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Difference between an MA in Economics & MSc in Economics

Posted on January 15, 2020 by Kritika Gadhvi  | Academics | Blog

An economics degree is one of the most sought after courses in the world. It has applications in multiple areas of everyday life and students with an inclination to step into business, finance, politics, writing roles can pursue this degree to enhance their careers. The debate between whether someone should pursue an MA Economics or MSc Economics has been ongoing for quite a while now. Students tend to get confused, but there is no need to be. The first and foremost difference between the two is the nomenclature; this comes with a university’s viewpoint of considering economics an art or a science course. Depending on whether it is an MA or an MSc, the course structure might differ slightly with different pedagogical practices and different learning outcomes.

What is MA in Economics?

The MA economics programme is offered when a university or institution takes the subject in the arts category; many Indian universities tend to do that. An MA in Economics is a great course for students who want to pursue an Economics degree but do not want to deal with the technical aspect. Students can pursue this postgraduate programme after completing bachelors in economics. It can either be a BSc. Economics or a BA Economics both are essentially the same barring a few minor differences in course structure and approach. An MA in Economics’ curriculum and course structure focuses more on the theoretical aspects and is a lot less technical. Some universities consider removing the parts that are related to Maths in any aspect.

There are different ways a student can study economics at an advanced level; MA Economics is one and MSc Economics is the other. There is a shorter programme for students who want to gain an understanding quickly or possibly gain an insight into what a master’s programme may include. This is a Diploma in Economics, students can take this and study it as a prelude to a full-time two year or one year (depending on the country) master’s programme. For instance, the graduate diploma in economics offered by the Indian School of Business and Finance in New Delhi provides a thorough understanding of the subject and many of our students from this programme have gone on to pursue a full-time master’s degree from renowned institutions across the world.

A masters in economics course comprises of a thorough study of economics and its concepts at an advanced level and gain an in-depth understanding of its principles. MA in Economics usually cover topics such as principles of economic theory, microeconomics, macroeconomics, comparative economic systems, money, banking, cashflows, international economics, statistics, quantitative analytical methods, public policy issues and opportunity cost to name a few. A masters in economics is usually a two-year programme and is taught in 4 semesters.

Syllabus for MA Economics:

MA Economics is an advanced level degree that deals with economic concepts and principles in a much in-depth manner. The subjects/courses taught across the programme equip students with the knowledge to make well-informed decisions in their careers later. Below are some of the courses that nearly all universities teach in their MA Economics programmes:

Microeconomics: Microeconomics courses involve learning about businesses and firms on a smaller scale. It deals with information about how public policies affect the economy and much more. Macroeconomics: Basic macroeconomics course includes studying about growth, business cycle, global market systems, inflation, price fluctuations, rate of economic growth, national income, GDP and much more from a broader and more global perspective. Econometrics: Econometrics is a course that aims to provide you with the right tools and skills (statistical and mathematical) which you can apply to data science models to predict effects of current trends/policies in the near future. It deals with equipping students with the best ways to create estimation models. Monetary Economics: Monetary economics is a course that deals with providing students with the theoretical and practical knowledge of competing theories of money. It teaches you different ways to analyze monetary systems, financial institutions and the flow of money in an economy. Statistics: Statistics is an important part of any economics course as it is a valuable tool that makes one prepared when it comes to dealing with a large amount of data. It helps you organise the vast amount of information simply and logically that can be understood by everyone. International Trade: It is a vast subject in itself but most universities curriculum includes international trade as a part of their course structure. It includes learning about theories, trade laws, international organisations, how to conduct trade overseas, understanding economic policies, political situations and their effects on trade. Pricing and Distribution: Pricing and distribution operate in the general realm of demand and supply. The course aims to teach students how businesses and firms set a price range for their goods and services. It also involves learning about how policies and political scenarios affect price increase or decrease of the said goods and services. Quantitative Analytical Methods: Some universities tend to teach this course in lieu of the statistics course. The course aims to teach students about the statistical and mathematical tools and concepts they can apply to their field of study or research or policymaking. Public Policy: Some universities tend to teach or offer public policy as a part of their discourse. Any policy implemented by governments has a huge impact on the economic situation. An aspiring economist should be well-versed with the intricacies of policymaking and its effects. Indian Economy: Most Indian universities tend to include a course in Indian Economy. This course tends to include studying about colonial India’s economic conditions, the Five-year Planning in the post-colonial era, current economic policy, globalisation, national income, poverty, food security, employment, infrastructure, rural development, urban planning and much more. The courses mentioned above are just a preview of what an Indian or foreign university might offer. There can be a mix of different courses on offer depending on the university’s preferences and how they want to approach the programme.

What is MSc in Economics?

MSc in Economics is a 2-year postgraduate study programme that aims at providing specialisation in economics. Students with a bachelors in any stream (science, commerce or arts) are eligible to pursue an MSc Economics at their postgraduate level of education. Being a 2-year programme, this course is taught in 4 semesters. A masters in economics programme, from any university, equips students with advanced tools and understanding of economics and its concepts in a global and domestic context. The course provides an in-depth and rigorous understanding of the economy, the factors that play a major role in shaping the economy, training in applying the concepts to real-world problems and helps hone your knowledge of applied econometrics.

Syllabus for MSc Economics

The syllabus for MSc in Economics is not drastically different from the above-mentioned syllabus of MA in Economics. The aim of both programmes is similar. However, some other courses that may be offered by various universities depending on their course structure and aim, in addition to the above are economic development, game theory, economics of natural resources, game theory, Indian economic development, mathematical modelling, human economies and natural ecosystems, demand analysis, theory of production, cost production functions, monopolistic competition, oligopoly competition, flow of income, consumption function, investment function and much more.

