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Economics & Policy in Washington, DC

Understanding markets, monetary forces, human behavior, and organizational behavior is vital to governments, businesses, and organizations. To prepare you for a career that fits your interests, we offer five distinct tracks: applied economics, development economics, gender analysis in economics, financial economic policy, and applied economics (online only).

Our faculty combines high-quality teaching, serious scholarship, and real-world experience influencing economic policy. The majority of our faculty members have international experience, and there are rich offerings of courses dealing with global economic issues.

American University is located in Washington, DC, the most important city in the nation for policymaking. Your training will include using state-of-the-art statistical software in applied economics research. Our students engage in internships to get a head start on their careers and gain practical, hands-on experience. The extraordinary array of intellectual and professional opportunities offered by the nation's capital make American University the ideal place for you to study economics.

This program is designated as a STEM degree program.


Meave Fryer

MA, Applied EconomicsMeave Fryer

Three things drew Meave Fryer to American University’s Applied Economics MA program: DC’s robust job market, small and intimate classes, and faculty research that lined up with her interests — development and humanitarian economics with a focus on gender perspectives.

Meave has taken advantage of all these things during her time at AU. In June 2021, she began interning at a Virginia development and humanitarian aid agency. She’s now working as the agency’s monitoring and evaluation assistant, contributing to its mission of designing human development programs for some of the world's most challenging environments.

The work is a perfect fit for Meave, who wants to pursue development and humanitarian economics after graduation, in the monitoring and evaluation field. “Humanitarian aid programs aim to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity for victims of natural disasters, wars, famines, or other catastrophic events,” she says. “Evidence-based and efficient interventions are critical. Monitoring and evaluation of such programs keep implementors accountable to the populations they serve.”

Meave says her AU experience has helped her develop applied research skills to complement her background in international development. “I appreciate my professors for preparing me for life after graduation by not only teaching me how to use econometric tools, but always contextualizing them with real-world applications. The support of my cohort has also been key in making my experience at AU so fulfilling.”

Tailor Your Degree to your Goals

The MA in Economics is a 30-credit program designed to ensure that our graduates make an impact by developing their ability to use economic theory to explain outcomes and make informed predictions; analyze data to rigorously answer questions, such as how specific policies will affect markets; and convey economic concepts and findings to a wide audience. A 15-credit hour core provides a solid foundation in economic theory and econometrics to students in all tracks. 

The five distinct tracks allow students to tailor their remaining coursework to their specific goals. Most graduate level courses are offered in the evening, and the master's degree can be completed in either full-time or part-time status.

See complete Admissions & Course Requirements.

Five Tracks

  1. Applied Economics: electives from any field

    Offers a rigorous combination of theoretical courses in economics and field courses-such as labor, international finance, or trade-and economic history;

    Like the other tracks, culminates in a capstone, in which students prepare a semester-long empirical paper using state-of-the-art economic research methods.

  2. Applied Economics online: selected electives

    Offers a rigorous combination of theoretical courses in economics and field courses-such as labor, international finance, or trade-and economic history;

    Like the other tracks, culminates in a capstone, in which students prepare a semester-long empirical paper using state-of-the-art economic research methods.

  3. Gender Analysis: required courses (6 credits) in gender micro- and macroeconomics

    Applies gender analysis to a variety of economic problems, including those in labor economics, public finance, development, and international trade and investment. See also: Program on Gender Analysis in Economics.

  4. Development Economics: required courses (6 credits) in development micro- and macroeconomics

    Focuses on the macroeconomic and microeconomic concerns that affect developing countries;

    Includes a required, two-course sequence on development economics, along with the core economics courses and related elective courses in the School of International Service and/or Department of Economics.

  5. Financial Economics: two required courses (6 credits) in financial policy

    Teaches the tools of financial policy at the corporate and government level;

    Includes required classes on financial economics from the Department of Economics, finance classes from the Kogod School of Business, and electives-such as accounting, investments, and international finance-from both schools.

Make a Difference in Your Career and the World

Consistently ranked as one of the best cities for job seekers, Washington, DC, offers access to an extraordinary array of professional opportunities for trained economists. Our faculty’s relationships with nearby institutions and the department’s strategic partnerships open doors in the nation’s capital, and 61 percent of students in the program complete an internship as part of their degree. These internships often lead to employment.

Our students and graduates find successful careers and rewarding internships with some of the world's most important institutions, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Deloitte, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, J.P. Morgan, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Knowledgeable Faculty Dedicated to Your Success

Classes are taught by a group of esteemed economists and scholars. Our faculty members have relationships with think tanks, research institutions, and international organizations around the globe. Their research accomplishments and experience influencing policy bring real-world applications into the classroom, combining theoretical knowledge and practical experience. See the Economics Faculty.

Our Econ Grads are hired at top employers

Economists earn a median annual salary of $116,000, according to the BLS.

Recent placements of American University Master's in Economics graduates include

  • Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Freddie Mac
  • Interamerican Development Bank
  • International Monetary Fund
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • US Department of Health & Human Services
  • The World Bank Group

In addition, many of our graduates have gone on to pursue PhDs in Economics.

Read more career information about AU's economics alumni.

A Career in Economics: It's Much More than You Think


Much more than finance, banking, business and government, a degree in economics is useful to all individuals and can lead to many interesting career choices. These four diverse individuals offer their insights on how a background in economics can be a tool for solving very human problems.


Professor Jon Wisman and his co-author Quentin Duroy are winners of the 2020 Journal of Economic Issues Editor’s Prize for best article for 2020: “The Proletarianization of the Professoriate and the Threat to Free Expression, Creativity and Economic Dynamism.”

Professor Maria Floro told Business Insider that without a bailout for the childcare industry, women will take a step back in participation in the workforce.

Professor Gabriel Mathy spoke to The Wall Street Journal about how the pandemic-caused recession has impacted Latino workers.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

Full-time students typically complete the program in two years or less, taking nine credit hours per semester. For part-time students, it will take longer to complete the required 30 to 36 credit hours.

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. Part-time students choose to take fewer than 9 credit hours per semester. All of our MA courses are offered in the evening.

AU offers an online MA in Economics with a specialization in Applied Economics.

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