In today's competitive climate, there has never been a better time to consider graduate study. A globalised market and grade inflation means that an undergraduate qualification may simply no longer be sufficient, says Mark Taylor, dean of Warwick Business School. In 2013, the Sutton Trust found that “there is a significant wage premium for those with postgraduate qualifications. Somebody with a Master’s can on average expect to earn £5,500 more a year than someone only holding a Bachelor’s degree.”
Students are recognising this, particularly when it comes to qualifications in business, management and finance. Despite the price tag of around £30,000 for one or two years of study, uptake is rising. Taylor says that numbers across all Warwick’s postgraduate courses in these areas “have increased exponentially over the last few years”. So what is it about a business-related MSc that will give you the edge?
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Most programmes offer a generalist overview of core disciplines, including management, finance, marketing, organisational behaviour and strategy. Unlike MBA counterparts, MScs are pre-experience programmes, designed to equip recent graduates with industry-specific knowledge, explains Friederike Beisler of Cass Business School.
The danger of the qualification, says Dr Allegre L Hadida, who directs the MPhil in management at Cambridge’s Judge Business School, is that it becomes too theoretical. This sees many schools offering international electives and field trips, and guest leaders and managers as lecturers, ensuring that students are regularly exposed to real-world expertise. When practitioners aren’t teaching, they will be highly active in their field, says Beisler.
Some MScs can be intensely focused, with electives enabling specialism. Professor Gregory Sorkin, who runs the operational research programme for the LSE’s management science MSc, explains that its core content, for example, is modelling and mathematical optimisation, with options such as integer programming and data mining.
And this means that the range of jobs graduates go on to do is impressive. Most move into finance and professional services: “we have seen alumni take up roles as a technology analyst at Barclays Capital, project manager at Bloomberg... and human resources manager at PepsiCo,” says Taylor. “Alumni find employment across a wide range of jobs far beyond what they might expect when they initially embark on an MSc,” he adds.
Interestingly, increasing numbers of schools are seeing students join startups and social enterprises. Hadida says there’s also a growing trend to found a business post the course. Cass has even set up a pop-up university, City Unrulyversity, to help students and graduates who want to start their own companies.
Many schools also offer part-time MScs for individuals eager to deepen knowledge of their current sector. This way of working enables them to “apply specialist skills as they are acquired, and see the direct impact of their new-found knowledge at work,” says Beisler.
Another growing area is innovative programmes. Edinburgh University, for instance, offers an MSc in carbon finance, and has just entered a partnership with Guanghua School of Management in China to launch a new programme for 2016-17: an MSc in energy finance and markets. As Edinburgh’s Claudia Monteiro explains, as key industries develop, it’s vital to develop the workforces that can match them.