Management MAs are the fast-track to business success

Timothy Barber
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ONE of the growing trends in professional education is the rise of masters courses in management. Such courses have been taught at business schools around the world for the past couple of decades, and at the moment they are becoming more popular, with two of London&rsquo;s biggest institutions newly getting on board. Last September, the London School of Economics launched a two-year MSc in Management, while London Business School&rsquo;s one-year course is set to receive its first students this autumn.<br /><br />In business education, the dominant management programme remains the MBA, designed for people with several years of professional experience behind them. By contrast, masters in management programmes &ndash; which cover similar subject matter at a more introductory level &ndash; are generally aimed at graduates who have just finished their undergraduate degrees and are looking to gain business fundamentals before they join the job market. It&rsquo;s seen as particularly useful for those with non-business degrees, effectively functioning as a business conversion course. And with the job market devastated by the recession, schools have seen rising numbers of applications, as graduates look to bolster their employment prospects while putting off the recruitment process for a year or two &ndash; London&rsquo;s Cass business school, for instance, has seen a 60 per cent surge in applications for its MSc in Management starting in September.<br /><br /><strong>ALTERNATIVE PATH</strong><br />In the long run, the rise of the masters in management could have an impact on the predominance of the MBA. Though it will never fully usurp the MBA, it does offer an alternative path, since students who have completed a masters will be unlikely to do an MBA further down the line.<br /><br />&ldquo;The MBA industry is a very mature industry, and as a sector I don&rsquo;t see it growing too much,&rdquo; says Julian Birkenshaw, London Business School&rsquo;s deputy dean of programmes. &ldquo;This pre-experience group, those aged 21 or 22, is the fastest growing category for business education, so it&rsquo;s right to respond to that.&rdquo;<br /><br />While hardly cheap &ndash; courses in London range upwards from &pound;18,000 &ndash; masters in management courses are far less expensive than MBAs, and preclude the need to suspend a career that could otherwise be moving ahead strongly.<br /><br />&ldquo;This kind of knowledge is valuable from day one in your career,&rdquo; says Birkenshaw. Those completing courses should expect to take entry-level positions with salaries at the high-end of what is the norm, he continues, perhaps even leap-frogging the entry-level posts altogether. &ldquo;Our pledge is that the course will arm you to do well in your job and accelerate faster than your peers.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>MASTERS IN MANAGEMENT</strong> THE BASICS<br />Masters in Management courses are designed specifically for students with little or no work experience, though requirements vary between business schools. There is also variation between course structure, even to the extent that some schools offer two year courses while most only last a single year.<br /><br />Courses are designed to address fundamental skills and knowledge necessary for the business marketplace. These include academic areas such as financial principles, marketing, business strategy and economics, and skills such as negotiation, problem solving and project managing. They also tend to have a strong emphasis on career development, sometimes including paid internships.<br /><br />As with MBA programmes, students are generally required to have passed the Graduate Management Admission Test, the standardised test in mathematics and the English language for those pursuing graduate business studies.