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Purdue’s online master’s degree in economics attracts STEM students


image of hands on a keyboardThe Purdue online master’s degree in economics is the first program of its kind offered by a major research university. It gives students with strong quantitative or STEM backgrounds insight into business, markets and government.

“There was a segment of the economics education market that was not being served and we thought we’d be the first ones to fill it,” says Jack Barron, Loeb Professor of Economics and Director of Graduate Programs in Economics. “We’ve put together a high-quality program. The online courses are the same courses offered on campus. The program has a new entering class starting each fall, and depending on demand, we may start classes in the spring as well.”

Advantages of online

The 30 credit hour program takes two years to complete as a part-time student, with no more than seven credit hours per semester. “Completing the program online, you can continue employment,” Barron says. “Because you don’t leave your employer, they are more likely to pay for your education. It should open doors for promotion.”

First-year courses focus on economic theory and econometrics. Students then choose to concentrate in either applied economics/business, which develops decision-making skills for management and policy-making, or advanced economic theory, which readies students for entry into doctoral programs.

Barron says the online option is a good fit for graduate students. “People pursuing a graduate degree are typically more motivated and more disciplined. They are more mature and understand better the potential payoffs.”

Perks for Purdue students

Students at Purdue already earning a minor in economics can take those 9 credit hours and apply them toward the 30 credits needed for the master’s degree. For Purdue’s STEM undergraduates, it is an appealing option, especially to engineering students.

“We anticipate it will expand their career prospects,” Barron says. Purdue students can arrange class schedules to complete most of the first-year courses during the senior year. Students can accept full-time positions upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree, and complete the remaining courses for their master’s as a part-time, online student.

First class profile

The first class, which began in August, includes approximately 20 students with bachelor’s degrees in economics, engineering, law, technology and mathematics. Students will interact online from Qatar, China, the UK, Japan and various places in the United States. The program also includes active-duty military personnel, who can complete the program from wherever they are stationed.

“Half have STEM backgrounds. The first course is calculus-based and they are comfortable with the quantitative aspects of it. For someone coming out with an engineering degree, pursuing the master’s degree in economics is a signal to their employer they have broader interests than just engineering,” Barron says.

Hybrid for international students

For international students who want to study full-time in the U.S., a hybrid version is in the works, which would include a year of online study and a year on campus.  “We had a lot of applicants, especially from China, but they really wanted to come here. The alternate version of the M.S. online will have a thesis option requiring residence on campus in the second year.”

Being on campus will also allow students to take additional elective courses as a full-time student to supplement the economics classes, all while they learn about American culture first-hand.

Additional information

For program details, please view the online brochure, or visit the Economics Department website.