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Economics and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Economics and Education

In the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis

Degrees > Degree Programs

Degree Programs

Economics is a powerful research and policy tool for scholars and educational practitioners who wish to develop a better understanding of educational institutions and decisions. The program in Economics and Education at Teachers College is a dynamic program that has maintained its position of leadership in this rapidly growing field. The goal of the program is to train students to apply economic concepts and tools to address both domestic and international issues in pre-kindergarten through post-secondary education, including:

  • How does educational attainment influence individual productivity and income, as well as broader economic growth?
  • How do educational inputs such as teacher training, class size, or technology impact student achievement?
  • What policies and practices are most effective in improving student outcomes while reducing gender, socioeconomic, and racial/ethnic gaps in those outcomes?
  • How can we measure the return on educational investments?
  • Which educational technologies are cost-effective?
  • How can college financial aid programs be designed to maximize their impact?

Our M.A. and Ed.M. graduates have gone on to work at foundations, education advocacy and service organizations, and government agencies, as well as to pursue doctoral study in related fields. Our PhD graduates have gone on to research, leadership, and academic teaching positions in a range of settings. Recent PhD graduates are currently employed as tenure-track faculty members at both domestic and international postsecondary institutions, as research associates at leading policy research organizations, and as institutional researchers for large urban school districts and colleges and universities.

Students in our M.A., Ed.M. and Ph.D. programs take courses in core areas including applied microeconomics, the economics of education, education and economic development, econometrics, statistical analysis, and benefit-cost analysis. Beyond required coursework, students in each degree program can choose from a range of elective courses to individualize their experience and satisfy their unique interests and career objectives. With the help of an academic advisor, students select courses from those offered within the program of economics and education and supplement these with courses outside the department, including courses offered in other schools of Columbia University.

As one of four programs in the Education Policy and Social Analysis (EPSA) department at Teachers College, the Economics and Education program is a discipline-based program within a multidisciplinary environment. Students and faculty across the four programs interact around shared research and policy interests, and students in the Economics and Education program are encouraged to take advantage of the broader resources in EPSA. These broader resources include not just relevant course offerings, but also policy events, seminars, student-led “pop-up” conversations on current topics, job networking events, and social gatherings.

Master of Arts in Economics and Education (ECON)

The objective of the 32-point M.A. Program in Economics and Education is to equip education professionals and policy-makers with the skills required to interpret and synthesize education-related research, to design and implement effective educational policy, and to assess the consequences of education policy, both domestically and in international settings.

The program begins in the Fall term and can be completed within one calendar year with enrollment during the summer and careful course planning, although many students choose to take longer (for example, by taking the summer to work in a related area and returning to complete coursework in the subsequent fall term).  Some students are able to work full-time while pursuing their degree, although this requires a flexible schedule since many courses are only held in the afternoon.

The curriculum of the program aims to build students’ technical competence in the basic tools of educational management and policy making; provide the academic and professional environment for students to apply these skills; and educate students about the global educational landscape, including current thinking on educational reform and the financing of education. Please click on the course planning worksheet link below for specific course offerings and requirements.

In addition to completing required coursework, all M.A. students must complete an Integrative Project (I.P.) on a topic of their choice, under the guidance of a faculty advisor. The I.P. may take the form of original research and data analysis on a topic of interest, or may entail a review and synthesis of the theory and evidence around a specific education-policy question. The goal of the I.P. is for the student to apply concepts and methodologies from the Economics and Education curriculum to a real-world issue in education.

All applications to enter the program are evaluated on an individual and holistic basis. However, the curriculum of the program assumes that students have some previous coursework (at least at the undergraduate level) in economics and basic statistics, possess intellectual maturity, and demonstrate an interest in education policy and practice. Compelling applications for admission demonstrate the applicant’s capacity for success and also clearly explain how the Economics and Education curriculum fits with the applicant’s past experiences and future goals.

2014-15 MA Worksheet

MA Program Guide


Master of Education in Economics and Education (ECON)

This 60-point program is intended for individuals who already have a graduate degree in a related field, who would like to build upon that foundation with additional training in Economics and Education. Required coursework mirrors the requirements for the M.A. degree, but gives students room to take more advanced courses in the economics and education concentration and related programs (including the other programs in EPSA as well as relevant courses in other departments/programs).

All applications to enter the program are evaluated on an individual and holistic basis. However, the curriculum of the program assumes that students have some previous coursework (at least at the undergraduate level) in economics and basic statistics, possess intellectual maturity, and demonstrate an interest in education policy and practice. Compelling applications for admission demonstrate the applicant’s capacity for success and also clearly explain how the Economics and Education curriculum fits with the applicant’s past experiences and future goals.

EdM Program Guide

Doctor of Philosophy in Economics and Education (ECON)

This 75-point program is intended for individuals who want to acquire advanced training in the theory, methods, and practices in the economics of education. It is a highly selective program to prepare individuals for leadership roles in teaching, research, or administrative settings.

The coursework for this program consists of three parts: core courses, courses in research methods, and courses in a specialized area of study, such as higher education, early childhood education, field experimentation, or a regional focus. Students work on their dissertation under the guidance of faculty advisors within the program; additional members of the dissertation committee may be drawn from other TC departments, and at least one committee member must be from Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. All degrees are conferred by Columbia University.

Admission to the PhD program is highly selective. All applications to enter the program are evaluated on an individual and holistic basis. However, the curriculum of the program assumes that students have some previous coursework in economics and statistics, possess intellectual maturity, and demonstrate an interest in education policy and practice. Compelling applications for admission demonstrate the applicant’s capacity for success and also clearly explain how the Economics and Education curriculum fits with the applicant’s past experiences and future goals.

PhD Worksheet

PhD Program Guide