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What is better in the long run – MBA or Specialised Masters degree?

What is better in the long run – MBA or Specialised Masters degree?

Jewel Sheikh, MBA Aspirant asked 3 months ago

Of course, those interested in management will pursue an MBA degree. But what if it is unclear to a student if he wants to get into management or specialise in his/her field of interest?

Which decision would be better in the long run?

In other words, how can one draw a clear distinction between an MBA and a specialised Masters degree?

4 Answers
Kabir Jain, IIM Indore (Since 1996) answered 3 months ago

Hi,
It depends ! [The answer that is right for the most part and for most of the situations, just kidding]

First, let’s look at the end goal or objective with which one wants to pursue either of these MBA or the Master’s degree in a field.
The end goal really helps bring a clarity. More often than not it is the ambiguity in terms of the individual interest and pathways that we feel could be the best to reach a certain defined measure of success. Say for instance one is really sure about the the current domain they are in and they want to go even further into the field then perhaps a masters programme in that field is the go-to option but if one wants to go into more leadership-oriented, managerial role or a different function such as Operations, OB&HR, Marketing, Finance and take time to explore and identify the domain that is a right fit for them, MBA can be a more helpful as it helps widen the perspective due to peer learning and diversity of background and past experience.
Further the more one narrows down their field [ consider Master programme specialisation ], that narrows down the opportunities to a very specific set. 

As far as which decision would be better, it also depends a lot on what is done during the tenure of the programme: it is not just about what you achieved at the end of a journey but to ask oneself how did you achieve it, how much of what you had initially started with (the goals, intent and motivation) transformed and in what ways?
The interest field / industry are also a critical part in the decision, what works best to get the right opportunity in that area.

Hope this helps, also I am enclosing view of another member relevant to this question which may help.
1. MS vs MBA 
http://bit.ly/2POH0DT
 
Best,
Kabir 

Hi Jewel, 
As Kabir has very wittily pointed out in his answer above, it does indeed depend! 

  1. Interest: This is a big driver. And for one to get to the top of one’s chosen field interest, in the long run, is a must. If you already feel inclined towards a management role and know you will enjoy it, go ahead with an MBA. Not only will you like it, but an MBA will also be very rewarding professionally
  2. Career goal: This one is easier said than done. It is often not clear what one wants in the long term. But short-term goals are easier. If you want to have a specialist base as of now, go for a Master’s in your specialisation. This is so because an MBA can even be done much later in your career, even after an MS. But once you do an MBA, it is rarer to get back to your specialisation. Even when you do, it will more as an overall business administrator or manager
  3. Internships/work experience: A rather underutilised method that we have at our hands are internships. These are available for even small durations and available in diverse fields. One can even do them along with the college curriculum or over the holidays. So rather than spending too much time poring over internet articles, go out there and gain mini experiences. That will be much more helpful in understanding what you value. For instance, if you are a chemical engineer deciding between an MS and an MBA, go for a core internship. Work in a plant. Take up some project with a professor. That will help you understand if you really enjoy your core field

Hope this helps! Here is the link to an article where I have mentioned who should definitely avoid an MBA. That may help as well.
 

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Member, InsideIIM Student Team 4 | PGP - IIM Calcutta, 2019

Dear Jewel,
The answer to your question largely depends on the field of study you want to go into. 
Nowadays, there is a huge gamut of specialised degrees, both in India and abroad, that help you specialise in a niche domain, such as analytics, data science, corporate communications, human resources management etc.
If you take a look at my institute for example, we have a legendary Masters degree in Human Resources Management and Labour Relations, which is a full-time Masters degree spanning 2 years. But it equips us with all the learnings that you would expect from a B-school+corporate exposure+strong alumni base+robust summers and final placement process. I would say such a course is indeed rare, but one of those perfect fusions between a specialised course and an MBA. Plus the fees are less than 2 lac for the entire course, so the ROI (median salaries are upwards of Rs.18.5 lacs) is sky high!
Look for courses which fit your area of interest, give you a high ROI and a curriculum that will actually equip you for taking on good roles. 
In case you don’t have anything specific in mind, I would suggest that you avail the best option available to you. If you can crack a top tier B-school, one of the older IIMs for example, go for it! You will have the brand name, even if all else tanks! On the other hand, if you have an offer from a relatively less valuable B-school brand (typically big batch sizes and lower packages), then tap into other courses which cater to specific market trends. See which professionals are in demand and see if you can get into a course that lets you develop skills on that front. That way, as long as you keep upskilling yourself, you would always have the tools that the industry requires at any given point of time. 
Irrespective of what you do, try and be irreplaceable. This is next to impossible, that’s how business works! But the value you create for the organisation should be apparent not just to you but to the paymasters. If you can nail the correct skills and tools that make you valuable to a large number of organisations, then that’s half the battle won!

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Member, InsideIIM Student Team 4.0 | 2nd year student of HRM & LR at TISS, Mumbai

Dear Jewel,
The answer to your question largely depends on the field of study you want to go into. 
Nowadays, there is a huge gamut of specialised degrees, both in India and abroad, that help you specialise in a niche domain, such as analytics, data science, corporate communications, human resources management etc.
If you take a look at my institute for example, we have a legendary Masters degree in Human Resources Management and Labour Relations, which is a full-time Masters degree spanning 2 years. But it equips us with all the learnings that you would expect from a B-school+corporate exposure+strong alumni base+robust summers and final placement process. I would say such a course is indeed rare, but one of those perfect fusions between a specialised course and an MBA. Plus the fees are less than 2 lac for the entire course, so the ROI (median salaries are upwards of Rs.18.5 lacs) is sky high!
Look for courses which fit your area of interest, give you a high ROI and a curriculum that will actually equip you for taking on good roles. 
In case you don’t have anything specific in mind, I would suggest that you avail the best option available to you. If you can crack a top tier B-school, one of the older IIMs for example, go for it! You will have the brand name, even if all else tanks! On the other hand, if you have an offer from a relatively less valuable B-school brand (typically big batch sizes and lower packages), then tap into other courses which cater to specific market trends. See which professionals are in demand and see if you can get into a course that lets you develop skills on that front. That way, as long as you keep upskilling yourself, you would always have the tools that the industry requires at any given point of time. 
Irrespective of what you do, try and be irreplaceable. This is next to impossible, that’s how business works! But the value you create for the organisation should be apparent not just to you but to the paymasters. If you can nail the correct skills and tools that make you valuable to a large number of organisations, then that’s half the battle won!

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Member, InsideIIM Student Team 4.0 | 2nd year student of HRM & LR at TISS, Mumbai

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