Business Administration

In-Depth Guide to Business Administration Master’s Programs [2021 Edition]

In-Depth Guide to Business Administration Master’s Programs [2021 Edition]
A business-related Master of Science degree sets you up to specialize in an area you love. If your passion is marketing, finance, IT, or business analytics, a MS can help you excel in your field of choice. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry January 4, 2021

The MBA is the most popular business-focused master's degree, but it's not the only one, and it may not be the best one for you. This article takes a long look at alternative business administration master's programs you might consider.

MBA/Business Programs You Should Consider

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Graduate school will never hurt your professional prospects. That said, the relative value of a master’s degree varies by field and by diploma.

A master’s indicates that you have high-level theoretical and practical skills and knowledge—because graduate programs dive deeper into subjects than undergrad programs—but that doesn’t mean having an advanced degree translates into more money or greater access to opportunity. Master’s degree holders typically out-earn bachelor’s degree holders, but sometimes not by much.

Some of the highest-paying master’s degrees are graduate-level business administration degrees. The classic Master of Business Administration is one of them. It is, in fact, the only b-school degree many students consider. However, many other business administration master’s programs can open new doors, help you switch careers, and otherwise make you more marketable.

Choosing among them isn’t easy. The MBA might seem a no-brainer option, but consider your goals in returning to school and determine what you hope to get out of your degree program. It may be that pursuing another business-focused graduate degree makes more sense.

In this guide to business administration master’s programs, we cover:

  • What is business administration?
  • What is an MBA?
  • How is a Master of Science different from an MBA?
  • What is a master’s in business administration?
  • What is a master’s in business analytics?
  • What is a master’s in financial economics?
  • What is a master’s in financial engineering?
  • What is a master’s in marketing/digital marketing?
  • What is a master’s in MIS?
  • What is a master’s in operation research?
  • What is a master’s in real estate?
  • What is a master’s in supply chain management?
  • What is a Master of Health Administration (MHA)?
  • Should I get an MBA or an MS in business?

What is business administration?

Academic business administration is the study of how businesses are managed. It’s a broad discipline encompassing everything related to the oversight of business operations. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Accounting: Involves the process of recording, summarizing, analyzing, and reporting financial transactions of a business to oversee financial health and ensure statutory compliance.
  • Business development: Focuses on identifying business opportunities, building long-term relationships with prospects, and developing strategies for business growth and expansion.
  • Facilities management: Encompasses the coordination of a business’s physical workspace, managing building maintenance, space planning, and ensuring the environment is safe and efficient for employees and operations.
  • Finance: Concerns the management of money and includes activities such as investment, budgeting, banking, and forecasting to help a company achieve its financial objectives.
  • Human resource management: Deals with the management of people within an organization, focusing on policies and systems for recruiting, training, performance appraisal, and rewarding employees.
  • Information technology (IT): Pertains to the use of computers and telecommunications equipment to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data, often in the context of a business or other enterprise.
  • Information systems management: Involves overseeing the technology systems that manage the data necessary for organizations to function, ensuring these systems are secure, reliable, and efficient.
  • Marketing: The process of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising to create demand and identify customer needs.
  • Operations management: Concerned with designing and controlling the process of production and redesigning business operations in the production of goods or services.
  • Product management: Involves the lifecycle management of a product from planning, forecasting, and production, to marketing and sales strategies.
  • Project management: The discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria.
  • Sales: Focuses on the exchange of a product or service for money or value, including strategies and processes to encourage the purchase by customers.
  • Quality assurance: Entails ensuring that a product or service meets specified requirements and standards, often through systematic measurement, comparison with standards, and monitoring of processes.

Business administration cuts a wide path, creating hundreds of undergraduate and graduate degree options. The BBA and MBA are just two possible options open to students in the United States.

Definition of business administration

There’s no one exhaustive definition of business administration. In addition to being a course of study in higher education, it’s also everything involved in the art of management, and it’s essential to the stability of any business enterprise. As Paul Pigors observed in Leadership or Domination, “The administrative function… insures the continuance of the existing order with a minimum of effort and risk. Its fundamental aim is to ‘carry on’ rather than to venture along new and untried paths. Administrators are, therefore, the stabilizers of society and the guardians of tradition.”

MBA vs. Master of Science in a business-related field

The best alternative to getting an MBA might be getting a master’s in management, but again, it’s only one of many options. There are numerous specialized master’s degree pathways focused on specific areas of business administration, from supply chain management to financial management to healthcare administration.

If your long-term plans involve staying in one field for your entire career or specializing in one area of business administration, you may get more out of a focused Master of Science program than a generalist MBA program. On the other hand, having both an MS and an MBA can be a career booster.

“A business master’s degree is not necessarily the end of graduates’ business education,” said Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of GMAC, in a press release. “For many, their business master’s degree is a stepping stone to continued professional development that may include an MBA down the road.”



