Beyond the MBA: Other Types of Business Degrees May Be More Suitable for You

Jun 5, 2012
Tags: Business School, Choosing the Right School, Masters of Accountancy, Masters of Finance, MBA, School Selection

Spot the Difference 

Choosing the right postgraduate program is a highly subjective process because everyone has different goals, ambitions, and circumstances. For example, in North America, many MBA programs accept graduates with less than three years of work experience (e.g. Harvard Business School’s MBA has no minimum work experience requirement). By contrast, many European business schools set a minimum career criteria of three to five year’s work experience for MBA candidates—meaning there’s a more significant gap in age between those pursuing an MBA and those pursuing a master’s.

Different Programs Attract Different Students 

Applicant characteristics for the incoming 2011–2012 classes of graduate management education programs varied greatly among program types as reported by business school admissions professionals in 2011. 

On average, MBA programs and specialized master’s programs tend to attract different types of prospective students. Most applicants to full-time MBA programs are between the ages of 26 and 30 and have three to six years of work experience. Individuals who applied to specialized master’s programs were overwhelmingly younger than applicants choosing to attend MBA programs. The majority of applicants to management (72%), accounting (75%), and finance (76%) master’s programs were 25 years old or younger and also had less work experience than MBA candidates. The average percentage of applicants with less than one year of work experience ranged from 56 percent of management program applicants to a high of 70 percent for accounting program applicants. 

Below are examples of applicant profiles reported by admissions teams in 2011.


The Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®) offers a school search service available to any prospective business school applicant that offers detailed program information on more than 1,000 schools worldwide. Click here to explore what work requirements may or may not exist for programs you are interested in. 

Let’s Break It Down—the Whys and the Hows 

There are a few things you’ll need to define before you start to research any postgraduate programs:

  • Your personal ambitions: What do you expect to get out graduate school? What’s your goal?
  • Circumstance: How much time and money can you invest in your further education?
  • Job Mobility: Industry rules can vary by country. For exampe, an MBA is often a requirement to move from analyst to associate level at US investment banks, but this isn’t the case at most European banks.
Many business schools award several different master’s degrees. Often there are separate programs for subjects such as accounting, finance, management, and marketing, and other subjects too, depending on the school’s faculty strengths. 

You can probably find a tailored master’s course to match whatever industry or market you’re hoping to work in. 

These specialized master’s programs have several advantages. First, they’re a practical supplement to an arts, science, or social science education that can teach you skills that can be applied in the workplace right away. Second, they buy you more time to do an internship or find a job: You can apply for another round of any number of additional graduate training schemes when you finish. Third, they often involve a shorter time commitment and less of a financial outlay compared to the full-blown MBA. 

A Plethora of Business Master’s 

The list of business-focused MS and MSc programs available around the world is growing. Besides the three most well-established master’s programs— management, marketing, and finance—business schools offer specialized degrees in areas such as real estate investment, quantitative finance, health care management, sustainable development, entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and public sector management. 

Below we’ve summarized three popular types of MSc programs (finance, management, and marketing) and provided insights from some current students: 

Master in Finance

The Master in Finance (MSF) is a specialized, one-year graduate degree, focused entirely on financial analysis and modeling, and how financial markets work. Designed to be challenging, the MSF usually requires an undergraduate degree with economics or statistics content; however, some schools allow students of all backgrounds to apply with GMAT test results.

 “I’m studying the full array of products that are traded/exchanged in finance,” says Calvin Mhembere, who is studying his MSc in Finance at the University of Exeter Business School in the United Kingdom. “This includes how they are created, regulated, monitored; their full attributes; and most importantly, how returns are recognized from these products.” 

Master in Management

The Master in Management (MIM) is a popular one-year graduate degree, often seen as a practical step into the business world.

“I want to learn the skills that help me to outperform my co-workers” says Nour Khalifeh said, who is studying her MIM at London Business School (LBS) following an undergrad in economics. “After a summer internship at Ernst and Young I decided on the MIM at LBS because I wanted a program that would help with my long-term career, not just with another round of job applications.” 

Master in Marketing 

The Master in Marketing or International Marketing, is a one-year graduate degree to help students apply marketing concepts such as brand auditing and segmentation strategies to real-world projects.

“I’ve wanted to work in marketing since I was 15 when I started doing PR for my school newspaper” says Vesela Nedkova, who is studying for her MSc in Marketing Management at the ESADE Business School in Spain. “We do project work for several companies as part of the course and right now I am working on a project for L’Oreal. We can also take part in a project called Brandstorm, a collaboration between different business schools internationally.”