If you choose a specialised Masters programme, as opposed to a general business or management one, it can be your key to a fulfilled professional journey. Specialised programmes differ from other graduate studies in their focus on a particular discipline. Rather than provide the general management training typical for other popular degree options such as the MBA (Master of Business Administration) or the Master in Management, a specialised programme will prepare you expressly for the industry you want to work in. There are many benefits to choosing this type of graduate degree, but you need to be confident in your decision.
Many Bachelor's graduates and young professionals opt for a specialised Masters because they see that many employers look for particular knowledge and skills in their hiring process. “One of the main factors [specialised Masters are so appealing for students] is that the job market requests more knowledge, right from the start of a career,” agrees Cristina Sassot, Director of Admissions at ESADE Business School (Spain), in an article for Poets&Quants. Students are able to gain expertise which is directly related to their desired professional path, whether it is in Finance, Business Analytics, Journalism, or any other industry.
Next to an in-depth theoretical overview of the field, specialised programmes also offer students the opportunity to learn concrete, hard skills which may be sought by employers. For example, the Specialised Master in Finance at the Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business (US) teaches class participants how to manage financial software such as Bloomberg and Excel. Similarly, a programme in Data Science or Business Analytics will cover software tools and computer languages that handle big data such as R, NoSQL, and Watson Analytics, as described in the specialised programme at ESCP Europe. In their effort to build relevant and contemporary courses, some schools go as far as to co-create them together with employers by incorporating the types of learning that are most desired by companies in the field.
For candidates with some experience
Specialising with a Masters programme will strengthen your know-how in the field and will improve your chances of employment. At the same time, specialised programmes can be the right choice not only for young graduates but also for professionals who have already gained some experience in their industry. The trend for lifelong learning shows that several years of work experience is not enough to make you an accomplished authority in your field. On the contrary, going back to school and advancing your knowledge further can be the step that takes you to your next career accomplishment. Marcin Wolf, who is enrolled in the Master in Financial Analysis at London Business School (UK), told Poets&Quants that the specialised programme is a good choice for professionals who know where they want to be. “I wanted to continue my career in investment banking so a finance-oriented programme, in my opinion, highlighted my passion and motivation related to finance,” reiterates Mr Wolf.
Business in context
Of course, a specialised programme does not mean a non-business programme. If you are too inexperienced to be eligible for an MBA or if you have a very specific industry focus for the graduate study that suits you best, you can still find plenty of Masters programmes that teach business and management. With such a great variety of specialisations available internationally, you will not have to choose between upgrading your industry knowledge and gaining business and management skills. This has been especially true for disciplines of technical and quantitative nature. In fact, according to MiBiz, some organisations are interested in professionals who can translate specialised industry knowledge such as hard data and stats into practical business opportunities, rather than in graduates from general management programmes.
This is what Swagata Chakraborty, a recent graduate from the Master of Science in Business Analytics at the Rady School of Management, University of California San Diego (US), discovered for herself. “I was trying to figure out whether I wanted to pursue an MBA or wanted to hold on to my engineering roots,” she told higher education website Keystone Academic Solutions. “On one hand, I loved working with datasets and writing codes to come up with analytical insights and on the other hand, gaining a formal degree to prepare for the business side of industrial problems seemed imperative to me.”
A common challenge
If you are set on starting a Masters in a very distinct field of study, you should also consider the possible downsides of this decision. Although a specialised programme will upgrade your competence needed for getting a well-rounded job and developing a strong career in a particular industry, it also means that you might be limiting your knowledge in other areas. In times when the requirements of employers and the workplace are constantly evolving, interdisciplinary skills are also highly valued. In other words, even if you opt for a specialisation, you should actively train your flexibility and your understanding of other roles and industries.
Professionals who find it important to be able to navigate between fields and functions may consider a general management degree instead of a specialised one. Here is what Lindsay Badeaux, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (US), recommends in an article for U.S. News & World Report: “[If you] prefer to have more flexibility to shift into different industries or function areas, an MBA may be the best path, due to the breadth of knowledge and exposure to different industries you will gain.”
Get ready for an exciting career journey through your professional field of interest with a specialised Masters or learn to shift between industries, roles, and regions with a general management programme such as an MBA or a Master in Management. The choice is yours.