From Business Analytics to Real Estate, An Explosion In Specialized Degrees

McCombs School business analytics MS director Michael Hasler

McCombs School business analytics MS director Michael Hasler

An hour east of San Francisco , the U.C. Davis Graduate School of Management rolled out a new accounting master’s in 2012, in response to pending new state requirements for CPAs; the Class of 2015 (those eligible for U.S. work) was 100% employed three months after graduation, at average starting salaries of $55,000. In Massachusetts, 91% of Babson College’s inaugural class of master’s in entrepreneurial leadership students had accepted job offers within six months of graduating earlier this year, with starting U.S. salaries averaging $64,193, a figure 57% higher than the average for liberal arts graduates with bachelor’s degrees, according to school spokesman Michael Chmura.

Getting a specialized master’s degree from a business school is generally much less costly than getting an MBA, mostly because it usually takes a year or less, but tuition is not cheap. Three of the master’s programs at NYU Stern School of Business run at around $69,000 for the year. Carnegie Mellon University’s 16-month MS in computational finance, housed at the Tepper School of Business, costs more than $80,000. The least expensive programs offered by Top 25 schools are the master’s in information systems, from the University of Washington Foster School of Business, at $33,000, and from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, at $34,500. Michigan State Broad College of Business runs  accounting and marketing research master’s programs with tuition less than $30,000 for state residents.

Master’s programs in highly ranked B-schools tend to be arduous. “We’re working folks very, very hard in a compressed time frame,” says Michael Hasler, director of the McCombs business analytics program, which demands 15 credit hours per semester, compared to the typical load of nine in other U of T graduate programs.


The Kelley School’s Philip Powell believes rigor adds impact to a master’s program. “If you can introduce a program more rigorous than an MBA, that’s a disruptive way to think about an MS program, and that’s the way to deliver value,” Powell says. “We’ve learned that if an MS program is going to be successful, in some ways it needs to be tougher than the MBA.”

The specialized programs generally attract large numbers of international students. The University of Michigan Ross School of Business master’s in supply chain management students are about 90% international. Financial engineering programs at UCLA Anderson and Carnegie Mellon Tepper attract some 80% foreign students, while the master’s in management at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business attracts 43% internationals, and business analytics at U of T McCombs takes in 37%.

Moving down the rankings from the top, the number of specialty master’s programs swells. Among Poets&Quants‘ top 25 business schools, only three have five or more specialized master’s programs, while more than half of the next 25 schools offer five or more, some in vast numbers, such as the USC Marshall School of Business, ranked 26th, with 11 degrees, and No. 50 Temple University Fox School of Business with a whopping 13.


Also in the lower half of the top 50 are offerings in many niche fields, on top of the more widely available degrees in areas such as accounting and finance. USC Marshall, for example, confers master’s degrees in finance and marketing, but also in medical management, business for veterans, and management in library and information science. Temple Fox’s lineup covers popular fields such as marketing, accountancy, and business analytics, and also narrower areas including cyber security and actuarial science. In fact, once you get down into the lower half of the top 50 B-schools, you’ll find a program for just about any career direction, from biotechnology management at the U.C. Irvine Merage School, to global real estate at the Wisconsin School of Business, to sport management at SMU’s Cox School, to government contracts at George Washington University.

Arizona State Carey School of Business operates eight specialized master’s programs, hitting mainstays such as accounting and analytics, as well as real estate and global logistics. The logistics degree, according to the school, is intended to meet a swelling need for logisticians, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012 projecting almost 30,000 jobs will be added in this field by 2022, representing 22% employment growth. American University Kogod School of Business runs seven specialized master’s programs, from the more common MS degrees in finance, accounting, and analytics, to the more niche-area master’s degrees in real estate, and sustainability management. The University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management operates six such programs, among them a degree in HR and industrial relations. The Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management has four specialized master’s programs, including two in accounting and one in healthcare management, and is rolling out a new one in marketing, to start in fall 2016.

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