What is a Masters in Management?

in class student discussionCollege graduates face an increasingly competitive environment when seeking full-time employment after graduation with their undergraduate degrees. Many of these individuals consider the pursuit of a graduate degree in business for one or more of the following reasons[1]:

  • A graduate business degree can boost your career
  • A graduate business education is valuable
  • A graduate business degree opens the door to jobs
  • A graduate business degree brings multiple rewards
  • Demand for business school talent is strong

While the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree is the long-standing staple of graduate business education, many business schools around the world are beginning to offer the increasingly popular Master of Science in Management (MSM/MIM) degree as an alternative to the traditional MBA degree[2]. In many cases, these programs ask for little or no previous work experience and allow an option for someone to enroll in the program within a few months or couple of years after completing the undergraduate program; as a result, the programs are often referred to as “pre-experience business masters” programs. Although the programs can be found under a variety of names, most are specifically tailored to complement and fortify the non-business, undergraduate education of students aspiring to enter some segment of the public, private, for-profit, not-for-profit, corporate, or entrepreneurial workforce.

Mays MS Business Degree

In October 2015, the Mays Business School announced a new Master of Science in Business (MS Business) degree program. MS Business is an 11-month, general-business, graduate degree targeting individuals with non-business undergraduate degrees. The Mays MS Business program instills what is widely regarded as “core business knowledge” (accounting, finance, information systems, management, marketing, and supply chain management) without requiring a student to change course and pursue a career divergent from their field of undergraduate study.

In a progressively global society, where competition is steep and qualifications are critical, the Mays MS Business degree is a game-changing opportunity for undergraduates looking to transform the depth and breadth of their career prospects before leaving the university campus.

Due to the newness of the MS Business[3] degree and its similarity to the traditional MBA degree programs[4], the remainder of this page describes the value proposition for the MS Business degree and describes the graduate business education landscape. In addition, the document summarizes the differences between MS Business programs and other specialized MS programs offered in a business school (e.g., accounting, finance, management, marketing, etc.), as well as, the differences between the MS Business programs and traditional MBA.

Value Proposition

MS Business programs offer highly sought-after business knowledge with unrivaled marketability to individuals planning a career in any segment of the business sector. The opportunity to dramatically alter one’s credentials without changing career paths is a new wrinkle to the graduate-level business school community.

Traditional specialized MS degrees exist to focus their education in a very specific area of study. That level of specificity results in the implicit expectation that students realign their career aspirations to the more narrowly focused field of graduate-level study. In contrast, MS Business programs take a more “collaborative” approach with a student’s existing undergraduate credentials. The idea is to not redirect a student’s career, but rather to redirect their existing trajectory by supplementing a non-business undergraduate specialty with graduate-level education in all facets of core business knowledge.

Thought leaders and corporate philosophy of the 21st century are increasingly orienting towards “working smarter” in lieu of the traditional emphasis on “working harder.” MS Business is a means to that innovative end. Generations of non-business undergraduate students specializing in highly marketable fields like engineering, science, architecture, agriculture, and liberal arts have taken those skills into the business-centric job market for decades with little or no substantial formalized business training.

These are the very individuals who stand to gain a decisive advantage with graduate-level education in business. This is why MS Business fills such a critical need at the post-undergraduate level. The MS Business program seeks to equip students with complementary and broad-based functional knowledge that is applicable to all pursuits within a business. When MS Business students enter the professional job market, the totality of their comprehensive education positions them to capitalize on opportunities they encounter from day one on the job. The personal and professional value of that ability is immediate and lasting.

Today’s Challenge

The challenge for job seekers at every level is standing out. Today more than 30 percent of adults in America have taken the time, energy, and expense to earn a bachelor’s level education[5][6]. This number is not static and the competition amongst active job seekers will continually grow more intense. The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) recently summarized today’s challenges in a Forbes article[7]:

“Walk into any introductory economics class across the country and it won’t take you long to hear about the law of diminishing marginal returns. According to this law, the production of any good or service reaches a point where each additional (or marginal) unit of the product confers an increasingly smaller benefit. At CCAP, we have released a study presenting empirical evidence pointing to the conclusion that diminishing returns have set in for the increased production of college graduates.