University and Program Name Learn More

What is an MBA?

The MBA is an advanced business degree typically designed for professionals with some management experience. Generalist MBA programs cover general business topics in greater depth than BBA programs but still encourage big-picture thinking. Students in part-time, full-time, and executive MBA programs are often aspiring executives looking to step into roles like director, vice president, and chief executive officer.

Most MBA programs emphasize leadership, though schools approach the MBA curriculum differently. The existence of concentration-based programs makes it even harder to sum up this degree. You should probably think of the MBA as not one academic pathway but many. Students in an MBA in Entrepreneurship program will likely follow a very different course of study from an MBA in Aviation Management program.

MBA curriculum

The core classes in MBA programs teach students everything they need to succeed in executive-level and management positions or launch businesses. Coursework covers topics like:

  • Accounting: Focuses on teaching MBA students financial reporting, auditing, tax preparation, and managerial accounting, equipping them with the skills to analyze financial statements and make informed business decisions.
  • Business analytics: Involves training MBA students in data analysis, statistical and quantitative analysis, and predictive modeling to enhance decision-making processes in business settings.
  • Entrepreneurship: Prepares MBA students to start, develop, and manage their own businesses, emphasizing innovation, business planning, and entrepreneurial finance.
  • Ethics: Teaches MBA students ethical decision-making in business, covering topics like corporate governance, social responsibility, and ethical leadership.
  • Finance: Provides MBA students with an understanding of financial management, investment strategies, corporate finance, and financial markets to help manage an organization’s financial resources effectively.
  • Leadership: Focuses on developing leadership skills in MBA students, covering strategic decision-making, leadership styles, and organizational change management.
  • Macroeconomics: Teaches MBA students about the broader economic factors that affect business and the economy as a whole, including monetary policy, inflation, and economic growth.
  • Microeconomics: Focuses on the decision-making processes of individuals and firms, supply and demand analysis, and the market structures that influence business operations.
  • Marketing: Prepares MBA students to strategically think about product positioning, market competition, pricing strategies, and customer engagement to effectively market goods and services.
  • Statistics: Equips MBA students with skills in statistical analysis to interpret data accurately and make informed decisions based on quantitative data.
  • Operations: Teaches MBA students about the management of production and operations, focusing on process improvement, supply chain management, and operational strategy.

Some programs let students choose several elective classes related to either a field of interest (like technology or global management) or other general business topics (like communications or digital marketing). Most MBA programs require students to complete a summer internship and work on real-world case studies in class. Some also build domestic and international business residencies or excursions into the curriculum.

Who gets an MBA

Roughly one-third of the top CEOs in Fortune 500 companies have MBAs. This data point probably inspires many aspiring executives to apply to b-schools.

Not all MBA students are hoping to land a spot in the c-suite, however. Some need the degree to compete in crowded markets. There are also on-campus and online MBA programs designed for doctors who want to manage their practices more effectively and for nurses who wish to become nurse managers.

Which is to say: the MBA is a very versatile graduate degree. MBA programs attract men and women (though slightly more of the former) from across industries, professions, and skill areas.

How is a Master of Science different from an MBA?

Business-focused master’s degree programs differ from MBA programs in many ways. We’ve listed the most significant differences:

  • Master of Science programs accept applicants with little experience, while MBA programs typically require that applicants have years of real-world professional experience
  • Master of Science programs tend to be shorter than MBA programs and require a less intense commitment
  • Master of Science programs tend to cost less than MBA programs
  • More Master of Science programs are field- or discipline-specific; many MBA programs offer a general degree covering all fundamental management disciplines
  • Some employers treat an MBA as more valuable than other business-focused master’s degrees

What is a master’s in business administration?

You can think of the Master of Science in Business Administration (or Master of Science in Management or master’s in management) as an MBA-lite. Some call it a “pre-experience business master’s” degree. While master’s in business administration programs have a lot in common with MBA programs, they typically don’t require applicants to have significant professional experience. They’re often designed for students with undergraduate degrees and entry-level experience but not the managerial skills they’ll need to advance into supervisory roles.

