What Are the Best Online Master of Financial Economics Degrees?

What Are the Best Online Master of Financial Economics Degrees?
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Tom Meltzer March 7, 2019

Few American schools offer a master's in financial economics degree—and fewer still offer it online.

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Are you the type of person who sits around wondering how to improve the efficiency of fixed income markets? Do you find yourself pondering whether a transaction tax would ultimately be beneficial or detrimental to a nation’s economy? Do you sometimes try to calculate the hidden costs of government intervention into credit markets? If so, a career in financial economics may be for you. (By the way, all of these questions have been recently addressed by the Financial Economists Roundtable at Wharton).

Financial economists use the tools of economics to study the world of finance; they focus on transactions of money for money (e.g., foreign exchange markets) rather than on transactions of money for goods or services. They use a variety of analytic tools, including advanced mathematics and computing, to calculate the fair value of assets to predict the likelihood of events that might create or reduce risk in any particular transaction. Financial economics is typically applied to stock markets and foreign exchange markets, where quantifiable factors such as price fluctuation, inflation, interest rates, and gross domestic product impact the ultimate outcome of transactions.

__(Food for thought: An MSFE prepares students for careers in commercial banking, investment banking, asset management, public policy, health care, real estate, technology, and any other sector where finance and economics converge.)__

A master’s in financial economics is typically offered jointly through a university’s school of business and economics department. It is often classified a Master of Science degree although it is sometimes classified a Master of Arts; in either case, it should qualify as a STEM-designated program. Applicants are expected to have a strong background in mathematics and computing as well as economics. Required courses typically include microeconomics and macroeconomics, financial modeling, forecasting, options and derivatives, fixed income securities, and risk management. Some core curricula include computer programming courses, others offer them only as electives.

Few American schools offer this degree and fewer still offer it online. Online programs offer the convenience and flexibility of asynchronous learning (i.e. students needn’t attend classes at a set time). They also provide access to distant programs, allowing a resident of, say, Sao Paulo, Brazil to study at Johns Hopkins University without having to relocate to Baltimore. The tradeoff is that online programs offer less interpersonal contact and fewer opportunities to network with faculty and peers.

You may have seen advertisements for online programs that promise beautifully produced videos and lots of collaborative, interactive online projects and simulations. Those advertisements are for large programs with huge student bodies and therefore huge budgets. An online financial economics program, in contrast, is tiny, with a very limited budget. Expect a school’s online program to mirror its on-campus program, but with streaming video of live classes (archived so they can be watched at a later time) and lots of bulletin board discussions. Self-starters fare better online than do those who need a push to get going. On campus or online, you’re going to receive less nurturing and encouragement than you did as an undergraduate, but you’ll get less of both online.

What are the best online master’s in financial economics programs?

Only four schools in the United States offer an online master’s in financial economics. They are:

Johns Hopkins University

  • Degree: Master of Science in Applied Economics, Financial Economics concentration
  • Tuition: $4,499 per course; $44,990 for entire 10-course program
  • Graduation requirements: 10 courses: four core courses, one advanced econometrics course, five electives
  • Core courses: Microeconomic Theory; Macroeconomic Theory; Statistics; Econometrics; one of the following: Macroeconomics; Financial Econometrics; Macroeconomic Forecasting
  • Electives: (three of the following to complete concentration) Financial Economics; Financial Econometrics; Financial Markets and Financial Intermediation; Economics of Investment and Financial Management; Behavioral Economics and Finance; Economics of Derivatives; (two of the following as non-concentration electives) Macroeconomic Forecasting; Bayesian Econometrics; Real Risk; Machine Learning in Statistics; Economic Growth; Economics in the Labor Market; Monetary Economics
  • Features: Rigorous program stresses theory and applications; program can be completed fully online; course content largely/entirely asynchronous, can be engaged 24/7; student-faculty and student-student interaction facilitated by discussion boards, group assignments, and occasional online live events; Blackboard-based learning management system

University of Detroit Mercy

  • Degree: Master of Arts in Financial Economics (MAFE)
  • Tuition: $826 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 30 credit hours; 24 hours core courses, six hours elective courses
  • Core courses: Economic Analysis of Enterprises; Analysis of Economic Conditions; Quantitative Foundations; Financial Economics; Money and Capital Markets; Practical Issues in Financial Economics; International Monetary Analysis; Seminar in Monetary and Fiscal Policy
  • Electives: Options include: Economic Policy; Economic Ideas in Perspective; Contemporary Economic Systems; Economics of the Public Sector; Theory of International Trade; Introduction to Econometrics; Advanced Money and Capital Markets
  • Features: Laptop or desktop required to complete program; Blackboard-based learning management system

West Texas A&M University

  • Degree: Master of Science in Finance and Economics (MSFE)
  • Tuition: Tuition and fees per year, nine credits per semester: $3,952 for Texas residents, $8,003 for nonresidents
  • Graduation requirements: 36 credit hours; 21 hours core curriculum, 15 hours electives
  • Core courses: Theory of Households and Firms; Monetary and Fiscal Policy; Corporate Governance; Corporate Finance; Asset Valuation; International Finance and Economics; Quantitative Analysis
  • Electives: Nine hours graduate electives in economics or finance; six hours graduate electives in economics, finance, accounting, computer science, and general business
  • Features: Comprehensive exam required at completion of coursework

Youngstown State University

  • Degree: Master of Arts in Financial Economics (MAFE)
  • Tuition: Tuition and fees per year, nine credits per semester: $8,060 for Ohio residents, $12,853 for nonresidents
  • Graduation requirements: 30 credit hours; 24 hours core curriculum, six hours electives
  • Core courses: Microeconomic Theory; Macroeconomic Theory; The Economics of Financial Markets and Institutions; Econometrics; Research Seminar; Finance for Decision Making; Financial Statement Analysis; Corporate Financial Management; Securities Analysis
  • Electives: Options include: Statistical Problems; Health Policy; Economic Analysis of Markets and Industries; Monetary Economics; Public Finance; State and Local Public Finance; Econometrics; International Finance; Business Valuation
  • Features: Program designed to lead to employment in the financial services industry (banking, insurance, financial advising); highly qualified students may pursue 4+1 BA/MA degree; thesis option available but not required

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About the Author

Tom Meltzer began his career in education publishing at The Princeton Review, where he authored more than a dozen titles (including the company's annual best colleges guide and two AP test prep manuals) and produced the musical podcast The Princeton Review Vocab Minute. A graduate of Columbia University (English major), Tom lives in Chapel Hill, NC.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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