A master's degree in economics can open the door to career options in business, academia, research, consulting and government. Salaries for master's degree recipients vary by career path, but the National Association for Business Economics reports that starting salaries exceed $50,000 a year. The best job opportunities and salaries for economists exist for men and women with master's degrees or higher in the field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Annual salaries for economists ranged from $44,720 to more than $153,000 a year, with an average of $96,320 a year, the BLS reported in 2009. BLS data indicate that economists work in consulting firms and federal, state and local government agencies. It is important to point out, however, that the information also includes economists with undergraduate and doctoral degrees and may not accurately represent salaries earned by master's degree recipients.
Recipients of a master's degree in economics can expect an average starting salary of $58,000 a year, according to a 2010 salary survey by the National Association for Business Economics (NABE). This figure exceeds the average starting salary of $50,000 for a bachelor's degree recipient but trails the $85,000 average earned by a Ph.D.
Business Economist Salaries
Many recipients of a master's degree in economics seek careers in business, conducting economic research and forecasting for large corporations, banks, consulting firms and insurance companies. Other business economists have general administrative duties and others work in market research. NABE's 2010 salary survey reported that men and women with master's degrees in economics earned an average salary of $100,380 a year, $9,000 a year more than the average salary earned by bachelor's degree recipients.
Government agencies, especially at the federal level, are significant employers of economists. In the federal government, economists work for such departments and agencies as the U.S. departments of State, Labor and the Treasury, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The American Economic Association reported that a man or woman with a master's degree in economics can start a government career on level 9 of the federal government's General Service (GS) salary schedule. Salaries at this level range from $41,000 to more than $54,000 a year, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Although many academic jobs in economics require a Ph.D., some jobs teaching economics at the college level require only a master's degree. The American Economic Association reported that senior assistant economics professors at bachelor's and master's degree granting institutions earn an average of $80,167 a year.