Master’s in business administration curriculum

The curriculum in master’s in business administration programs is similar to the typical MBA curriculum. Students take core courses in:

  • Accounting: Offers an in-depth understanding of accounting principles, financial statement analysis, and regulatory compliance, emphasizing technical proficiency and analytical skills necessary for specialized accounting roles.
  • Corporate strategy: Focuses on teaching advanced strategic management techniques, including industry analysis, competitive advantage, and corporate growth strategies, with an emphasis on long-term organizational planning.
  • Ethics: Examines ethical issues in business practices and decision-making, stressing the importance of ethical leadership, corporate governance, and the development of sound ethical frameworks within organizations.
  • Financial management: Provides a detailed look at financial theories, financial risk management, investment decision-making, and capital market behavior, aiming to equip students with the skills to manage complex financial scenarios.
  • Human resource management: Covers advanced HR topics such as talent acquisition, workforce planning, performance management, and employee relations, with a focus on strategic human resource planning.
  • Marketing management: Teaches detailed strategies for market analysis, brand management, digital marketing, and customer relationship management, designed to prepare students for senior marketing roles.
  • Mentorship: Focuses on the development of coaching and mentoring skills necessary for leadership roles, including how to guide professional development, enhance employee skills, and improve organizational performance.
  • Negotiation: Provides advanced skills in negotiation and conflict resolution, focusing on techniques for deal-making, persuasive communication, and dispute resolution in business settings.
  • Organizational behavior: Studies the behavior of individuals and groups within organizations in a more detailed and systematic way, examining leadership styles, motivation theories, and the impact of corporate culture on productivity.
  • Professional communication: Teaches advanced communication skills needed in professional settings, covering topics like professional writing, presentation skills, and cross-cultural communication to enhance effectiveness in business interactions.

The master’s in business administration curriculum also introduces students to the fundamental leadership skills managers need.

Is a master’s in business administration worth it?

Absolutely, with the caveat that the MBA is the better degree for those with more professional experience. If you’re fresh out of an undergrad degree program or have less than two years of work experience and your long-term career goals involve a corner office with your name on it, this degree can help set you along that path.

What can you do with a master’s in business administration?

Students graduate from master’s in business administration degree programs with the skills and knowledge to advance into industry-specific junior-level management roles and general management roles. With this degree, you might transition into positions like:

  • General operations manager: Oversees the daily operations of a company or a specific department, focusing on managing staff, planning operations, and implementing policies to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  • HR manager: Manages human resources activities within an organization, including recruitment, staffing, training and development, performance management, and ensuring compliance with employment laws.
  • Manufacturing manager: Responsible for overseeing the production process in a manufacturing facility, managing staff, coordinating production schedules, and ensuring that products meet quality standards.
  • Product manager: Focuses on the development and lifecycle management of a product, including market research, product development, marketing strategies, and overseeing the product team to ensure product success in the market.
  • Project manager: Manages specific projects within an organization, responsible for planning, executing, and finalizing projects according to deadlines and within budget, often coordinating efforts among team members and other departments.
  • Team director: Leads a specific team within an organization, setting goals, managing team performance, and developing strategies to ensure the team’s success and alignment with the organization’s objectives.
  • Training manager: Designs and implements training programs to develop employee skills, enhance productivity, and improve job satisfaction. This role often involves assessing training needs, creating material, and evaluating the effectiveness of training programs.

How much will you earn with a master’s in business administration?

Master’s in business administration graduates can earn salaries approaching $90,000, which is comparable to what many MBA holders earn after graduation. MBA salaries may rise more quickly, but that’s mainly because MBA holders tend to have more experience than their colleagues who graduated from other business administration master’s programs.

What is a master’s in business analytics?

A Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) is an interdisciplinary graduate degree that touches on business and data science. There are two types of MSBA programs. The first is for professionals with a background in data analytics who hope to step into more senior roles. The second is for business professionals and people from other backgrounds who want to transition into data analytics careers. In both, the overall focus of coursework might be on business principles, quant skills, or both.

Master’s in business analytics curriculum

The curriculum in most Master of Science in Business Analytics programs includes coursework in:

  • Analytics tools: Teaches the practical use of various software and programming tools like SQL, Python, and R, which are essential for analyzing large datasets and solving analytical problems.
  • Big Data: Focuses on the techniques and technologies used to handle extremely large data sets, covering topics such as data storage, processing, and analysis using frameworks like Hadoop and Spark.
  • Business intelligence: Introduces methods for transforming data into actionable intelligence that can influence business decisions, including the use of dashboards, reporting tools, and data visualization techniques.
  • Data-driven storytelling: Teaches how to effectively communicate complex data insights through storytelling, focusing on visualizing data and presenting it in a way that is understandable and compelling to business stakeholders.
  • Information theory: Covers the fundamental concepts of information theory, including data compression, encryption, and transmission, and how these concepts apply to the management and security of business data.
  • Machine learning: Introduces the principles and algorithms of machine learning, focusing on their application in business contexts for predictive analytics, customer segmentation, and decision-making automation.
  • Optimization methods: Teaches techniques for improving business operations and decision-making through mathematical optimization models, including linear programming, integer programming, and heuristic methods.
  • Statistics: Provides a deep dive into statistical methods and their applications in business analytics, including hypothesis testing, regression analysis, and statistical inference to support data-driven decision-making.

Some MSBA programs—especially those geared toward experienced analytics professionals—are more technical than others. In those, you might take computer science and information theory courses, along with coding classes in R, Python, SAS, and SQL.

