Business Masters- MBA program guide | TopMBA

What is a master’s in business degree and is it the right choice for you?

Most applicants to business master’s programs are under the age of 25. They’re typically created to attract people with little, or no, work experience, who have an interest in forging a career in management. As such, they are ideally suited to anyone who has recently completed an undergraduate degree. Sound like you? Then read on.

Business master’s programs offer recent undergraduates the opportunity to develop skills that can accelerate career progression across a wide variety of job functions and sectors. We live in an increasingly complex business world, where specialization is required more and more. That’s one of the reasons why master’s in business degrees should also be considered by those with more experience, who are looking for more focus in their career.

What is a master’s in business degree?

Prospective postgraduate students seeking business degrees have a choice of three main options: Master of Science (MSC), Master of Arts (MA), or Master of Business Administration (MBA).

MSc programs are more common, and traditionally have a technical or ‘science’ focus (often more aligned with business-related education), while the MA has more of a humanities focus. With employers increasingly demanding strong soft skills, the MA should certainly not be overlooked. The MBA remains the flagship business degree at the majority of top business schools, but is better suited to those with more work experience (typically a minimum of three years).

While all business degrees tend to cover the various areas of business required to become a successful leader, from accounting and human resources to operations management, marketing and technology, there are some fundamental differences between the options available. 




One of the main roles of a business master’s degree is to help students become experts in specific fields through precise theoretical and academic framework.

Becoming an expert in a specific field can be made easier with a focus on learning. This is certainly something that master’s in business students benefit from. Whether looking for a career in accounting, healthcare, law, real estate, shipping, sports, sustainable energy, managerial psychology, economics, technology (or almost anything you can think of), there will be a business master’s program out there to match your requirements.

If clear about your career path, then a master’s in business program can be more beneficial to your ultimate career goals than an MBA. However, it’s important to remember that the naming of degree programs is the prerogative of the institution in question. Therefore, the name of the course isn’t as important as the course content itself, and you should ensure the degree you choose is the right fit for you.  


Some of the most popular master’s in business programs include:

  • Master of Accountancy
  • Master of Business Analytics
  • Master of Business & Executive Coaching
  • Master of Business Psychology
  • Master of Commerce
  • Master of Economics
  • Master of Entrepreneurship
  • Master of Finance
  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Information Technology
  • Master of Internal Management
  • Master of International Management
  • Master of Management
  • Master of Marketing
  • Master of Real Estate
  • Master of Science in Management


Growing popularity of master’s in business degrees

The growing popularity of master’s in business programs is clear. QS has been connecting business schools with applicants for over 20 years and attracts over 220,000 prospective business master’s (and MBA) candidates to a variety of events around the world, every year. In 2016, the number of business master’s candidates exceeded MBA candidates for the first time. Master’s in business programs are proving to be an increasingly popular option and are, in some countries, more prevalent than the full-time MBA.


How much experience do I need for a master’s in business?

A business master’s applicant is likely to be in their early 20s with little, or no, experience. This is compared to the average MBA student who is often in their late 20s, or early 30s, with at least three years’ (typically more) work experience. Evidence of academic achievement and GMAT/GRE scores are usually part of the entry requirements for all postgraduate business degrees. However, it’s the level of work experience that often determines whether a business master’s degree or an MBA is the most suitable path to take.


How much does a master’s in business cost?

The fees involved in any postgraduate degree program will differ according to various factors, including location, program length and individual institution. While the total cost of top MBA programs in North America often tops the US$100k mark, with the most elite schools even breaking US$200k, MAs and MScs are typically cheaper alternatives. 


Master’s in business v MBA

Something to note is that a master’s in business (especially a Master in Management) shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as being in competition with an MBA. Rather, they should be regarded as complementary qualifications. Many business master’s students go on to gain an MBA further into their careers.

Recent findings from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) suggest that the percentage of people who already hold a business master’s degree, and are considering an MBA program, is as high as 61%. A business master’s degree then can be used as a stepping stone to the MBA.

MBA programs have diversified in recent years, offering various specializations, putting these programs into direct competition with MSc and MA business-related programs.

The MBA arguably offers students a better overall knowledge of business and management, ideal for those looking at a variety of different roles within management. However, if you’re a recent graduate looking to follow a specific career path, a business master’s is probably a better choice.

In recognition of the growing popularity of master’s in business programs, QS has started publishing global and regional rankings, highlighting the business schools that provide the best programs in a variety of subjects. In the first set of rankings to be published, the focus was on three types of programs: the QS Masters in Finance Rankings 2018, the QS Masters in Management Rankings 2018, and the QS Masters in Business Analytics Rankings 2018.

