According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), business degrees were the second most enrolled majors at the master's level in the country as of the 2009-2010 academic year.
One specific degree dominates business schools; however, there are several other degrees available for business students who want to work in specific occupations.
The Master of Business Administration
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is the central business degree many business school students enroll in. Besides Ph.D. programs for doctoral students, MBAs dominate business school curricula. An MBA program consists of a core curriculum of classes like finance, leadership, marketing, and business technology. After core courses are completed, MBA students typically take a few electives and may participate in projects where they begin working with other students in teams to establish business plans. Some MBA programs have global requirements, where the student must intern for credit at an international firm anywhere in the world. Most MBA programs last 2-years when the student is enrolled full-time.
Resource: Top 20 Best Value Online MBA Programs
MBA programs are split between general curriculum programs and a concentration curriculum. Some business schools set an established curriculum of required and elective courses to make a student generally trained in business. Other business schools have the option of allowing students to concentrate on a specific academic field in business. Although it depends on the business school, some concentrations may include accounting, finance, health care management, entrepreneurial management, human resource management, marketing, or risk management. Many business schools offer dual programs as well. This is where the business school works with another graduate program, like the law school, to provide the student a dual curriculum. Law is one common dual degree, but other programs may dual with the MBA program depending on the school. Some examples include public policy and business, education and business, or computer science and business. Many business schools offer MBAs on a full-time, evening, or weekend basis. The evening and weekend programs are meant for working adults who must attend classes at night or on the weekend.
The purpose of an MBA degree, even if the concentration is in finance or accounting, is to build business acumen in the student. The general courses and networking atmosphere of MBA programs help the student learn and grow to become a business leader. However, there are other graduate degrees besides the MBA that are focused more on the exact degree program. Some business schools will have various Master of Science (M.S.) programs in fields like finance or management. These programs are focused entirely on their subject with concentration and general requirement courses.
Business schools also have very specific degrees that reflect professions. One common master's program is the Master of Accountancy (MAcc). This is a unique master's degree in that it is meant for accountants who want to progress their careers to the highest professional attainment in the accounting sector. Other unique master's programs may include a Master of Business Taxation (MBT), a Master of Medical Management (MMM), or a Master of Management Studies (MMS).
What Kind of Jobs Need Master's Degrees in Business?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites several business, financial, and managerial positions that may require or recommend master's degrees. Although bachelor's degrees are the recommended minimum for many of these jobs, the BLS states that increased competition has made many employers look for candidates that hold master's degrees. For example, human resources managers may need a M.S. in human resources and labor relations or a MBA in human resources management. Financial managers with a MBA in finance or a M.S. in economics or finance are beginning to be preferred by some companies. Finally, as stated before, many more accountants are investing in a MAcc to expand their professional horizons beyond a bachelor's degree in accounting, or to help prepare them for the CPA Exam.
What Degree Is the Best?
So, what business master's degree is best? The answer to this commonly asked question depends on the professional career the student is seeking. The MBA remains the most popular and can include many concentrations relevant to any student's interests. However, if finance or accounting are a student's passions, then investing in the specific master's programs in those fields may be recommended.
Further Reading: Is an MBA Still Necessary?