Is a master’s in business analytics worth it?

There’s money to be made at the intersection of business and tech. The average master’s in business analytics salary is under $75,000, but that figure assumes you’ll stay in business analyst or business intelligence roles. Graduates who devote their off-hours to studying the technical side of data analysis can use this degree to transition out of data analytics and into data science—a field where salaries are much higher.

What is a master’s in financial economics?

The Master of Science in Financial Economics (MSFE) is the first business administration masters program we cover without ‘business’ in the title, but it won’t be the last. Schools usually offer the master’s in financial economics jointly through the business school and economics department. Students in MSFE programs explore the ways economic forces affect financial markets and how those effects impact other sectors. Programs are often highly technical, with core courses geared toward graduate students with strong math and programming skills.

Master’s in financial economics curriculum

The curriculum in MSFE programs typically covers subjects like:

  • Derivatives: Explores financial instruments such as options, futures, and swaps, focusing on their valuation, use in risk management, and strategies for hedging against market volatility.
  • Econometrics: Teaches the application of statistical and mathematical models to economic data for the purpose of testing hypotheses, forecasting future trends, and developing economic policies.
  • Finance: Covers the principles of financial management, investment analysis, portfolio management, and financial markets, emphasizing decision-making in financial resource allocation.
  • Fixed income analysis: Focuses on the valuation and risk assessment of fixed-income securities, such as bonds and other debt instruments, including the study of interest rates and credit risk.
  • Managerial accounting: Provides knowledge on how to use accounting information for internal decision-making purposes, including budgeting, performance evaluation, and cost management.
  • Managerial economics: Applies microeconomic analysis to decision-making techniques in business, including pricing strategies, risk analysis, and resource allocation.
  • Microeconomics and macroeconomics: Covers the fundamentals of both microeconomics (study of individual and firm behavior) and macroeconomics (study of the economy as a whole), focusing on their impact on financial decision-making.
  • Quantitative analysis: Teaches techniques for quantitative data analysis to support decision-making in finance, including statistical methods, mathematical modeling, and numerical simulations.

In some programs, coursework prepares students not only for careers in banking and business but also for CFA certification.

Is a master’s in financial economics worth it?

This is a versatile degree. MSFE holders work as financial analysts, securities analysts, asset managers, commercial bankers, and compliance managers. Many people who earn this degree work in banking, but some go on to work in healthcare, real estate, public policy, and tech.

The median salary for MSFE holders is just $62,000, but salaries are largely dependent on title and experience. You could earn $100,000 or more with this graduate degree. Be aware, however, that most Master of Science in Financial Economics programs are small and selective.

What is a master’s in financial engineering?

Financial engineers use computer science, advanced mathematics, and business strategies to make money. The work they do is complex. The master’s in financial engineering is a multidisciplinary academic pathway. Students pursuing this degree learn the quant and comp sci skills necessary to develop high-tech financial products and automate everything from pricing to portfolio management.

Master’s in financial engineering curriculum

Core courses in on-campus and online master’s in financial engineering cover topics like:

  • Algorithmic trading strategies: Focuses on designing and implementing computer algorithms that can execute trades at high speeds and volumes based on a set of predetermined criteria, aiming to optimize trading profits.
  • Data science in finance: Teaches the application of data science techniques such as machine learning and big data analytics to financial datasets to predict market movements, analyze risk, and optimize portfolios.
  • Derivatives: Explores financial instruments like options, futures, and swaps, with an emphasis on modeling, pricing, and using derivatives for hedging and speculation in financial markets.
  • Empirical financial methods: Involves the application of statistical techniques to financial data to empirically test theories and models in finance, including asset pricing and market anomalies.
  • Financial computing: Covers the use of computational methods and software tools necessary for solving complex problems in finance, including simulations, optimizations, and financial modeling.
  • Financial services analytics: Focuses on analyzing data specific to financial services to improve decision-making in areas such as credit scoring, fraud detection, customer relationship management, and financial product innovation.
  • Fixed income markets: Studies the structures, instruments, and dynamics of fixed income markets, including the analysis of bonds, interest rates, and the term structure of interest rates.
  • Probability theory: Provides the foundational knowledge of probability theory essential for modeling and analyzing random processes in financial markets, including the calculation of various financial risks.
  • Risk management and measurement: Teaches methods for identifying, measuring, and managing risk in financial portfolios, focusing on techniques such as Value-at-Risk (VaR), stress testing, and risk-adjusted performance measures.
  • Stochastic calculus: Introduces mathematical techniques used to model random processes in finance, particularly in the pricing of derivatives and in the management of financial risks.

Some Master of Science in Financial Engineering programs expect incoming students to be proficient in languages like C++, C#, Python, and Java. Others cover coding in the curriculum.

