How Specialist Master’s Programs Add Value

While the MBA continues to be the degree of choice for many, there is no shortage of alternatives in the form of specialized master’s programs. Designed to equip graduates with specific sector skills and career opportunities, a specialized master’s provides industry-specific teaching delivered by both faculty and relevant business professionals, whilst also offering students hands-on experience.

As the CentreCourt Specialized Masters Festival that runs on October 13 & 14 illustrates, there is an amazing array of options to choose from. So which one is right for you?

The three cornerstones are the Masters in Management (MiM), the Masters in Finance (MFin), and a program that has surged in popularity in the last few years – the Masters in Business Analytics. But alongside these favorites there a growing number of business schools that have developed a wide variety of specialisms, tapping into fast-growing areas of the economy such as supply chain and information systems to industries as varied as sports management, luxury retail, and even wine and gastronomy.


Pursuing a specialized masters will bring many benefits, both for personal and professional development. In an ever more competitive job market, and with a growing number of employers looking for specific skill sets when hiring candidates, the programs’ perceived value from both the perspective of both students and employers is rising. The pandemic has been a salient reminder of the essential role of the supply chain in the economy, and for those interested in consulting and data analytics, obtaining a firm understanding of technology and its role in shaping the future of organizations is becoming essential. 

The STEM-designated Master of Science in Technology Management degree from Illinois Gies College of Business does exactly that. As Siddharth Ahuja, MSTM graduate from the class of 2017 says “Coming from an Electrical Engineering background, I had very little exposure to the functioning of the business side of the industry. To be successful, it’s important to align the technology with the vision and mission of the business. Hence, it’s of the utmost importance to gain core business skills to succeed in the product management space.”

Surrounded by the expansion of Utah’s Silicon Slopes, it is the emphasis of business education with a practical slant that encompasses the Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) program at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business. The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics forecasts a 12 percent growth for the employment of computer and information systems managers from 2016 to 2026, which is why industry-driven coursework and opportunities for hands-on experience is at the heart of the school’s MSIS program, preparing graduates for leadership positions in one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the world.


This is also true at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana, where an impressive 97% of students on the MS in Information Systems program earn a job in their chosen technological field. Bipin Prabhakar, chair of Information Systems Graduate Programs, claims that “the MSIS curriculum leads to work-ready students, which is why employers tell us that the level of confidence our students bring to the table is unprecedented”.

The opportunity to improve your career prospects is only heightened when schools partner with world-renowned companies. This is true of ‘The International Master in Luxury Management’ (IMLux), a double degree course developed in partnership by Italy’s MIP Politecnico di Milano and France’s NEOMA Business School, dedicated to developing the skills necessary to occupy key posts within the luxury sector. This year the Prada Group, an international leader in the luxury industry, became a partner of the IMLux, connecting students to world-leading industry experts and providing a remarkable first-hand insight into the luxury sector.

“With this exceptional course, we have a clear ambition – to offer up-to-the-minute sectoral training via complete immersion in the luxury environment. We work very closely with companies, which is one of the principal special features of this Masters” says the Dean of NEOMA, Delphine Manceau.


As well as career advancement, another benefit of studying a specialist masters is the opportunity to network with like-minded people from all over the world. At ESCP Business School, more than 500 students comprising more than 40 nationalities choose one of its specialized masters programs every year. Those enrolled on the School’s Masters in Marketing and Creativity (MMK) program spend time at ESCP’s London and Paris campuses before completing a minimum of four-months professional experience – either internships or direct employment – allowing them to immediately apply their knowledge to real-life companies and assignments.

With sectors such as Marketing renowned for their competitiveness, the program aims to give students an edge when it comes to employability. According to Program Director, Marie Taillard, “The MSc in Marketing and Creativity offers a platform for our talented and diverse students to work closely with professors, practitioners and corporate partners to develop skills, find their marketing style and build confidence in becoming marketing leaders of tomorrow”. 

