Getting a graduate degree in management used to mean enrolling in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program with a management track or a specialization related to a particular industry. MBAs remain the staple graduate school degree for business-minded students. There's been a trend recently, however, toward an alternative academic track: the Master of Science in Management (MSM).
You might not see MSM programs when first looking through a business school's catalog. That's because these specialized degrees are also called MScs, MScMs, a Master of Management Studies, a Master of Arts in Management, or a Master in Management (MIM). Whatever they're called, however, Master of Management degrees are for people—both professionals and newly-minted baccalaureate—who want to become leaders.
This is not a degree for those who want to rocket to the top in the business world. Instead, it's for those who seek the business acumen and management skills necessary to move into administrative and executive roles in their chosen fields. Chances are that before you decide to get a Master of Management, you will have earned a bachelor's degree specific to your industry. If you haven't done much else, that's okay: the MSM is a "pre-experience business masters" degree, meaning that most programs don't require applicants to have relevant professional experience (though, of course, it doesn't hurt). Some even prefer candidates who are recent graduates or who were non-business majors (although MSM programs for business executives exist, too).
This degree may be an alternative to the traditional MBA, but the two have a lot in common. In a Master of Management program, you learn how to handle interdisciplinary business issues, manage and motivate workers, and stay on the right side of regulations, laws, and security.
In this guide to a Master of Management, we'll cover:
The Master of Science in Management curriculum covers a broad range of business topics related to business administration, accounting, human resource management, and organizational theory. Students in MSM programs typically study big-picture business and general management fundamentals that they can then apply in leadership positions in their individual industries. Courses in these programs include:
The best way to know whether a university's MSM program is a good fit is to read the course list. Some Master of Management programs have a distinct area of focus. For instance, a program at one business school may require all students to learn how to use various IT systems. Another may emphasize business strategy in the coursework. Some programs devote more credit hours to the management of people, while others focus on operations or accounting. There are industry-focused MSM programs, too. Look for universities with core course requirements and electives that align with your interests and will be most useful in your field.
Another way to assess MSM programs is to visit their job placement websites to see where graduates work. Are they landing the sort of jobs at the type of companies you want to work for? If so, that program will probably suit your needs well.
Some Master of Management programs let students choose concentrations like:
Regardless of concentration or program name, the emphasis in MSM coursework is on management skills, best practices, and theory. Students emerge from these programs prepared to step into general business roles as well as industry-specific managerial positions. After earning this master's degree, you are equipped to handle most managerial roles. You might work as a:
Operations managers ensure that a department or company has all the resources necessary to deliver products or services. This can be a complex job because people, projects, and facilities can have different yet equally important needs. In this role, you interact with workers, executives, and possibly also clients, depending on your field. According to Salary.com, operations managers with master's degrees earn between $93,355 and $101,206.
HR managers are the operations managers in charge of personnel. They make sure that a company has the skilled and satisfied workforce it needs to ensure organizational success.
It's not an easy job. Dealing with employees (and their conflicts) can be stressful, and handling benefits and compliance can be tough because of ever-changing lists of rules and regulations. If you're interested in working in HR, look for MSM programs with a focus on HR leadership. Expect to earn between $99,078 and $105,670, depending on how much managerial experience you have.
These professionals oversee specific groups or segments of people at companies across industries, ensuring they are motivated to meet expectations and have the resources they need to do so. Sometimes, those groups may be temporary because they're related to specific projects—like the development of an app or a software migration—and the team director cycles through different teams. In other cases, a team director will oversee a fixed department. The average team director salary is about $90,000 for team directors with an MSM.
In this role, you'll be responsible for managing the equipment, staff, resources, and processes on a production floor. Production supervisors have to handle just about everything, from production-line issues to interpersonal conflicts to the safety of workers to the quality of products produced. It can be a stressful job, yet it's one of the lowest-paying jobs for Master of Management holders, with average salaries between $54,954 and $59,603.