Is a master’s in financial engineering worth it?

Financially, absolutely. The site “efinancialcareers” called this degree the ticket to the hottest careers in finance and found that most students who graduated from top programs earned between $90,000 and $159,000. More importantly, this isn’t a quant degree that leads to backroom computing careers. After graduation, you’ll have the qualifications and the skills necessary to step into high-profile front-office roles in domestic and global business firms.

What is a master’s in marketing/digital marketing?

The Master of Science in Marketing (or Master of Marketing) is a degree for professionals who want to learn more about the theories and principles of marketing and the best and most up-to-date practices and strategies. Most marketing master’s degree programs include a technology component to address the digital and analytics-based channels marketers increasingly must master. In fact, traditional marketing-focused graduate programs are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from on-campus and online master’s in digital marketing programs.

Master’s in marketing/digital marketing curriculum

Traditional Master of Science in Marketing programs cover core subjects like:

  • Applied marketing strategy: Focuses on the practical application of marketing theories to real-world scenarios, teaching students to develop, implement, and evaluate effective marketing strategies.
  • Brand management: Explores the strategies involved in building, managing, and assessing the value of brands, emphasizing brand positioning, brand equity, and brand lifecycle management.
  • Consumer behavior: Studies how and why consumers make purchase decisions, examining psychological, social, and cultural factors that influence consumer preferences and behaviors.
  • Customer relationship marketing: Emphasizes developing and managing long-term relationships with customers to enhance customer loyalty and lifetime value through personalized marketing techniques.
  • Data-driven customer management: Focuses on leveraging big data analytics to understand customer behaviors and preferences better, enabling more targeted and effective marketing strategies.
  • International marketing: Examines marketing strategies across different international markets, addressing the challenges of cross-cultural communication, market entry, and global branding.
  • Market research: Teaches the methodologies for designing and conducting market research to gather accurate data on consumer trends, market needs, and competitive dynamics.
  • Marketing analytics: Provides tools and techniques for analyzing marketing data, enabling students to measure, manage, and analyze marketing performance to maximize its effectiveness.
  • Media planning and analysis: Covers the strategic process of selecting and scheduling media platforms to deliver advertisements to the target audience, including the evaluation of media reach and impact.
  • Product management: Involves overseeing the lifecycle of a product, including product development, market introduction, and post-launch management, focusing on aligning product offerings with market demands.
  • Retail analytics: Focuses on analyzing retail data to improve decision-making in retail management, covering topics such as sales forecasting, inventory management, and customer purchasing patterns.
  • Visual communication: Teaches the principles of design and visual aesthetics as they apply to marketing, emphasizing how visuals can be used effectively to communicate brand messages and engage consumers.

Master’s in digital marketing programs cover much of the same ground, with additional courses in:

  • Content marketing: Focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience, ultimately driving profitable customer action.
  • Data analytics: Teaches the use of data analysis tools and methodologies to glean insights from large datasets, helping marketers make informed decisions to enhance campaign performance and customer engagement.
  • Digital assets management: Covers the strategies and tools required to manage, store, organize, and distribute digital assets like images, videos, and other media, ensuring they are easily accessible and effectively utilized in marketing campaigns.
  • Digital storytelling: Explores the techniques for crafting compelling stories using digital platforms, which can enhance brand image and engage audiences more deeply.
  • E-commerce marketing: Examines strategies to promote products or services online, including techniques to drive traffic to e-commerce sites, optimize conversion rates, and enhance customer retention.
  • Email marketing: Teaches the effective design, deployment, and management of email campaigns, focusing on segmentation, personalization, and optimization to maximize engagement and conversions.
  • Search engine marketing: Focuses on increasing visibility in search engine results through both organic search strategies (SEO) and paid search tactics (PPC), driving targeted traffic to websites.
  • Social media management: Covers the strategic planning, execution, and analysis of social media campaigns across various platforms to build brand awareness, engage with customers, and drive website traffic.
  • Web analytics and SEO: Provides a deep dive into tools and techniques for tracking, analyzing, and interpreting website data to improve search engine optimization and overall website performance.
  • UX optimization: Teaches methods to improve the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product, aiming to enhance user satisfaction and conversion rates.

Is a master’s in marketing/digital marketing worth it?

Whether a master’s degree in marketing is worth it depends on your long-term goals. Pursuing a Master of Science in Marketing can make it easier to grow your professional network, give you new tools for helping businesses grow, and strengthen negotiating power when it’s time for that annual raise. This assumes, however, you plan to stay in the marketing department for your entire career. If you dream of becoming a CMO, this is the degree for you.

What is a master’s in MIS?

