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Learn about public economics with online courses and programs

Public economics examines the government's role in market failure, equities, and public finance through analytical and scientific analysis. This can provide a clear understanding of the effects of economic policy, such as taxes and public expenditures.

What is public economics?

Public economics focuses on how the government leverages its resources to influence and shape the economy. This includes government spending across various sectors, their impact on economic growth, and the ways that individuals respond to policies and interventions.

Some of the key topics within public economics are:

  • Taxation and how different policies impact individuals and businesses

  • The provision, funding, and distribution of public goods

  • Income redistribution methods and their social implications

From healthcare to labor supply, government policies can have a profound impact on public health and social welfare. Public economists evaluate the impact of government policies to inform policymakers about the potential outcomes of different choices. They play an integral role in shaping the decisions that affect economies and societies.

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Public economics course curriculum

Public economics falls within the broader field of economics. If you’re new to the topic, it can help to first take an introductory course that covers:

  • Supply and demand

  • Opportunity cost

  • Market structures

  • Micro and macroeconomics

From there, you can build on your knowledge with mathematics and statistics classes, which can be helpful in studying market structures and developing solutions to economic challenges. Round out your public economics coursework by studying market failures, public goods and common resources, and taxation principles and theories.

Start building the knowledge you need to work in public economics with edX. From accelerated boot camps to comprehensive programs that allow you to earn a bachelor’s degree or (for more advanced learners) a master’s degree, there are many different learning formats available to fit your needs. Busy professionals can even take advantage of executive education courses. Find the right course for you.

Explore jobs in public economics

With a strong background in public economics, you can explore a wide range of career paths in both the public and private sectors. Here are just a few roles within the field, along with some of the responsibilities you can expect on the job:

  • Government economist: Analyzes economic data, evaluates the impact of policies, and provides recommendations to government officials.Footnote 1

  • Policy analyst: Assesses public policies, analyzes data, evaluates the effectiveness of existing policies, and proposes recommendations for improvements.Footnote 2

  • Nonprofit manager: Researches and analyzes public policies related to economic and social issues.Footnote 3

  • University professor: Conducts research, publishes papers, and teaches courses related to public economics, shaping the knowledge and skills of future economists.Footnote 4

  • Statistician: Works with large datasets, conducts statistical analyses, and interprets findings to inform policy decisions.Footnote 5

Each of these roles will have different education and skills requirements. For example, you may be able to build relevant skills in a data analytics boot camp. However, some employers may seek candidates with a degree in political science or statistics, depending on the role. Before deciding on a specific learning path, research the positions you hope to pursue and align your coursework with your career goals.

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