We could keep going, but suffice it to say that having earned an MSM, you will be qualified to transition into most mid-level leadership roles in your industry. You can work as a project or product manager, a department director, a training manager, or in any other position that is responsible for oversight and organization.
One major difference between MBA and MSM programs is that nearly all Master of Management programs accept recent college graduates. You won't be required to show significant work experience to apply for a Master of Management program, as you are for many MBA programs.
The prerequisites for earning a master's in management are relatively simple. You have to have a bachelor's degree. It doesn't matter if you come from a science and engineering background or if you studied art; you just need to show that you have your degree and meet a program's GPA requirements for admission. That said, some schools do require applicants to have completed courses in accounting, finance, or calculus—or take them before the start of the first semester. That's because MSM students are ideally math- and business-savvy.
You may be required to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), which is a business admissions test designed to measure quantitative, analytical, and reasoning skills. Most schools require applicants to submit a recent GMAT score, though some universities allow qualified applicants to opt out of standardized tests and other educational requirements.
You might also have to show proof that you graduated from your undergraduate program within a set time frame. Because many MSM programs are designed for students without a lot of professional experience, some admit only those applicants who have graduated relatively recently (i.e., within the last five years).
Every Master of Management program has different prerequisites, of course. Because this is a fairly new degree in the US, there is probably more diversity among MSM programs than there is among MBAs. As you research MSMs, you will find programs that require applicants to have graduated with a business or economics degree and/or to have many years of professional—or even managerial—experience.
The best Master's in Management program is the one that offers the concentrations you want, special features like cohort groups and experiential learning opportunities, internship opportunities, and post-graduation career support. Think about what you want out of a degree program and prioritize that as you search for the right one.
Maybe you have a family and an established career, so you need to find the most flexible program possible. Perhaps a self-directed online Master of Science in Management program is best for you. Or maybe you have big dreams and want to make big money. In that case, look for programs with large, active alumni networks and career support centers.
Remember that the very best master's degree programs are those that keep you interested enough to finish grad school.
The commitment required for earning a Master's in Management varies from school to school… and from student to student. Some programs can be completed remotely in as little as ten months by full-time students, but not everyone has the time or the resources to devote almost an entire year to grad school. Most MSM programs are designed to be completed in about a year.
These programs are relatively short (especially when compared to an MBA) because they tend to focus on managerial and leadership skills and theories and don't dive particularly deep into business fundamentals. That makes this degree appealing to people who seek a rapid boost to their hireability and earning potential. The MSM definitely does that. According to an article in the Financial Times, most students increase their pay by about $30,000 a year after earning this degree.
Aspiring executives might think that the MBA is the way to go, but there are some compelling reasons to get a Master of Management instead. The MBA is indeed the more recognizable and respected degree, but that doesn't mean it's the better one. These degrees can have a pretty significant overlap in terms of their core curricula. The differences between them don't matter as much when you consider that students in these programs are at radically different points in their careers.
The most significant differences between MBA programs and MSM programs are:
There's no denying that having a master's degree can make you more hireable, make you a better candidate for promotions, and help you make more money. If you're fresh out of an undergrad degree program and your long-term career goals involve a corner office with your name on it at a company in your field, earning a Master of Management degree can help you get there—especially if you were a high achiever in your undergrad days.
Stephen Taylor, the associate dean of graduate programs at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business, told US News & World Report that "students in this program can amplify their employability by combining a general management degree with a non-business undergrad; the Master's in Management greatly improves the overall career outlook for those without work experience."
Still not sure if this is the right degree? Consider that the point of earning a Master of Management is not to redirect your career trajectory or launch an entirely new career, but to help you advance into leadership roles in your chosen non-business specialty. You'll learn a lot about business in an MSM program, and you'll be able to apply that complementary business knowledge to your work in your field. That, in turn, will give you a distinct advantage over colleagues and competitors that will be apparent as soon as you graduate. And, it will serve you well long into the future.
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