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Economics | Master's FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are frequently asked questions about the master's program in economics.

When should I apply for the MA in economics program?
The Department of Economics at American University has rolling admissions. In other words, we accept applications throughout the year; to be accepted into a specific semester, you need to turn in your completed application 6 weeks before the prior semester ends. For example, if you want to enroll for Fall 2010, we need your completed application 6 weeks before the start of that semester. Application forms and details about applying can be found at the ecnomics master's admissions Web page and the College of Arts and Sciences graduate admissions Web site.

Can I be admitted to the MA in economics program if I do not have a BA in economics?
Yes! Prior to enrolling in any MA courses, however, students must show that they have met the prerequisites for the program including: Intermediate Microeconomics (ECON-300) and Intermediate Macroeconomics (ECON-301) (or Introduction to Economic Theory (ECON-603); Basic Statistics (ECON-202); and Applied Calculus (ECON-211). We are happy to waive these prerequisites for students who have completed comparable courses from another institution. Prerequisite credits are not counted toward your degree.

Is the GRE required for admittance to the MA in economics Program?
Yes, although there is no minimum score required.

Does the Department of Economics offer financial aid to MA students?
The University offers a very limited number of merit based awards to MA students. The University's office of financial aid can assist you in applying for Federal Stafford or outside student loans. More information on financing your MA in Economics program can be found on the MA financing Web page.

How long does it take to earn an MA in Economics?
Students must complete 30 to 36 hours of approved graduate work, depending on the specific track chosen by the student. Full-time students typically enroll in 9 credit hours per semester, which allows students to complete the program in as little as 1.5 to 2 years.

Can I enroll in the MA program part-time?
Yes! All of our MA courses are offered in the evening, and many of our students choose to take fewer than 9 credit hours per semester. 

Is there a BA/MA option?
American University offers students the opportunity to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees through its accelerated bachelor's/master's programs. Undergraduate students may apply up to 3 credits for every 9 credits required for the graduate degree to the requirements for both degree programs. This program enables qualified students to earn, in a continuous plan of study, both the BA or BS in economics and the MA in economics. Interested students should apply to the MA program in their junior year. Interested students can find application information on the College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Admissions Web site. Students in this program will not be required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Students will be admitted formally to MA status only after they have completed all requirements for the BA or BS in economics with a cumulative grade point average of 3.00 or higher. For advice on whether the combined degree program is a good choice for you please visit the Director of Undergraduate Studies

How much flexibility do students have in creating his or her own curriculum?
All MA students must complete 15 credit hours of core courses, including Introduction to Mathematical Economics, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, and Econometrics I and II. Students choose from one of five tracks: General, Development Economics, Gender Analysis in Economics, Financial Economic Policy, and Business Economics. Depending on the track chosen, students complete their degree by taking an additional 15 to 21 credits of electives or required courses. More information on degree requirements for individual tracks can be found on the master's requirements Web page

How much math is required for the MA in Economics program? 
Is math really necessary for a career in economics?
Graduate-level economics courses require the use of a number of mathematical tools, including multivariate calculus and linear algebra. Students are expected to have completed Basic Statistics (STAT-202) and Applied Calculus (MATH-211) prior to beginning the program, and Introduction to Mathematical Economics (ECON-505) within the first 12 credits of the program. Although our MA program is designed to prepare students for careers in policy-oriented, applied economics, all economists need a solid grounding in economic theory and econometrics. You cannot get this grounding without a basic understanding of the mathematics used in the field. Professional economists also need to be able to review the academic literature to evaluate what research has important policy implications; students must understand the mathematical tools used in this academic research.          

What and when are the Comprehensive Exams?
A comprehensive examination requires a deeper and more synthesized understanding of the material than is expected in the courses required for that comprehensive examination. Generally the emphasis of the comprehensive examination is on the last full sequence of the courses that are required for the comprehensive examination. MA Students must pass a comprehensive exam in economic theory after completing Microeconomics (ECON-500) and Macroeconomics (ECON-501). Additional information can be found on the comprehensive exam Web page, and sample exams are available.

When are the exams given?  
Comprehensive Exams are given twice a year in January and June, usually within the first 2 weeks of each month. The examination date for your comprehensive will be set after the registration deadline. It is your responsibility to learn about the administration of the comprehensive examinations, including the dates by which you must register.

How do I sign up?
Students must register with the department staff by the announced deadline, which is generally eight to ten weeks before the comprehensive examinations are given. The date of the registration deadline will be posted well in advance. To avoid missing the deadline, you are advised to apply for your comprehensive examination when you register for the semester before you plan to take your exam. To register, come to Room 104 in Kreeger Hall and speak to someone in the Department of Economics.

What is the fee?
There is no fee to take the comprehensive exams.

Does the MA in economics program help prepare me to earn a PhD in economics?
Few PhD programs in economics require students to earn an MA degree prior to enrolling in their programs. Nevertheless, the MA in economics program has helped some students, particularly those who did not take a full complement of mathematics and economics courses during their undergraduate studies, prepare for subsequent PhD programs.

Where do alumni of the MA in economics program find employment?
The MA in economics program is designed for students interested in applied economics research and policy analysis. Our course work is intended to provide students with thorough preparation for careers with employers needing well-trained economics professionals, including government agencies here and abroad, Congressional committees, think tanks, international and multilateral organizations, non-governmental organizations, consulting firms, and financial institutions.