Companies, students embrace specialized business master's degrees

Since the Great Recession, there has been a change in hiring patterns for many companies and industries. While a bachelor's degree used to be the standard, many fields — from finance to IT to supply chain management — now consider candidates with specialized master's degrees over and above those with just an undergraduate diploma.

There are a couple key reasons for that: companies want to entrust organizational goals to employees who have a better sense of the real world, who have more teamwork experience and a stronger handle on the specific challenges faced in their industry. And as talented as many undergraduate job seekers are, they can lack some critical experience. Conversely, after the recession, many companies also didn't want to spend money on the higher salaries an MBA could command, paying for loads of general management knowledge and expertise that may be too general for a firm and its goals.

Specialized master's degrees offer a great compromise

What does a "specialized master's" really mean, though? In most cases, it's an accelerated graduate degree with a very strong focus in one field, dispensing with a lot of core business fundamentals and rooting itself firmly in one distinct discipline, like IT or accounting.

According to Forbes, the move toward these degrees — in the Goldilocks zone between a bachelor's and an MBA — can pay huge dividends for schools, students, and companies. “The current trend among students, employers, and business schools is to prefer highly specialized master’s programs such as the MS in Finance or Supply Chain Management that create specialists with technical acumen rather than generalists.”

Hiring data proves companies the value of business master's degrees

In addition to developing the GMAT entrace exam for business schools, each year, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) surveys employers and recent b-school alumni to gauge the value of graduate degrees. And while there was a downward trend in the immediate aftermath of the economic meltdown in 2008, the numbers have been going up since 2011. Most recently, employers have proven their confidence in hiring business school graduates, with 64 percent reporting they intended to hire business master's graduates in the 2019 survey.

Meanwhile, alumni indicate that they're better-prepared for their jobs as a result of a business master's: 77 percent they were able to advance their careers because of the additional degree, while 82 percent say a master's has increased their earning power.

Specialized master's degrees offer flexibility and shorter programs

Because they eliminate a lot of fundamental courses, which for many students could be repeats of concepts they learned as upperclassmen undergraduates, specialized master's degrees tend to be shorter programs overall. Some may reach a traditional two-year curriculum, but many, including those at ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business, can be completed in as little as nine months. And because they're designed for a number of audiences, to recent undergraduate alumni to mid-career professionals, many specialized master's have flexible options, like evening or online classes in addition to or instead of the full-time, on-campus approach. This flexibility makes achieving a master's and advancing your career a more attainable goal, while also opening a wide variety of options for future career paths.

Due to the industry demand for specialized master's graduates and the adaptability and focus the emerging portfolio of programs provide, it's easy to see why so many students, schools, and companies are praising specialized master's degrees.

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