Scott Edinburgh
August 17, 2022

Looking for an MBA Alternative? Learn About Top Business Master’s Programs

Graduation cap with graduating students in the background

A group of master’s programs specializing in various management and finance fields are becoming more popular at business schools around the country. For those considering applying to a master’s program, Personal MBA Coach offers specialized master’s admissions consulting packages to help you maximize your chances of success.

While the MBA continues to reign supreme, master’s programs in fields such as finance, data analytics, management, international management, and accounting are together luring about 25 percent of the business school population, according to the 2022 GMAC Prospective Student Survey. These programs are particularly attractive, on one hand, to people who may not have a pre-graduate business education or work experience, and on the other, to people who are mid-career and/or seek specific specialization.

Among the most popular and widespread of the specialized business master’s programs are:

Master’s in Management Studies

Management Studies equip students from backgrounds in a variety of studies with the necessary skills and knowledge to enter any industry at the managerial level (or move there more quickly). Among the skills developed: leadership, communications, accounting, management, business strategy, finance, negotiations, and marketing research.

Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, for example, offers a Master of Management Studies and a Master of Management Studies with a focus on Business Analytics. Fuqua highlights the popular 10-month MMS as perfect for recent college graduates who want a foundation in multiple business disciplines.

At the Kellogg School of Management, the MMS lasts less than a year, is open to people with less than a year of work experience, and can be combined with a one-year MBA program. Here curricular offerings also span from accounting to management, business strategy, communications, and leadership.

A variation on the MMS is the Master of International Management, geared to management roles at global companies: coursework is designed to add cultural agility, global workforce management knowledge, and the ability to bridge local and international operations.

Master’s in Finance (MFin)

MFin programs (at some schools they are referred to as financial analysis programs) are tailored to equip students with skills and knowledge to enter a broad range of career opportunities in financial institutions, corporations, consulting firms, the public sector, and fintech. Students learn about corporate finance, public finance, mergers and acquisitions: Most schools tout a combination of financial theory and practical application of quantitative methods.

At MIT Sloan, for example, the MFin program, top-ranked in the country, offers an 18-month STEM-designated curriculum, with the option for an accelerated 12-month program. The school describes the program as “emphasizing a foundation in how markets work and engineered around the most advanced financial theories, quantitative models, and industry practices.” Sloan’s program offers concentrations in fields such as financial engineering and capital markets.

Texas McCombs’s MFin program, also top-ranked, is considered a “first degree in finance” program (so it is not for people who already have an undergraduate finance degree). It offers courses on managerial economics and investment theory, a practicum with a sponsoring company, and intense interaction with industry leaders.

Master’s in Accounting

Perfect for building a career in accounting, this program, also for recent college graduates, prepares students in hard skills such as financial reporting, auditing, and tax strategy, and soft skills such as communications and leadership. Kenan-Flagler at UNC touts its top-rated program as giving students “fluency with the principles and practice of accounting.”

Master’s in Marketing (or Marketing Science)

This degree is designed for people interested in making a career in branding or marketing, with related data analytics and communications skills. Students study topics including Consumer Insights and Analytics, Messages and Content, Media, and Customer Relationship Management. Among the top-ranked programs are those of Columbia Business School, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, and Texas A&M.

The Master of Science in Marketing Science at Columbia, for example, prepares students for careers in the growing field of market research (or other professions in marketing analytics) across a broad array of industries including multi-channel retailing, consumer products and services, media and entertainment, and consulting. Students study market analytics, statistical modeling, and market intelligence.

Master’s in Data Analytics or Business Analytics

Usually lasting nine months, these programs are designed for recent college graduates with little or no work experience who are passionate about data, want to deepen their analytical skills and move into sought-after business analyst positions.

Above are the most common business education master’s programs, but there are many other choices and opportunities for specialized master’s programs:

Master’s in Systemic Risk

Offered by Yale SOM and NYU Stern, among others (Johns Hopkins offers a similar program online through its School of Advanced International Studies), the Master of  Systemic Risk degree is geared to bank or regulatory agency professionals to gain exposure to leading ideas in macroprudential policy, financial crisis management, global financial regulation, monetary economics, crisis communications, and central banking. Other specialized master’s programs for mid- or advanced career professionals are those in Public Education Management, Advanced Management, Asset Management, and Global Business and Society.

Master’s in Global Business & Society

Also offered at Yale SOM, this master’s program gives students the tools to work in global organizations. The 9-month program follows a master’s in management program at any of the schools in the Global Network for Advanced Management, which includes 32 top business schools in 30 countries around the world. The curriculum spans business ethics, financial reporting, an entrepreneurship lab, and digital strategy.

Master’s in Public Education Management

The Master of Public Education Management—another specialized master’s program offered at Yale SOM—gives highly motivated, accomplished K-12 education professionals the skills and broad perspective to grow as education leaders. The tuition-free 14-month program is designed for “early- to mid-career school system leaders with extraordinary leadership potential who are working and who wish to increase their impact in key K-12 systems,” says Yale SOM.

Other master’s programs—for example, offered at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business and other schools as well—are an MS in Business Analytics, an MS in Product Management, a Master of Integrated Innovation for Products and Services, and an MS in Computational Science.

Master’s in Product Management

The MS in Product Management prepares people to serve in a product development role in tech-driven companies. At Tepper, for example, the program teaches customer-mindedness, leadership of cross-functional teams, and the ability to deliver value. A STEM-designated program, it is offered through CMU’s School of Computer Science and Tepper.

Master’s in Integrated Innovation for Products and Services

Tepper’s Master of Integrated Innovation for Products and Services (MIIPS) degree, in a 9-month and a 16-month version, trains “the next generation of innovators, design thinkers, disruptors, and world changers,” the school says. The program teaches students to tackle problems at the intersection of business, design, and engineering: Integrated Product Development is the prototyping capstone.

Master’s in Healthcare Transformation (or Management)

This program is designed for people interested in hospital administration, healthcare services management, or other careers at the intersection of business and healthcare. At McCombs, for example, the MHT is designed for healthcare professionals “who want to lead change in existing organizations, become transformational leaders, and create high-value services in the health sector.”

Looking for guidance? No matter what stage of the application process you are in, Personal MBA Coach can help set you up for success. Contact us to learn more!

About Personal MBA Coach:

Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 15 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2 by leading sources. Personal MBA Coach is the #1 most favorably reviewed US Consultant of all time on Poets & Quants.

We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing, and mock interviews. Our team includes former M7 admissions directors and former M7 admissions interviewers.

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