Eligibility Criteria: MA Economics and MSc Economics

Students with a bachelor’s degree in any subject and minimum 50% score can apply for a master’s in economics, be it an MA or MSc programme. For most universities in India and overseas, the eligibility criteria are often similar. The first and foremost criteria for pursuing an MA/MSc in Economics is to have an undergraduate degree equivalent. The undergraduate degree can either be in BA Economics, BSc Economics or any other stream. Most universities accept students from across streams but some top universities might have specific requirements for admissions. For instance, The London School of Economics and Political Science offers the world’s leading course, MSc in Economics. The minimum entry requirement for this programme is a first-class honours degree in economics or equivalent with a focus on economics and quantitative subjects. Similarly, ISBF offers a Graduate Diploma in Economics and candidates require a bachelor’s degree in any field and mathematics up to class XII. It changes from university to university. It is advisable to go through each eligibility criteria thoroughly for your preferred university or college. Some universities accept undergraduate degrees with honours only so you may or may not be eligible to apply for all your shortlisted universities. Some universities may ask for economics as a subject or module studied during your undergraduate programme; wherein your undergraduate programme can be in any stream of study. Some of the world’s top universities ask for 45-50% marks at the end of your graduation to qualify for the admission and eventually securing admission into the course. Some universities may have an entrance test as well to test your knowledge in the subject of economics. Selection to such a university in the degree course depends on your aggregate marks at the end of your graduation and the score on the entrance test.

The key difference between MA in Economics and an MSc in Economics

The main difference between the two is the nomenclature. The programme aims, objectives and goals are similar. Both postgraduate differ in terms of the title attached to it. As discussed in the syllabi section as well, the courses offered under each programme run along the same lines. Some courses may or may not be available, this is up to the universities’ discretion as to what courses to offer. One difference that can occur depending upon universities is that some may only allow BSc degree candidates to apply for an MSc Economics programme. But, this is not true for all universities. The other difference again dates back to the age-old debate on whether to consider economics in arts or sciences. The universities that prefer economics as a science tend to use MSc as the title of the degree. The programme also has a lot more quantitative aspects and is technical. Students learn about practical applications of economics theories, concepts and principles. Other universities that consider economics as an arts subject tend to lean more towards the theoretical aspects and although there is not a whole lot of difference between the programme structure, you may notice that the focus on quantitative courses is a lot less or completely absent. These are the key differences between both courses.

Career Opportunities: MA in Economics and an MSc in Economics

Since there is not a whole lot of difference between course structure, the objectives of both the courses and ultimate purpose of the degree are the same, the career opportunities are the same as well. The various kinds of sectors and job roles that one could at after obtaining a masters in economics are: Actuarial Science: Actuarial Science applies mathematical and statistical knowledge and analyses risk in the finance sector. Economics students prefer these roles as they can apply their analytical and statistical skills developed during the programme. Economist: Primary job function is to study the market fluctuations and then analyse the financial and socioeconomic data. They use these analysed data to advise businesses and governments on economic developments or predictions. They also help in drafting policies and other economic amendments or bills. This is a research-oriented job role which can be implemented in various fields like politics, healthcare, education, energy and much more. Educational Institutes: If you are looking to steer your career to a more academic area then teaching in educational institutions is an option. You can opt to teach in schools and colleges and can also look into writing for research publications. Banks and Financial Institutions: Banks and other financial institutions require personnel with a strong educational background in economics because their strong analytical skills can help advise persons and companies better. Their skills come in handy when they have to look at financial planning, financial control, risk analysis, data analysis and consultancy. Indian Economic Services: Civil services aspirants can keep an eye out for the Indian Economic Services exam. The students can get into government services and work with policy-making and other economic initiatives. Development Sector: If you are interested in pursuing a more academic role, working with educational institutions, healthcare, environment, rural areas etc, you can choose to work with the development sector. They require people with an economics background as they can help breakdown existing policies and make new ones that benefit the common man. Other job roles include market manager, business development manager, economic researchers, analysts, consultants, advisors, journalists and much more. There is a large pool of opportunities for students with a degree in economics and if you have opted to certain courses you can look for opportunities within your interest areas, there is no dearth of opportunities.

Which One Should You Pursue?

After a BA in Economics or a BSc in Economics, it solely depends on the student as to which programme to pursue, MA Economics or MSc Economics. The course remains the same, only the qualification attached to the degree is different. Instead of getting too hung up on the nomenclature you should look at the course structure thoroughly and check if it is aligned with your career interests; speak to professors or industry professionals to figure out the job roles available in your interest area. This helps in gaining a broader perspective and clears things out on the career front. For students who are unsure about whether to pursue a degree or who do not come from an economics background, they can first opt to study a graduate diploma in economics. This helps in clarifying the basic concepts and theories. It also becomes an opportunity for students to understand whether they are suited for the degree or not. This route to pursue a full-fledged MA or MSc in Economics is best suited for students who are confused about careers or whether to study the degree or not. It is also a great way for students to achieve the 16th year of education that most universities outside of India require. For instance, the Graduate Diploma in Economics at ISBF. ISBF’s graduate diploma is academically directed by London School of Economics. This is an added advantage for the students as LSE is renowned for imparting world-class education and is leading institution in the world to study economics at. Since both the programmes are similar it becomes a little difficult to recommend one over the other. Choosing between an MSc or an MA depends on the kind of course and curriculum you want to opt for. If you want to opt for a technical course then MSc economics would be the right fit for you; otherwise, MA in Economics will provide you with the same skills minus the in-depth mathematical and statistical applications.

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