With so many options now available to prospective students, QS felt the time was right to extend its suite of rankings, which include the QS Global MBA Rankings 2018, to allow candidates to compare schools and programs side-by-side. 




Top 5 Master’s in Management Programs

1)      HEC Paris

2)      London Business School

3)      ESADE

4)      ESSEC

5)      Imperial College Business School

Take a closer look at the top 10 master’s in management programs here


Top 5 Master’s in Finance Programs

1)      London Business School

2)      MIT (Sloan)

3)      HEC Paris

4)      Oxford (Said)

5)      UC Berkeley Haas

Take a closer look at the top 10 master’s in finance programs here


Top 5 Master’s in Business Analytics Programs

1)      MIT (Sloan)

2)      The McCombs School of Business

3)      USC Marshall School of Business

4)      Carlson School of Management

5)      Melbourne Business School

Take a closer look at the top 10 master’s in business analytics programs here

Master’s in business salary and ROI post-graduation

The costs attached to any degree, especially those at the world’s top business schools, can be substantial. Any prospective student would be naïve if they didn’t do their homework prior to applying to a course. What sort of salary can you expect to earn upon graduation? How long is it going to take you to pay back your degree? Ultimately, does the degree represent good value for money?  

QS is aware that employment outcomes are key to any student, which is the reason we place so much emphasis on this in the QS Business Masters Rankings 2018.




Salaries for master’s in business students can vary quite dramatically depending on location, experience of the candidate and which program students graduate from. Typically graduates from master’s in management programs can expect to earn between US$40k–60k, with master’s in finance graduates, and the in-demand students coming out of master’s in business analytics programs, earning slightly higher figures on average.

While graduates of business master’s programs shouldn’t expect the pay check often associated with MBAs, there are clear financial (and non-financial) advantages of pursuing the degree. It’s harder than ever to have steep career acceleration with just a bachelor’s degree. Business master’s programs allow for this acceleration. They simultaneously open more networks and set you apart from the many bachelor’s candidates you will be competing with in the job market.  


What level of job can I expect with a master’s in business degree?

The variety of business master’s degrees available allows students to go into a wide range of sectors and roles upon graduation. While hiring managers still very much seek candidates for positions within finance, accounting, consulting and technology departments, other sectors also provide high demand.

Sales, retail, marketing or human resources roles might not be typically associated with business degree graduates, but companies from these sectors (and many more) are actively seeking top business master’s graduates.


Potential job roles for a Master of Management

As the name of the degree suggests, the majority of students who choose a Master of Management program are seeking a career in management. Job titles that graduates seek may sound very similar, but pretty much all sectors and industries require people with management skills. As such, the options available to graduates are wide-ranging. Possible job titles that graduates work towards include:

  • General manager
  • Management consultant
  • Project manager
  • Production manager
  • Retail manager
  • Risk manager
  • Sales / marketing manager
  • Social media manager
  • Operations manager
  • Sales executive


Potential job roles for a Master of Finance

Similar to the need for management skills, every business requires financial experts to balance the books. Depending on your focus, roles are available to graduates in fields such as financial consultancy, corporate finance, banking, fund management, accounting and auditing, to name a few. Possible job titles include:

  • Credit analyst
  • Commodities broker
  • Finance officer
  • Actuary
  • Financial policy maker
  • Company secretary
  • Stockbroker
  • Retail banking trader
  • Financial journalist
  • Tax advisor


Potential job roles for a Master of Business Analytics

With companies drowning in data, there is a huge demand from employers to hire people with analytical skills. They are sought to improve a company’s product offering and provide a positive impact to the bottom line. Organizations are looking to employ graduates of master of business analytics programs into many roles including:

  • Data scientist
  • Management analyst
  • Market research analyst
  • Project manager / analyst
  • Supply chain manager
  • Logistician
  • Operations analyst
  • Pricing analyst
  • Data quality analyst
  • Systems analyst


Who are typical employers of master’s in business graduates?

Common employers of master’s in business graduates that appear on top business schools’ employment reports come from a varied mix of industries including consulting, financial services and consumer and luxury goods.

Top companies currently hiring business master’s graduates include:

  • Amazon
  • BMW
  • BCG
  • Deloitte
  • eBay
  • E-novia
  • Expedia
  • Google
  • J.P. Morgan
  • King
  • KPMG
  • McKinsey & Company
  • MEC
  • Proctor & Gamble
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • United Nations

When compared with other graduate degree options you might be considering, one of the major advantages of master’s in business programs is that, like the MBA, they’re often taught in the business schools of universities. As such, you gain immediate access to impressive alumni that you can network with, gain mentorship from, and ultimately help assist your career trajectory. You also benefit from the school’s relationships with domestic and international companies during, and after, your studies.