Will Master's Gains Come at Expense of the M.B.A.?

New data suggest one-year programs in finance and related fields may be poised for gains.

March 19, 2018

Several years ago, some universities sensed a growing market for one-year master's programs in fields such as finance -- with prospective students seeing these programs as an alternative to the two-year M.B.A. Students reported getting good jobs with the one-year programs and not paying the tuition (or taking on the debt) associated with a full-time two-year M.B.A. For some students, the possibility of a one-year program (in some cases really nine months) minimized the disruptions of relocating to a new city for graduate study.

New data suggest that this trend could be poised to take off -- at a time when some full-time M.B.A. programs are already struggling for enrollments.

CarringtonCrisp, a consulting group that works with business schools globally, has just released a survey of 1,000 people from around the world who are seen as likely to pursue some graduate education in business in the next few years.

The study found that 67 percent are considering a master's program rather than an M.B.A. Many of them did say that they saw themselves pursuing an M.B.A. after a master's program. But the figure saying they were considering starting with a master's degree was up significantly from the last time the survey was done, when only 48 percent had that view.

The sample from the U.S. mirrored the global total considering a master's, with 66 percent considering this option. Canadian students were less likely to do so than were Americans, with only 57 percent exploring that option. Chinese students, at 74 percent, were the most likely to consider the option.

Of Americans surveyed, just over half (51 percent) said that a business-related master's program would have the same value with employers as an M.B.A.

The master's programs in which prospective students expressed the most interest were: finance, management, marketing, accounting, international business, human resources, big data/business analytics and economics. Many of the new one-year master's programs being created in the United State are in fact at the same business schools that offer the M.B.A.

“We are seeing a pivotal shift in the market,” said a statement from Andrew Crisp, author of the study. “There are more master's programs being offered by business schools, and students are turning to them in increasing numbers.”

He added that many businesses may prefer to hire graduates of non-M.B.A. master's graduates, especially those who have not been out in the work force for several years, as they are less expensive than M.B.A. graduates.

The data come at a time when many full-time M.B.A. programs have been reconsidering the direction of their programs, and M.B.A. graduates have been giving their programs low rankings on their postgraduation value.


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