In the past, an MBA was resolutely a generalist degree. Even though the last portion of the program generally featured elective courses, thereby offering a chance to gain expertise in a specific field, there was no presumption that a student would enter any specific field. A large number of schools have changed this. There are now specialized MBAs designed for those who wish to enter fashion management, health care, luxury goods marketing, defense management, church management, premium brand management, and so on. A conservative count would put the different subjects on offer at 50 or more.

As with the master’s degrees in single subjects, one key question is whether you need a broad range of training or need simply to develop expertise in a more limited realm. If you are clear that you will remain in or enter a given field, there is no reason to avoid an MBA geared to that field. Both the structured curriculum and the networking possibilities are of potential value. Note, however, that many of the leading business schools have eschewed such specialized MBAs. Consequently, you should be in no hurry to attend a specialized course at a lesser school if you can get into a reasonably flexible program at a leading school.

MS Programs (Specialized Masters Programs in Management subjects)

An MBA is not the only option for those who wish to do graduate business study. If you are interested in developing your skills in essentially one area only, you can do, for example, a specialized master’s degree in general management, accounting, business economics, information systems, marketing, operations, and numerous other fields. The following list, which is hardly exhaustive, is meant simply to give the flavor of the range of subjects on offer and the quality of the schools involved. We have taken the example of MIT and the MS programs offered by MIT:

B.School Degree Type Degree Name URL links for details
MIT – Sloan MBA + MS MBA from the Sloan School of Management and a Master of Science (SM) from the School of Engineering Curriculum Details
MS (Finance) Master of Finance Curriculum Details
MS (Management Studies) MSMS Curriculum Details
MS ( Engineering and Management ) SDM (the System Design and Management master’s program) Curriculum Details

Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge, and a dozen other leading schools. The point is that there are many courses on offer that might be a sensible alternative to an MBA. It must be emphasized, however, that these degrees are not generally suitable for those who wish to receive training in the usual core courses of an MBA program or pursue advanced training in several fields.

Increasing demand for graduate management education, particularly for specialized master’s programs, may be a result of schools expanding and differentiating the scope of their offerings to reach a wider audience that includes a younger cohort of prospective students

Data show that the MBA student marketplace today is dominated by the older generation of Gen X’rs while the non-MBA business master’s marketplace is populated by the younger cohort of Gen Y’rs, or millennials, under the age of 24. Recent analysis of application trends data also shows an increase in demand for non-MBA business master’s programs, which on its face seems driven by changing demographics, but may also be a consequence of the recent global economic downturn.

The size of the millennial generation, or echo boomers, coupled with the recent global recession, which has affected young individuals more severely than older populations, has likely precipitated rising interest in specialized non-MBA business master’s programs.

MBA versus Specialized Master’s Degrees

The Master’s in Finance degree is much narrower, much more academically focused than the MBA. It’s appropriate if you are very clear that, for instance, investment banking is for you. The MBA is a general management degree; it’s a much more flexible qualification, allowing you to explore different career options. Interestingly, some of the people who do the Master’s in Finance have previously done MBAs at second-tier schools; while some go on to do MBAs afterwards.

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