Specialized Masters in Business Degrees: Tips for the Admission Process
This article is sponsored by SMP Business.
In the last five years, no sector of higher education has experienced more growth than the area of specialized master’s programs (SMPs), particularly those in business disciplines. The reasons for growth in both student interest and the number of specialized master’s in business programs offered vary, but students considering pursuit of a specialized business degree may benefit from an appreciation for how the differences in program types can impact the admission process.
There is a lot to learn. The good news is that there is a wealth of information and program options to explore. The bad news is that specialized master’s in business programs are not universally well understood. What follows are some considerations that may contribute to a successful strategy of deciding where and how to apply to SMPs.
1. Be prepared to answer “Why?”
The admission process for specialized master’s in business degrees frequently starts with the question: “Why are you applying to this program?” While undergraduate and some graduate programs can be viewed as ways to simply broaden one’s knowledge, specialized degrees tend to do just what they claim: specialize. These programs are, in most cases, a means to a fairly specific end.
So, while the general admission process concept of matching student and institution interests still applies, the nature of specialized business degrees begs considerably more focus on the question of “why”. Admission offices are going to want to understand why a student is applying for the degree, and in no small part, to be responsible in determining whether the program offered fits the intent of the student.
2. Fully explore the differences between programs
Beyond the questions of delivery formats (full- or part-time, in-class or online, number of entry points during the year), measures of quality, costs and geography, there are always additional factors that prospective students might consider. Areas to ask about include:
- Class size (to match learning style)?
- Career support/placement (activities, fields, organizations, geographical focus, success)?
- International influence (academic content, students)?
- Academic prerequisites (foundational courses required)?
- Associated campus and community environment
3. Consider career development as early as possible
Remember that most specialized master’s in business programs are a year or less in length. As a result, the academics should be expected to be rigorous, and the options for work or extracurricular activities during the year will likely be limited. At the same time, pursuing career options to follow graduation can’t wait until ‘later’ in the year. Many business fields have recruiting cycles and interviewing has to be part of the expectations for success – earlier rather than later. Investigate how prospective institutions balance career development support and academics.
4. Don’t let technology replace talking
Technology has made it ever easier to collect information without actually talking to another person. But as websites and social media increasingly become the primary sources of all meaningful information, there remains great value in pursuing a healthy variety of source information in one’s fact-finding.
The experience of working with a consortium of specialized program admission directors (SMPB) strongly supports an argument that at some point in the school/program search, an actual conversation with an admission officer at the prospective program is worth the time and effort. Whether it is at a graduate program fair, such as those hosted by QS, a campus visit, or even a Skype/telephone conversation, the mutual matching of student and specialized program deserves a level of confidence that isn’t easily achieved by a website or blog.
Specialized master’s in business degrees have provided thousands of students with opportunities that could not otherwise have been reached. If this is a direction that appeals to you, enjoy the research stage prior to the admission process, and be sure to include some knowledgeable admission staff in your effort.
本文首发于 2014 August ， 更新于 2020 January 。