November 29, 2012
By Allison Damast
About five years ago, the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business had an approach to one-year specialized master’s degrees that was fairly typical among business schools. It offered just one MS in Business program, a degree in accounting that helped students get specialized knowledge about the industry and a leg up in the job market. The program was so large and thriving that the school’s leadership soon started thinking about dipping its toe further into the marketplace, says Ken White, the school’s associate dean of MBA and MS programs.
First, in 2009 they created an MS program for students who wanted to specialize in finance. Buoyed by its success, the school added two new MS degrees to its roster in 2011, one in supply chain management and another in information systems. Today, there are 522 students enrolled in specialized master’s programs at Smith, and plans are in the works for a fifth program in marketing analytics, set to launch in the fall of 2013.
“This is a new frontier for a lot of schools,” White says. “We’ve been surprised by how quickly these programs and the demand for these programs have grown. It has been almost extraordinary.”
The market for specialized master’s programs in accounting, management, finance, and a number of other business disciplines has never been stronger. A growing number of business schools, from the Smith School to Michigan State University’s Broad Graduate School of Management, are riding on that wave of interest. They’re creating a whole new suite of MS degrees...
Signing up for a specialized master’s program is a strategy that has worked for Robert Austin Mills, 22, a 2012 college graduate enrolled in the new MS in Finance program at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, the school’s fourth specialized master’s degree in business.
Just a few weeks into classes, Mills interviewed with recruiters at six investment banks in the Houston area. He recently accepted a job offer from Goldman Sachs (GS), where he’ll be working as an investment banking analyst next year, focusing on the energy sector.
“The MS program absolutely gave me an edge,” Mills says. “When I went to interview, I was competing with kids from Stanford, Harvard, Duke, and other top-tier schools. This was something I had over them, and it made me very competitive.”