Is a specialized business master's degree a better idea than an MBA?

Grad School Admissions

Back in November of last year, Bloomberg Businessweek posted a very interesting article talking about the benefits of undertaking a specialized business-related Master's degree straight out of college rather than embarking upon a full-fledged MBA. The upshot was this:

The market for specialized master’s programs in accounting, management, finance, and a number of other business disciplines has never been stronger. A growing number of business schools, from the Smith School to Michigan State University’s Broad Graduate School of Management, are riding on that wave of interest. They’re creating a whole new suite of MS degrees, sometimes as many as half a dozen or more, in response to a new generation of students, the vast majority of whom are either straight out of college or just a year or two out of school. The MS students are hungry for the specialized knowledge these programs offer and are looking to distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive job market, administrators and recruiters say. 

Is a specialized master's degree a smart idea for you? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

A Master's degree is one year long, while an MBA is two-year program.

This is great for a variety of reasons:

  1. A one-year program will immediately be less expensive than a two year program (and MBAs tend to pricey, in any case).
  2. It is much more feasible to give up one year's worth of income to attend a Master's program than two give up two years' worth to attend an MBA program.

Financially, it makes a lot of sense to consider a specialized MA or MS if you're looking for very specific business-related knowledge.

A Master's degrees give you specialized knowledge, while an MBA is broader in scope.

This is both good and bad. If you're looking to make yourself desirable for a specific type of job or function in the business world, then a specialized MA or MS makes the most sense. However, if what you're aiming for is to make yourself more readily hireable in broader range of business-related careers, then an MBA might make the most sense. A Master's degree will provide you with highly specific training in a single topic, while an MBA will teach you the ins and outs of business in general.

A Master's degree may make you immediately marketable, but may be limiting.

As mentioned above, an MA or MS makes you look very attractive to hiring managers looking for people in specific niches or with specific knowledge. However, those looking for additions to their team in other departments might pass on you given your single focus in business knowledge. An MBA, on the other hand, makes you attractive to a much broader range of huring managers, given that you will learn about and study a wide variety of topics and will likely have more hands on experience in the business world.

Are you considering getting a specialized business MA or MS over an MBA? Tell us why in the comments! 


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