We have used data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, its publication The Occupational Outlook Quarterly, and the Current Population Survey, to show that, over time and with increasing frequency, a substantial number college graduates are underemployed (that is, they are employed in occupations which the BLS classifies as below-college level jobs). This sizable and growing underemployment problem indicates that, at the margin, students who obtain college degrees wind up in jobs which they could have held coming straight out of high school.

The occupations held by college graduates have changed dramatically over the last half century. In 1967, the first year of available data, 10.8% of college graduates were underemployed. Fast forwarding to 2008 shows that this proportion was up to 35.3%. What happened during these fifty-one years? The short answer: the United States added 40.6 million college graduates to the work force, nearly tripling the proportion of adults with college degrees. Basically, college graduates were supplied at a higher rate than the labor market demanded, with the predictable result that they were forced to find employment in lower-skilled occupations.” (see full report for additional details)

While these statistics are sobering, as indicated in the opening paragraph above, a graduate degree in business provides a valuable opportunity to improve one’s marketability.

MS Business in Application

If everyone has roughly the same general credentials, how does any specific individual stand out for selection to a position? The simple answer is – MS Business.

The first and biggest advantage of an MS Business degree is acumen. Traditional business education has been a highly sought-after and largely known commodity for decades. The boom in demand for MS Business programs suggests that universities are finally getting in-sync with employers who’ve long decried the lack of strategic savvy, financial literacy, technical competency, and entrepreneurial drive among applicants for entry-level jobs.

MS Business programs represent a phenomenal opportunity for achievement-oriented individuals to asymmetrically enhance their marketability through the acquisition of business insight that would otherwise take many years of professional experience to accumulate.

The second decisive advantage of an MS Business degree is marketability. Students understand the basic principles of supply and demand. The labor market is saturated with entry-level college graduates. As of the 2010 census, nearly 1 in 3 Americans now retain a bachelor’s degree. Those trends are not static as more than 2.2 million new bachelor’s degrees were conferred in the past year alone.

Starting a career is a challenge and sustaining growth in a career is equally difficult. These short duration/high-impact degrees are providing initiative-oriented young professionals with a decisive answer that stands out in a major way. In less than a year, students admitted to top-tier business schools are turning strong numbers (GPAs and GMAT/GRE scores) into letters (M.S.) after their name. The long term benefits of a short term investment will pay dividends for careers that span decades to come.

MS Business vs. MBA

MS Business degrees are multi-disciplinary, graduate-level business degrees. The closest historical equivalent to this format is the Masters of Business Administration (MBA), which shares a similar multi-disciplinary profile. The major differences between the programs are experience requirements, curriculum design related to experiential differences, and the MS Business emphasis solely on “core business knowledge.”

In many ways, the MS Business degree might be compared to the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Both programs offer a general business education for graduate students. Some key differences between MS Business programs and the MBA programs are as follows:

  • Work Experience – Students come into most MS Business programs directly from their undergraduate degree programs little or no work experience (many students come directly from their undergraduate program). MBA students at top-tier MBA programs typically average between 5-7 years of work experience.
  • Length of Program – MS Business programs are often 36 credit hour programs delivered in one year. Top-tier MBA programs average between 45 and 54 credit hours and are typically delivered across 18 – 24 months. The longer MBA program provides additional depth in the core courses work and allows MBA students to choose a track in some areas such as finance, marketing, or supply chain management.
  • Internship – Due to the length of the program, MS Business programs do not typically offer internship opportunities for their students. Top MBA programs not only offer and encourage their students to complete internships, but many business schools also require that students participate in an internship as part of the program.
  • Cost – MS Business degrees cost significantly less than an MBA. An MS Business degree might cost between $30,000 and $60,000. The tuition and fees for the best MBA programs range from $50,000 to $100,000 or more.

A common question asked by individuals considering graduate business education is whether to pursue an MS Business degree immediately after the undergraduate degree or to work for a few years and then go back to school to earn an MBA. This is a big question that proposes sharply contrasting paths forward. MBAs will always be pertinent for mid-career working professionals aiming for a shot at the corner office.

