In past years, students often looked to a master's degree in business administration as the next step if they wanted a successful career in any business role. However, that may no longer be the case.
Admissions to several mid-level master's programs has declined in the past few years, discouraging students interested in pursuing higher education. As a result, some schools have tried to cut their tuition costs hoping to encourage students to apply. However, other schools are trying a new trick. They are offering specialized business master's degrees — and it's working.
"50% of the top 25 schools in the country have developed a specialized master's program."
Getting a chance
Like students in any master's program, business students want to get a job as soon as possible after graduation. These specialized degrees give students that chance. As students are learning about a specific skill or trade for a few years, they become very attractive to employers upon graduation. For example, if people want to enter a specific field, such as marketing, accounting or finance, a specialized master's degree can help them learn more about that field. Often times, employment requires a detailed set of knowledge that can only come from years of experience. With specialized education, a person becomes more desirable in the workforce.
While these types of programs have become more attractive to students, what's more, they do not require a year of professional experience like an MBA does. They also help students transition easily from the subject matter they were learning in their undergraduate program.
Schools have caught on to the popularity of these programs. Approximately 50 percent of the top 25 schools in the country have developed a specialized master's program. Many programs are developed around industry's demand. So if jobs in accounting are booming, schools will develop programs that are related to accounting in one way or another. For instance, recent demand has surrounded jobs involving big data. As a result, several schools began to develop master's of science in data analytics programs simply to fill the void.
Specialized programs may also offer students a higher salary than those with an undergraduate degree who pursue a business career. For example, people who pursue a master's of science degree in finance may end up making the same amount of money as a student who earned an MBA and chose to enter the finance field.
The relevance of MBAs
So when does an MBA degree matter? Has this master's degree totally been phased out?
No, it hasn't. MBAs are still very relevant, especially if a person has plans to go into management. While a master's of science offers that specific skill set that some employers might be looking for, it doesn't offer overall general skills and a solid understanding of the business world as a whole. If people are interested in climbing the corporate ladder and becoming a manager or entering a position that oversees others, an MBA might still be a necessity. Some students are choosing to pursue a master's of science and follow it up with an MBA later. Companies are still seeking students who have an MBA.
Meanwhile, specialized degrees give people options which they didn't have before. People might be able to graduate from an undergraduate program, enter a master's of science program and immediately enter their career field with a job waiting. In a few years, if they decide they want to pursue a management job or try out a different field in business, they can return to school to get an MBA. At this point, they will have the knowledge and specific skill set for a certain field, as well as the overarching business knowledge they need to manage others and potentially run a company.
By Monique Smith
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