There can be no doubt that much of the near exponential growth of interest in studying management has been driven by the close relationship the subject enjoys with the world of work. International students in particular have seen that a graduate education in management is a passport to future success. Data released by the QS World Grad School Tour confirms student interest shows no sign of diminishing. In both 2006 and 2007, management topped the charts of subject interest among students attending the Tour, the only international graduate education fairs that bring top grad schools face-to-face with prospective masters and PhD students from all over the world.
Studying management at the masters level offers a number of opportunities for international students. Whilst the MBA qualification has dominated the minds of students in recent years, the less fashionable but nevertheless far more popular degree, Masters in Management, continues to attract students interested in the more analytical approach to the study of management.
Professor Peter Abell, one of the founders of the MSc in Management and Strategy at the London School of Economics, the top ranked UK program of its kind in 2007 according to the Financial Times, sees a clear distinction between MBA degrees and Masters in Management programs: The MBA seeks to build on a candidate's work and life experience. Education is drawn from the more practical point of view and, although many MBAs are academically rigorous these days, they tend to adopt a far more practical approach to the subject matter. Masters in Management take a more analytical and intellectual route to the field, developing the skills of participants to recognise the core issues, irrespective of the practical situation. Where there are similarities they tend to be in the use of case studies and review of real world situations.
The study of management away from the MBA arena can take a variety of forms. The more general approach to management can be seen in the raft of programs on offer that seek to equip students with the general skills to cope with a varied range of management situations. Approaches to learning tend to include case studies, simulations, group presentations and relevant business games, in addition to the traditional lectures and seminars common to the masters level of study. The Masters in Management offered by Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School in Belgium is one of the leading general management programs in Europe today and seeks to educate students for a variety of management scenarios by providing them with a practical approach based on solid analytical and academic theory. Ranked in the top 20 by the Financial Times and triple accredited by AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA, masters students are attracted to the international atmosphere of the university and the opportunity to gain valuable work experience as part of the program.
Marie-Astrid Goes from Belgium graduated from the MSc Management program at Lancaster University in 2007. Like many students weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of selecting one management education program over another, Marie-Astrid selected a general route because she had not studied management before: I had graduated in Chemistry and Biochemistry and felt that a more general approach would be more useful.
The first term on the MSc passed by incredibly quickly. During the ten weeks of that term we had to write essays, undertake our own research, work in groups and prepare presentations. But it was worthwhile I secured a job with the American chemicals company Cytec on their Leadership Development Program.
If the general management route is not for you, then specialization offers a myriad of opportunities. Business areas as diverse as risk, human resources, finance and IT all require significant management skills and universities have been quick to develop masters programs catering for this increased demand by individuals and companies alike. Debra J Cohen from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the USA recommends specialization for those that already have a focus for their future career: An MBA will give you a very broad business background and, in the case of human resources, will only allow you to take four maybe five HR courses. A Masters in HR, however, will offer most of your courses in that field or a related discipline. If you are positive you want HR then that's the way to go.
Shelia Russ, a student on the Human Resource Management masters program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, USA echoes this view: I started in the MBA with a concentration in HR, then switched to the Masters in Human Resource Management. My reasoning for switching programs was simply because the masters offered more opportunity for me to take the classes I wanted. In making my decision to switch programs I spoke with several HR professionals all offering similar advice - if HR is really what you want to do, then the MS is your best option. Also, (and this is no reflection on any MBA program, and I only quote someone else) a lot of schools have MBA programs, a Masters is something that can set you apart in the industry.
The decision to specialize or not is certainly a very personal one. Similarly, taking the MBA or Masters in Management route is one that will depend on your ambitions and your academic and professional backgrounds. However, one thing, is for certain: studying management offers both a varied grad school experience and one that is rich with employment opportunities after graduation. Pamaljit Kalra, originally from India and now an analyst with Deloitte Consulting, graduated from the Masters of Information Systems Management at Carnegie Mellon University in 2005. Her reason for pursuing a specialized management degree echo many students intent on developing particular skills relevant to the workplace: I was looking for a program which helped me see technology in the broader perspective in the context of business to see it as what they call a strategic enabler of business strategy. I though the MISM program fitted the bill perfectly and I was able to choose courses that were more geared towards a consulting profession.
Graduating with a Masters in Management, in whatever form, opens up a world of career opportunities. While scandals in business and management way well emerge, having a firm academic grasp of the essential aspects of the discipline might see you steer your company along an altogether more successful and ethical path. Can you afford not to consider a Masters in Management?