Among a wide variety of master’s offerings, six degrees are the most prevalent in the top 100 schools. By a considerable margin, the most widespread master’s is accounting in its various forms. Seventy-seven programs are offered – a number of schools run multiple variations on an accounting master’s, in sub-specialties such as taxation, assurance, and valuation. Still, 65 of the top 100 American business schools offer master’s degrees in accounting.
Finance master’s programs, including financial engineering, computational finance, financial analysis, and financial risk management, are the next-most-common programs, with 55 on offer across the country. Also appearing in high numbers are specialty management programs in areas such as HR, biotechnology, and health care. There are 25 such programs, plus 15 in general management or management studies. Additionally, there are 17 supply chain management programs among the top 100 schools.
Business analytics programs have also become a popular offering, as schools respond to industry’s need to exploit big data, and the subsequent demand for skilled data analysts. Twenty-seven business analytics programs are available among the top 100 schools, and that number is likely to rise quickly.
The master’s in marketing is also a widely-granted degree, in 21 of the top 100 schools.
OUTCOMES CAN BE HARD TO PIN DOWN
Data on student outcomes can be hard to come by. Some programs are too new to produce telling data on employment rates and starting salaries for graduates. And it appears other schools are not tracking outcomes comprehensively, or withholding certain data. In some cases administrators have probably not dedicated the resources necessary to produce for master’s programs the equivalent of MBA class-employment reports; in other cases, the master’s data may be less than impressive. The St. Louis University Cook School of Business provided to Poets&Quants some pretty decent numbers for its accounting master’s Class of 2015 – 82% employed by three months after graduation, with median entry-level salary at $50,000 – but Cook administration said they “did not have sufficient data to share” regarding the school’s graduates from the master’s programs in supply chain management and applied financial economics, both of which have been operating for more than three years.
Given the benefits schools stand to gain from rolling out master’s programs, the relatively sudden growth spurt in this sector raises questions about schools’ motivations and the effectiveness of programs. Outcomes at top and mid-tier schools, and even at some lower-tier institutions, suggest the investment in a specialized master’s is often money and time well spent. But even school officials admit to bumpy rollouts of specialty master’s. And poorly designed programs providing scant benefit to students are not uncommon, usually because schools started them without paying enough attention to local job markets and competing schools, says Tim Westerbeck, founder of the business school consulting firm Eduvantis. “These programs either suffer from enrollment problems on the front end, or suffer from poor performance on the output side – such as poor placement rates, minimal salary jumps, and low customer satisfaction,” Westerbeck says.