The flagship business master’s qualification has always been the MBA. However, among the most sought after degrees are now Masters in Management (MiMs). They were established as passports to the boardrooms of European companies but have gained a global appeal, in the US and in Asia.
According to the latest figures from the Graduate Management Admission Council, 61 per cent of MiM programs reported stable or growing applications in 2018. In comparison, only 36 percent of full-time, two-year MBAs reported growing or stable applications last year.
At ESMT Berlin, for example, yearly applications for the MiM grew by 300 percent between 2014 and 2018.
MiMs teach similar technical and leadership skills to MBAs, but there are big differences between the two qualifications. In fact, some go-getters are combining both an MBA and a MiM to get ahead in business.
The most significant difference is the people who study for the degrees. MBAs are for people with several years’ management experience who expect the degree will take their careers to the next level. On the other hand, MiMs attract candidates with little if any work experience, who are hoping to kick-start a business career. At the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, the average age of a MiM student is 24. On the school’s MBA the figure is 31.
“The competition for [entrance to] MiMs is [among] bachelors graduates,” says Roland Siegers, executive director of CEMS, a global alliance of schools offering MiMs, adding that an extra year or two in education will decisively enhance an undergraduate’s knowledge, network and CV.
MiM graduates’ youthful inexperience means peer learning may not be as strong as in an MBA, on which rubbing shoulders with experienced professionals from diverse backgrounds is a key selling point.
Instead Masters in Management programs rely more on theoretical knowledge imparted through case studies and lecturing, though Boban Sulic, senior admissions manager at ESMT, points out that many programs include mandatory internships, which can be a pathway to a full-time post-graduation job.
“Our MiM and MBA are different programs designed for different profiles… both include a mix of practical and theoretical learning, based on students’ previous experience,” he says. For instance, ESMT’s MiM incorporates up to two internships into the curriculum, with the careers team working hard to find students placements at blue chip corporations, including Amazon, Citigroup, Boeing and Bosch.
“The partnerships and connections that [the school has] with big companies, reduce the barriers that a non-German speaker [like me] might face to get a position that fits with their education and experience,” says Nuño de la Concha, a Spanish ESMT MiM student who is working a data science internship at Mercedes Benz.
When they do graduate, MiM students will be lower up the career ladder than MBAs. At investment banks, for example, MiMs tend to join as analysts whereas MBAs often skip that rank and come straight in one notch above as associates. In management consultancy firms, MBAs are recruited as consultants, whereas MiMs are hired into lower-level associate posts.
The seniority of MBA hires is reflected in their pay packets: at London Business School, freshly-minted MBAs make an average salary of £79,885, whereas MiMs make about half that amount.
“The value proposition of the MiM is grounded in the short-term — it offers pragmatic training and connections needed to start a career,” says Sulic.
“The ESMT full-time MBA program generally serves experienced candidates and supports them to accelerate their careers and ascend to roles with increased levels of responsibility and organizational scope.”
Of course, the opportunity cost is higher for MBAs than it is for MiMs. Tuition fees are astronomical for the best MBA programs: at HEC Paris, a Grande Ecole, the MBA course costs almost double the MiM, for non-EU nationals.
MBA students are also forgoing more in lost earnings to get the degree, given how senior they already are in their organizations.
Career outcomes for students on both degrees are typically excellent: within three months of graduating from Spain’s IE Business School, 91 percent of MiM students, and 87 percent of MBAs secured a job.
However, the MiM is still considered largely to be a European qualification. The top 16 business schools in the Financial Times’ global MiM ranking are all based on the continent. As a result, there remain concerns that US and Asian employers have not hired MiM graduates as keenly as they do MBAs. Schools have had to educate employers on the benefits of MiMs.
But as top-tier US schools such as Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross and Kellogg run MiMs, the programs are becoming more accepted by American employers.
“Asia is fast embracing the idea of MiMs and so is the US,” says CEMS’ Siegers. “…The overall demand for tertiary education is rising fast, especially in developing markets, and business and engineering [degrees] are the two qualifications that most students are seeking.”
But prospective students may not need to make the choice between an MBA or a MiM at all: some are seeking both degrees to give themselves an edge on the job market.
“At this point in time I am confident that the MiM program is teaching me all the necessary skills to be a successful leader,” says Andrea Graf, a German current MiM student at ESMT. “However, nowadays industries and technologies are changing so quickly that I might reconsider a few years from now.”
The value of coming back to school for an MBA after a MiM is access to another huge network and extra learning opportunities. At Harvard, for example, some 900 students enrol in the MBA each year and they join a global alumni network numbering 70,000 on graduation.
Siegers says that some US employers offer their MiM graduates the chance to pursue an MBA with the fees covered by the company.
He does not reckon a MiM will ever replace the flagship MBA. “[Some prospective students] may find it more in line with their financial planning to make some money directly out of the BA [skipping a MiM], to pay back debt and get some experience, and then to come back later for a career-changing MBA.”