This degree pathway has a confusing array of names. Some schools offer a Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS). The University of Washington has an online Master of Science in Information Management program. Others confer a:

  • Masters in Management Information Systems (MIS)
  • Master of Science in Information Systems Management (MS-ISM)
  • Master of Science in Management Information Systems (MSMIS)
  • Master of Information Management and Systems
  • Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology Management
  • Master of Science in Information Systems Technology

However, all accredited master’s in MIS programs cover topics related to using digital data and information technology to meet business goals. You won’t learn to build networks or design software when you pursue an MSIS, but rather how to launch, maintain, and manage existing digital information systems for corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

Master’s in MIS curriculum

In both on-campus and online MS MIS programs, students complete coursework related to:

  • Business problem-solving: Focuses on identifying, analyzing, and solving complex business problems using systematic approaches and information systems technologies to enhance organizational efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Cloud architecture: Teaches the design and management of cloud computing systems, covering topics such as cloud service models, deployment strategies, and integration of cloud technologies with existing IT infrastructure.
  • Data analytics: Provides knowledge on using statistical and computational methods to analyze data sets and extract insights that can inform business decisions, optimize performance, and predict future trends.
  • Database creation: Covers the principles and techniques for designing and implementing databases, focusing on data modeling, schema development, and the use of database management systems.
  • Database management: Explores the administration of databases to ensure they operate efficiently, securely, and reliably, including topics like data storage, retrieval, backup, and recovery.
  • Information security: Addresses the strategies, tools, and policies necessary to protect digital and non-digital information assets from security breaches and cyber threats.
  • IT management: Focuses on the strategic and operational aspects of managing information technology within organizations, including IT governance, project management, and alignment of IT strategy with business goals.
  • IT technology: Provides a broad overview of the current technologies used in information systems, including hardware, software, and network components, and their applications in business.
  • Network administration: Teaches the skills required for managing, configuring, and troubleshooting network infrastructure, focusing on ensuring reliable and secure data communication within and between organizations.

Is a master’s in MIS worth it?

If you like working with technology but aren’t interested in becoming a programmer or database engineer, this might be the discipline—and degree—for you. How much you can earn with a master’s in information systems depends on many factors, not just your highest level of education. There are entry-level roles in information systems you can get without this master’s degree. Still, you’ll probably need an MSIS if you want to qualify for the best-paying jobs in information systems management like information systems director, enterprise architecture manager, or chief information officer.

What is a master’s in operation research?

Operations research is a discipline focused entirely on solving problems. Operations researchers use probability, analytics, and mathematical modeling (plus a whole range of specialized software) to answer questions like:

  • Which store layout will convince customers to spend the most?
  • What’s the optimal schedule of screenings for catching cancer early?
  • Where should the fire station be located to reduce response times across the city?

Becoming an operations research analyst means getting a master’s degree. Some operations researchers study data science or engineering in graduate school. Others study operations research at the master’s level.

Master’s in operation research curriculum

Classes in on-campus and online operations research programs cover topics like:

  • Algorithm design and analysis: Focuses on developing, implementing, and evaluating algorithms to solve complex problems efficiently. Topics include complexity analysis, algorithmic strategies, and performance optimization.
  • Data analytics: Teaches the application of statistical and computational methods to analyze large datasets, enabling the extraction of actionable insights to support decision-making and solve operational challenges.
  • Logistics engineering: Covers the design and optimization of logistics and supply chain systems, focusing on transportation, warehousing, inventory management, and distribution strategies.
  • Mathematical programming: Involves the study of mathematical models for optimizing linear and nonlinear functions subject to constraints, exploring methods like linear programming, integer programming, and dynamic programming.
  • Optimization models: Teaches the formulation and solution of optimization problems using various models and techniques to determine the best outcomes under given constraints, widely applicable in industries such as transportation, finance, and manufacturing.
  • Probability and statistics: Provides a foundation in probability theory and statistical methods, focusing on their application in analyzing and modeling uncertain systems in operations research.
  • Programming: Focuses on programming skills necessary for implementing and solving operations research models and algorithms, typically involving languages like Python, R, or MATLAB.
  • Scheduling theory: Studies methods for optimal scheduling in different contexts, such as manufacturing systems, computer systems, and project management, focusing on efficiency and resource allocation.
  • Service system engineering: Examines the design and optimization of service systems, including service operations management, service quality improvement, and customer service strategies.
  • Stochastic operations research models: Deals with modeling and analysis of systems that are influenced by random variables and processes, applying stochastic methods to optimize operations under uncertainty.

Is a master’s in operation research worth it?

An operation research master’s is worth it simply because you’ll need one to work in this field. The good news is it’s a degree associated with relatively high pay and job satisfaction, which is why US News & World Report ranks jobs like operations research analyst high up on its lists of the best business jobs, best STEM jobs, and the best jobs overall.

What is a master’s in real estate?

