Experiential learning is central to the Boston College Master of Science in Applied Economics online degree program. Through internships and other employer-aligned experiences outside of the classroom, students learn how to apply economic research and data analysis skills to solving real-world challenges.

The MS in Applied Economics program focuses on career readiness. By combining analytical rigor and practical application, the program gives students the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to excel in the data-driven business world.

Experiential learning is an example of Boston College’s commitment to going beyond the parameters of most online degree programs, offering students valuable experience outside traditional academic settings.

“Through my own experiential learning, I have realized that by engaging students through this process, learning accelerates, and retention improves,” said Letizia Afinito, Professor, Woods College of Advancing Studies.

“Thanks to active experimentation, the student can try what they have learned, honing their decision making and problem-solving skills.”

What Is Experiential Learning?

In the simplest terms, experiential learning is the process of developing knowledge, skills, and values through experience. In higher education, it gives students opportunities to gain experience and first-hand knowledge through research, internships, partnership projects, and other tangible experiences that improve students’ decision-making and problem-solving skills.

At Boston College, experiential learning is part of the curriculum for both traditional and online students. In the MS in Applied Economics program, online students work with industry professionals learning skills that are in-line with current needs in the industry, becoming effective at driving strategy and change across organizations.

Advisory Board of Industry Leaders

A notable aspect of the Woods College Program at BC is the Advisory Board of Industry Leaders. The board collaborates with the school to help shape the program’s curriculum. They also facilitate student internships in a variety of settings. It’s a fundamental part of what Boston College calls an “employer-aligned education.”

Board members represent the finance, healthcare, insurance, and public sector. Current members include representatives of BNY Mellon, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Fidelity Investments, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, The MITRE Corporation, Charles River Associates, Vanguard, MITIMCo., Manulife, and Fulcrum.

Students in the Woods College of Advancing Studies Program can expect a practical return on investment from the program through professional connections and job placement opportunities. Boston College offers this through relationships with advisory board members and by maintaining communication with industry employers to understand the skills and competencies needed in the workforce. All of this helps BC MSAE graduates maintain an edge in the job marketplace.  

Experiential Opportunities

Students in the MS in Applied Economics program benefit from internships and co-ops with companies in the Boston area. This experiential education helps students:

  • Understand the nature of work in an industry
  • Learn how applied economic theory is leveraged in each industry and the specific competencies that will give them an edge when applying for a job
  • Decide on a career path
  • Make career connections for the future

Individual courses deep dive into important applied economics competencies. For example, the Marketing Analytics course helps students answer questions like

  • How can I design the appropriate metrics and analytics to improve marketing efforts?
  • How can I measure my various marketing programs’ impact on revenues and profit?
  • Which tool, of the many available, is best for which problem statement?
  • How can I communicate insights, not just facts?

Not “Job Training”

It’s important to understand that a master’s degree program is not “job training.” The experiential element is key. However, students still hone communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and collaborative skills that are needed to succeed.

“Every time I design and teach a new course, I am driven by a guiding principle: helping students become valuable talents for their future employers and the job market,” said Afinito. “I help them deal with business challenges through updated and selected content, customized business cases, and interactive tools that develop their critical thinking and self-confidence.”

She added that projects with partnering companies “offer students an additional opportunity to practice what they learn in the classroom. ” An example of this is a recent project conducted with UNICEF, which Afinito said provided “a tangible example of how experiential learning benefits both the students and the partnering organization.”