Master in Management Programs Versus MBAs

Want to study business, but don't have work experience? An MSc or MiM might be right for you

If you're researching MBA programs, you might have come across other master's degrees in business. An increasing number of business schools are offering Master of Science in Management (MSc) or Masters in Management (MiM) programs alongside traditional MBAs. These “M-something” programs are generally around a year to a year and a half long, and cover similar topics as MBA programs.

Because they seem similar to MBAs, many potential applicants see MSc and MiM degrees as alternatives to MBA programs, but this is not necessarily the case. According to Paul Baines, the director of the 13-month MSc in Management program at Cranfield University's School of Management, the audiences of Cranfield's MBA and MSc programs “are more or less mutually exclusive.”

“If you've got more than three years of work experience, you'll be recommended onto the MBA" (rather than an MSc), says Baines.

Aimed at students with little to no work experience, the curriculums for MSc and MiM programs tend to vary from that of an MBA. Many focus on core business subjects, and lack the range of electives that an MBA would offer. For example, while the MBA program at the University of St. Gallen offers almost 30 electives in 5 functional areas, students in the school's Master of Arts in Strategy & International Management (SIM) program can choose from fewer than 10 electives.

Likewise, students in the 10-month Master of Management Studies (MMS): Foundations of Business program at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business study many of the same core topic areas as those in the Fuqua MBA program, but lack the ability to focus on specialized areas.

“There are no electives, there's no opportunity for a student to concentrate,” says Kathie Amato, the dean of the MMS program, “so a lot of the opportunity to do a deeper dive, that an MBA would have, does not exist in this program.”

According to Amato, this focus on the core areas of business meets the needs of the program's audience – specifically, those who want to adapt an undergraduate education in liberal arts or science to a career in business.

“We get people who were undergraduate English majors, history majors, or students from engineering and the sciences,” says Amato. “It really runs the gamut.”

Got experience? Want to start a business?

In some cases, students who do have some work experience may also benefit from an MSc or an MiM, particularly if it offers a concentration. For instance, even though the majority of students in the flexible MSc program at HEC Montréal have no work experience, the ones that do find value in gaining deeper insight into their chosen field through a specialization, such as organizational development or business analytics.

“In some of these fields,” says MSc program director Claude Laurin, “there are some candidates that have been working for three or four years, who come back to get more specialized knowledge about their field.”

Cranfield's Paul Baines says that students whose goal is to start their own businesses can benefit from an MSc or an MiM as well, since these programs offer wide, contextual perspective of how business works.

“Somebody wanting to develop their own business with a limited amount of experience would really benefit from doing the MiM because it will give them insight across all the different areas,” Baines says.

Baines also notes another value: for students who want to channel their financial resources into starting a business, an MSc program is usually much less expensive than an MBA.

For entrepreneurial-minded students, some business schools also offer MSc programs specifically designed around the process of business creation. For example, Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) offers an MSc in Entrepreneurship and New Business Venturing, and the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan offers a Master of Entrepreneurship program through a partnership with the university's College of Engineering.

Learning by doing

As many of these MScs and other business-focused master's programs cater to students with no work experience, some provide opportunities for students to get hands-on experience through projects or internship components. Students in Duke's MMS program, for example, can opt to do two internships: one before the program starts and one during the long winter break.

“For the students who believe that their lack of work experience may be a significant issue,they tend to take advantage of those opportunities,” says Kathie Amato. “And companies value that.”

Likewise, students in HEC Montréal's MSc program can choose between writing a thesis and doing a supervised, hands-on project. According to Claude Laurin, the research component can prepare students to continue on in academia.

“Although we have a lot of our students who are hired by large firms,” he says, “some of them go to the next level, and do a PhD program.”

Post-MSc careers

According to Paul Baines, Cranfield's MSc program is aimed at landing graduates in entry-level business careers, or in graduate training programs in large multinational companies, where they can learn the ropes and figure out what managerial track is right for them. As such, the career services support tends to differ from that offered to MBA students.

“Often, somebody who's doing an MBA is looking to change their career,” says Baines, “so there's a much greater degree of career counseling for career change than there would be on a MiM program.”

Baines notes that Cranfield's MSc career counseling focuses more on job-finding basics like interviewing skills and CV preparation.

Graduates of Duke Fuqua's MMS program are generally interested in finding a business career where they can leverage their undergraduate education and passions.

“Some students have been interested in entertainment, or sports management,” says Kathie Amato. “They end up working for talent agencies, and some work for firms that do sports management.”

“It's a very broad base of opportunities that the students have.”

Photo: sacks08 / Creative Commons

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