There are numerous master’s in real estate programs, from the Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) to the Master of Real Estate Valuation and the Master of Science in Real Estate Development. Students often enroll in these programs after working in residential home sales. Some want to transition into commercial real estate management. Others aspire to more senior roles in real estate development, finance, or management.

Master’s in real estate curriculum

The curriculum in on-campus and online master’s in real estate programs generally covers topics like:

  • Business management: Focuses on the principles of managing a real estate business, including operations management, strategic planning, and organizational leadership specific to the real estate industry.
  • Market segment analysis: Teaches techniques for analyzing different segments of the real estate market, such as residential, commercial, or industrial properties, to understand demand dynamics and investment opportunities.
  • Marketing in real estate: Covers the strategies and tools used for marketing real estate properties, including digital marketing, sales techniques, and customer relationship management in the real estate context.
  • Project management: Focuses on the skills necessary to manage real estate projects from inception to completion, including budgeting, scheduling, and coordination of resources and stakeholders.
  • Public entitlements: Examines the process of obtaining necessary governmental approvals and permits for real estate developments, including zoning, land use planning, and environmental regulations.
  • Real estate finance: Teaches the fundamentals of financing real estate purchases and developments, covering topics such as mortgage lending, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and financial analysis of real estate transactions.
  • Real estate investment: Focuses on the principles of investing in real estate, including analysis of investment opportunities, portfolio management, and risk assessment in real estate investments.
  • Real estate development: Covers the process of developing real estate properties, from land acquisition and project planning to construction management and property sales.
  • Real estate law: Provides an overview of the laws and regulations affecting real estate, including property rights, contracts, landlord-tenant law, and real estate transactions.
  • Real estate valuation: Teaches methods for appraising and determining the value of real estate properties, using techniques such as comparative market analysis, income approach, and cost approach.
  • Site analysis and design: Focuses on evaluating real estate sites for development potential, considering factors such as location, environmental conditions, and urban design principles.

Some MSRE programs are concentration-based. In those, students take core courses plus electives related to areas of specialization like asset management, sustainable development, construction management, affordable housing, or public-private partnerships.

Is a master’s in real estate worth it?

Earning a Master of Science in Real Estate or another real estate-focused master’s can provide a big advantage over your competition, whether you work in business development, acquisitions, or sales. According to one older Select Leaders’ Real Estate Hiring Trends Survey, 70 percent of real estate companies prefer to hire candidates with advanced degrees. You’ll probably earn more money with an MSRE, too, because you’ll have the bona fides to transition into management-level positions and a more robust professional network to tap for opportunities.

What is a master’s in supply chain management?

Modern supply chain management (SCM) is about more than getting raw materials and finished products where they need to go. Supply chain managers have to understand the fundamentals of procurement, materials management, logistics, and more. If they work for international firms, they need to know the rules and regulations governing global commerce. And data analytics and data science are increasingly a part of SCM. Earning a master’s in supply chain management—whether it’s a Master of Science in Supply Chain Management (MSSCM) or a Master’s in Supply Chain Management (MSCM)—can prepare you to step into this specialized and exciting area of business.

Master’s in supply chain management curriculum

Classes in the top supply chain master’s programs dig into topics like:

  • Business logistics: Focuses on the efficient management of the flow of goods, services, and information from the point of origin to the point of consumption to meet customer requirements.
  • Customer relationship management: Teaches strategies for managing a company’s interactions with current and potential customers, using data analysis to improve business relationships and customer retention.
  • Demand chain management: Explores the management of relationships between suppliers and customers to deliver the best value to the consumer, integrating demand and supply side of businesses to optimize performance.
  • Electronic data interchange: Covers the electronic transfer of data between organizations, which allows the digital exchange of standard business documents like purchase orders and invoices.
  • Enterprise resource planning: Focuses on the integrated management of core business processes, typically through software and technology, to streamline operations and information across the organization.
  • Inventory control systems: Teaches the methodologies and systems used to oversee the ordering, storing, and use of components that a company will use in the production of the items it will sell as well as the end product inventory.
  • Inventory management: Focuses on the optimal procurement, storage, and utilization of inventory, including raw materials, components, and finished products.
  • Logistics management: Deals with the planning, implementation, and coordination of the storage and movement of goods, services, and information within the supply chain.
  • Operations management: Examines the administration of business practices to create the highest level of efficiency possible within an organization, focusing on converting materials and labor into goods and services as efficiently as possible.
  • Procurement and strategic sourcing: Teaches the process of finding and agreeing to terms, and acquiring goods, services, or works from an external source, often via a tendering or competitive bidding process.
  • Project management: Focuses on the planning, initiating, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time.
  • Supply chain networks: Examines the interconnected businesses that coordinate to provide products and services to end-users, covering network design and strategic planning.
  • Supply chain security: Focuses on efforts to enhance the security of the supply chain or value chain, the transport and logistics system for the world’s cargo, and the byproduct of the end of the production line.
  • Quality management: Covers the processes and procedures that organizations use to ensure that their products meet the required quality standards consistently.
  • Vendor-managed inventory: Discusses a family of business models in which the buyer of a product provides certain information to a supplier of that product and the supplier takes full responsibility for maintaining an agreed inventory of the material, usually at the buyer’s consumption location.

