graduate schools are often considering relative tuition when deciding which school to attend.

The State University of New York remains committed to providing students with the best education possible at an affordable cost.

SUNY Tuition Value: Enrollment at an All-Time High
The National Center For Education Statistics lists the average yearly price of attending college

SUNY’s average tuition and fees are below the national average.

Nearly 13,000 (5.8 percent) of students at the SUNY state-operated campuses are from out-of-state, and nearly 15,000 students (6.5 percent) reside internationally.

Where our students come from?

From all over the world.

What can I expect to make after I graduate?

from a Forbes 2014 article:

BLS data about Mid-Career Annual salaries and Projected Employment increases for those holding Master’s degrees in 2012 published by Forbes Magazine
Master’s Subject Projected Job Outlook 2012-22 Increase (%) Mid-Career Pay ($)
Top 10 By Salary Electrical Engineering 17.7 121,000
Economics 14.3 115,000
Physics 20.3 114,000
Computer Science 22.3 109,000
Physician Assistant 30.0 97,000
Information Systems 23.3 95,000
Mathematics 24.7 91,500
Health Care Administration 22.0 87,800
Nursing 21.7 85,900
Chemistry 10.5 85,700
Other MA subjects you might have contemplated Occupational Therapy 33.0 79,200
Human Resources Management 17.0 77,200
Architecture 16.3 77,100
Geography 29.0 74,760
Biology 12.0 74,100
History 17.1 64,100
English 8.0 62,900
Education 14.7 60,100
Music 11.3 57,000
Library and Information Science 8.5 57,000
Counseling 22.0 53,000

The following data is from the ’10- ’11 United States Department of Labor Report:

Median annual wage and salary wages of economists were $83,590 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $59,390 and $113,590. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,050, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $149,110. In March 2009, the average annual salary for economists employed by the Federal Government was $108,010. Starting salaries were higher in selected geographical areas where the prevailing local pay was higher. Please see this webpage for more information on mean wage estimates

CNN Money has a statistic on what an Economics degree is worth.

Specific statistics on graduates from the University at Buffalo M.A. Program are being collected. For more information on the types of jobs and places of employment for our graduates, please go to our ALUMNI page.

Transferring Credits

The UB Masters Economics Program does not accept transfer credit from other universities toward the Masters Economics degrees. A student may be able to obtain a course waiver. Please submit the Required Course Waiver if you believe you qualify for a course waiver(s) because of extensive undergraduate or previous graduate work taken.