In addition to the differences highlighted above, soon-to-be college graduates from a non-business background should consider the complexities of life when evaluating the MS Business vs. MBA question. Ask any mentor and they will agree that what is difficult today will typically not get easier tomorrow. Life tends to get more complicated with age. MS Business students have an opportunity to earn a graduate degree at a point in life where commitments are few and flexibility is high.

MS Business + the Future

People pursue a college education to advance themselves and their careers. How one measures life’s success varies from person-to-person. This principle is wonderfully articulated in a recently published Bloomberg editorial[8]:

“The case for business education begins with a simple reality: Every organization, whether it’s the Red Cross, a local library, a museum, a hospital, or even a church, operates as a business. Every organization exists to deliver value to one or more constituency groups. A software company has customers, a symphony has patrons, and a church has parishioners.

Every organization must secure a steady stream of financial resources. The leaders of all organizations must be good stewards of those resources; they must develop and monitor budgets, assess the financial implications of various actions, plan for the future, and organize the resources necessary to implement those plans.

The development of these and related skills is the basic aim of business education, which should perhaps be referred to by the more accurate and less profit-focused moniker of ‘management education.’ Indeed, business education is too important to limit just to business majors.”

This article serves as a compelling, real, and articulate synopsis of who/what/when and why business education is important.

Put in perspective, college campuses are populated with promising young scholars who bear the responsibility of maintaining and building upon the societal and economic inertia generated throughout the late 20th and early 21st century. In a recent interview about the role of ethics in business, Jonathan Haidt, the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership in the Stern School of Business at New York University, made observations that underscore the applicability and burning platform for academic innovations like MS Business program[9].

Business is the engine of growth for all of humanity. The spread of markets and modern business practices is the reason why extreme poverty rates are plummeting around the world — falling into single digits this year for the first time in human history. Helping businesses to perform just a little better, just a little more ethically, is arguably the most important project humanity can undertake. It would increase the pie and divide it more equitably.

Through programs like the Mays MS Business program, strategically-minded individuals looking for a lifelong and decisive professional edge will have a chance to accelerate their career launch in ways previously not possible.


[1] “Give Your Career a Boost with an MBA”, Graduate Management Admission Council, available online at http://www.mba.com/us/plan-for-business-school/decide-to-go/business-school-great-investment/value-of-a-business-degree.aspx, last visited July 18, 2016.

[2] Symonds, Matt, “The Rise and Rise of the Masters in Management, Forbes, May 20, 2014, available online at http://www.forbes.com/sites/mattsymonds/2014/05/20/the-rise-and-rise-of-the-masters-in-management, last visited July 18, 2016.

[3] As mentioned previously, these programs can be found under a variety of names. For the remainder of this document, the term MS Business refers to pre-experience, general-business degrees as described in the introductory paragraphs.

[4] “MBA vs. Masters in Management, the Comprehensive Guide”, MiM-Essay.com, available online at https://www.mim-essay.com/mba-vs-mim/, last visited on May 31, 2018.

[5] “What are the trends in the educational level of the United States population?”, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, available online at https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=27, last visited on July 18, 2016.

[6] Pérez-Peña, Richard, “U.S. Bachelor Degree Rate Passes Milestone”, The New York Times, February 23, 2012, available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/education/census-finds-bachelors-degrees-at-record-level.html, last visited on July 18, 2016.

[7] Matgouranis, Christopher and Robe, Jonathan, “Is America Saturated with College Grads?”, Forbes, December 20, 2010, available online at http://www.forbes.com/sites/ccap/2010/12/20/is-america-saturated-with-college-grads, last visited on July 18, 2016.

[8] Smith, Daniel C., “The Case for Business Education, Bloomberg, July 21, 2011, available online at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2011-07-21/the-case-for-business-education, last visited on July 18, 2016.

[9] Carucci, Ron, “Will Your Ethics Hold Up Under Pressure?”, Forbes, February 3, 2016, available online at http://www.forbes.com/sites/roncarucci/2016/02/03/will-your-organizations-ethics-hold-up-under-pressure, last visited July 18, 2016.