Some supply chain graduate programs, like the University of Tennessee‘s online MS SCM, emphasize the business side of SCM and build capstone projects and immersions into the curriculum in much the same way MBA programs do.

Is a master’s in supply chain management worth it?

The answer is yes, provided you’re someone who is fascinated by everything that goes into producing and distributing the goods we use. While it’s possible to advance in SCM with just a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s degree can help you advance more quickly and earn more money. The top-paying jobs for supply chain management grads pay above $90,000, with some paying more than six figures. Having an advanced degree is helpful when your goal is to transition into those roles.

What is a Master of Health Administration (MHA)?

Healthcare administration is what keeps doctors’ offices, hospitals, surgical centers, and other medical facilities up and running. Aspiring executives who enjoy working in medicine often choose MHA programs over MBA programs because of the curriculum’s specialized nature. On-campus and online MHA programs teach many of the same management and leadership skills, but present them in the context of medical administration.

Master of Health Administration curriculum

Core classes in MHA programs usually cover topics like:

  • Analytics for healthcare management: Focuses on using data analytics tools and methodologies to improve decision-making processes, operational efficiencies, and patient outcomes in healthcare settings.
  • Ethics in healthcare: Examines ethical issues and dilemmas in healthcare, such as patient confidentiality, end-of-life care, and equitable access to medical services, emphasizing the development of ethical decision-making frameworks.
  • Financial management in healthcare: Teaches the principles of financial operations in healthcare, including budgeting, financial analysis, and fiscal management to ensure the financial health of healthcare organizations.
  • Health insurance and managed care: Covers the structure, function, and impact of health insurance and managed care systems, discussing topics such as reimbursement models, contract negotiations, and cost containment strategies.
  • Health policy: Explores the development, implementation, and effects of health policy at the local, national, and international levels, focusing on policy analysis and advocacy.
  • Human resources management in healthcare: Focuses on the specific challenges of managing healthcare personnel, including recruitment, training, performance evaluation, and compliance with healthcare regulations.
  • Legal considerations in medicine: Provides an overview of the legal issues that impact healthcare delivery, including malpractice, regulatory compliance, and patient rights, emphasizing legal risk management.
  • Medicare and Medicaid policy: Discusses the structure, operation, and management of Medicare and Medicaid programs, focusing on policy changes, funding mechanisms, and their impact on healthcare delivery.
  • Performance improvement in healthcare: Teaches methods and tools for quality improvement in healthcare settings, including strategies for enhancing patient safety, reducing errors, and improving service delivery.
  • Practice management: Covers the administrative and managerial skills needed to run a healthcare practice effectively, focusing on operational efficiency, patient satisfaction, and financial performance.

Some programs, like New York University‘s online MHA, are designed for generalists, but many have concentration-based curricula. A student pursuing an MHA in Nursing Home Management might take very different classes from one pursuing an MHA in Healthcare Operations.

Is a Master of Health Administration worth it?

Jobs in health administration are currently being created much faster than in other fields, so this is a good degree for anyone looking for job security. Healthcare administration jobs also pay quite well because this discipline is such an important (if often overlooked) part of patient care.

More importantly, this is a graduate degree for people who want to make a difference. Many studies have found that healthcare administration can have a positive impact on things like readmission rates and patient outcomes. Good administration matters.

Should I get an MBA or an MS in business?

If you’re still not sure whether you should get an MBA or a master’s degree in business, you’re not alone. According to a 2018 Graduate Management Admissions Council student survey, the average student seriously considers more than three MBA and business master’s program types before making a final decision. And yet, the MBA remains one of the most popular business-focused master’s degrees in the US, if not the most popular. American colleges and universities award about 200,000 of them each year.

More people are pursuing non-MBA graduate management degrees, but full-time one-year and two-year MBA programs are still more popular with prospective students—even though the relative value of an MBA may be declining. Most MBAs don’t end up becoming Fortune 500 executives, after all.

Your choice should be based not on the relative cachet of this or that diploma but on your goals. If you want to make as much money as possible or become CEO someday—and you enjoy business for business’ sake—getting an MBA is a smart move. You can also move between industries with a generalist MBA, making it the most versatile b-school degree. On the other hand, if your motivation for studying management is very firmly rooted in another area of interest (like finance or IT or nursing), a specialized business master’s degree program might be the better fit. You’ll probably be happiest in a program that puts your passions first and business fundamentals second.

(Last Updated on May 9, 2024)

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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