Speaking of competition, in the heart of New York City is Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business. The city’s high-level, high-stakes media environment does of course make it a magnet for many young professionals building their career—especially when it comes to moving into leadership positions in media companies. Those jobs demand more than mere knowledge of digital, social, and traditional media. They also require a background in business, which is what inspired the Gabelli School to develop its Master of Science in Media Management (MSMM) program. Taught by leading experts within the field, networking opportunities are also key to this program. As student Allana Gladi says, “With courses taught by leading media executives, you’ll find yourself interacting with industry leaders on a daily basis. As any Gabelli School graduate will tell you, those connections are the key to getting a job in this competitive, relationship-oriented field.”


In a heavily networked industry, it is such crucial connections and experience in the marketing communications field that help you to stand out. The Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern Medill is another course taught with the aim of coaching future marketing professionals about how to understand and engage consumers, solve marketing challenges, and build strong brands in the digital age. One of the most unique aspects of this course is that students are given the invaluable opportunity to work at a top company for 10 weeks during what they call an ‘immersion quarter’. During this time students work to tackle a company’s current marketing communications challenge and provide solutions that make a lasting difference.

Studying a specialized master’s can also allow you to follow the path less traveled to something rather niche. In this pursuit location matters, and French schools, in particular, seem to be excelling. NEOMA Business School invites students to undertake a Masters in Wine & Gastronomy at their campus in Reims – the unofficial capital champagne wine of the world. The 15-month program focuses on marketing specifically within the gastronomic food, spices, wines and spirits sectors. This course is a prime example of how ‘specialized’ a masters can be, as students learn from top chefs and managers within the hospitality industry, with the aim of moving into positions such as managers of major gastronomic brands, restaurants, key merchants and champagne houses. 

Traveling 300 miles south, and moving from champagne to sport, emlyon Business School has offers the Masters in Sports Industry Management. Since 2012 the program has successfully united the school’s expertise in international management with the market experience of some of the world’s most innovative sports companies. With a strong emphasis on innovation and hands-on experience, the course takes its students to the Alps for five-months of specialist study led by industry experts, as well as trips to Asia, the UK and Germany, allowing students to obtain the knowledge and maturity that global sports companies are looking for in future leaders.


Program Director Antoine Haincourt says, “The biggest challenge for successful players in the sports industry is to question the beliefs that have shaped the success of the past in a globalized and fast-changing sector. The program is designed to prepare students’ expanding skillsets to face these new challenges.” The proof of its effectiveness can be found in its alumni network which, to date, includes the Chief Operating Officer of French professional football club Olympique de Marseille and former Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer of Italy’s AS Roma and Spain’s FC Barcelona, as well as the Director of Communications and Engagement of Paris’ successful 2024 Olympic Bidding Committee. 

As we round out this whirlwind tour of some of the many Specialized Masters options available, let’snot lose sight of one of the most pressing societal issues of climate change. There has been a growing need for business schools to develop programs that can meet the needs of students who are seeking to make real environmental change, and to also meet the requirements of companies who are now demanding graduates who understand sustainability from a business perspective. 

At Imperial College Business School in London, the MSc in Climate Change, Management & Finance gives graduates these necessary interdisciplinary skills required relating to issues about climate change and sustainability. Student Teki Anna Tetteh-Wright said that the main driver in her choice to study this program was “the exciting prospect of tailoring scientific understanding of climate change issues into a practical business context. The interdisciplinary nature of this program provides the skills necessary to enable well-informed decision making in tackling the environmental challenges facing our planet today.”


Across the ocean in Florida, the new 10-month Master of Science in Sustainable Business at the University of Miami Herbert Business School is at the forefront of this emerging field. With south Florida increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, this course with a strong scientific component within the teaching is fundamental for those who want to make a difference to not only the future of business but society as a whole. 

Prospective students are certainly not short of choice, as business schools across the world continue to expand their program offerings, from the staple favorites to the more distinctive options. As graduates emerge from the aftermath of this pandemic, it is essential that they stand out from the crowd in a competitive and adapting job market. So the decision to pursue a specialized masters will pay dividends in the years ahead. 

DON’T MISS: The MBA Isn’t The Only Hot Business Degree Right Now or Inside The Hardest B-School Program In The World To Get Into

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