The global pandemic has given many of us the chance to re-evaluate priorities and think about what we most want to do with our one precious life. When it comes to next career steps, there has rarely been a better time to consider where we work, what we work on, how we work, and who we work with.
For those wanting to expand their options in the early stages of their career, going back to school to get a business master’s degree can create any number of new opportunities in different industries. You’ll develop new business skills, enhance your strategic thinking, grow in confidence, and build long-lasting friendships as part of an influential network that will support you for the rest of your career.
You’ll also have the chance to reflect on your future goals, and have a lot of fun in the process. This is why the CentreCourt Masters Festival that Poets&Quants hosts on October 19 & 20 with Matt Symonds, co-founder of Fortuna Admissions, is such a great opportunity to meet with program and admissions directors, career services, and the students and alumni from the world’s leading business schools.
“If you want to make a transition, what kind of impact are you wanting to make, and what is the calibre of the company you are hoping to join?” asks Alexandra Salter, recruitment and admissions director for Early Career Programs at London Business School. “There are lots of roles you could join straight from undergraduate, but graduate schemes are getting more and more competitive.”
The right mix of hard business skills and soft skills
According to Maria Tsianti, head of Career Services at ESCP Business School, “Increasingly, companies are looking for the right mix of hard business skills and soft skills like complex problem solving, resilience, self-management, creativity, analytical and critical thinking.” Those are all skills that a Masters degree delivers, to which Tsianti adds, “the ability to take initiative but also work well as part of a team.”
Among the many different programs on offer, it’s easy to see why the Master in Management and Master in Finance are such popular choices.
“We live in fast-changing and turbulent times. Demand for business education continues to increase, be it for professional growth or personal development,” says Aika Bolat, program manager of the Master of Finance at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management in Germany. “Applicants to our programs want to have ethical and entrepreneurial decision-making skills to improve lives by fostering good governance, sustainability, and growth.”
In response to the pace of change, schools are developing a wide range of new programs. NYU Stern School of Business has launched a Master’s in Quantitive Management, and Kim Corfman, vice dean for online learning and professor of marketing at NYU Stern, explains: “We believe that to be a successful manager or leader in today’s world, you need to be data-savvy. What we did was take the MBA core and added analytics courses to help people become data-savvy and intelligent consumers of data.”
For Patrick Duparcq, former dean of Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business in Kazakhstan, the pandemic has accelerated the need for master’s programs. “Business is the science of managing very complex and dynamic processes under uncertainty. At times when companies are facing more complexity – technology, trade wars, pandemics, globalization, geopolitics – there is an increasing demand for professionals who know how to keep a steady hand in this volatile environment.
“We may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Duparcq, “but companies have been made painfully aware of the vulnerability of our global business ecosystem.”
Business master’s graduates are in high demand
Major corporations certainly buy into the idea of recruiting Masters graduates, wanting to hire individuals who at this early stage of their career already have strong business skills and knowledge that can quickly adapt to the company’s culture and ways of working. These new hires arrive with no hardwired approaches or habits from previous workplaces that new employers have to undo.
The need for master’s graduates like these has been noted by Aika Bolat: “These days every manager and business analyst needs to think and make decisions as an entrepreneur. As AI and other technologies become an integral part of business models it is important to also gain the soft skills that are necessary to understand their impact on society”
At the Frankfurt School of Management & Finance, data analytics is an integral part of the core curriculum or is offered as a specialisation in the MiM, while entrepreneurship and sustainability both play equally important roles either as core or elective modules across all three of the school’s MSc programs.
Masters programs usually feature a significant focus on leadership skills and personal development. In many cases, teamwork exercises are an important component of courses and seminars. They help students develop great interpersonal skills, giving them the opportunity to apply managerial theory to the real world of business.
Amber Overbosch, program adviser at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands, confirms. “We embed our core values in the master’s programs, focusing on personality and skill building alongside academic knowledge. Understanding how theory and practice go hand in hand, daring to grow and knowing how to connect, this enables students to focus on developing their analytical capabilities thus being able to quickly comprehend large amounts of information and act upon their conclusions.”
The need for real-world experience
Many business schools are starting to include practical experiences too, making master’s degrees more versatile, in line with the needs of the current global employment market. Coupled with guest lectures from leading organisations and internship opportunities, practical classes answer the need for the real-world experience of aspiring business professionals. L’Oréal and Google are among the partner companies as part of their efforts to identify young talent with managerial skills.
Last year, ESCP Business School launched their L’Oréal Big Picture Project 2021 which, according to Emily Centeno, associate director of marketing and recruitment “was an opportunity to challenge students with a live brief encouraging them to bring their knowledge and skills to develop creative solutions to a key strategic challenge for the L’Oréal group.”
Ruth O’Leary, head of careers at Trinity Business School, agrees that the Masters in Management gives students a competitive edge. “The jobs market is very strong at present. To secure competitive advantage, organisations seek increased diversity amongst new hires. They like graduates who have studied internationally and who combine disciplines such as a technology, science, or foreign languages with excellent business postgraduate programs.”
She adds that business master’s programs, ”provide students with desired skills including commercial awareness and acumen, communication, and leadership, as well as traditional business skills such as accounting, human resource management, and marketing.”
This is demonstrated at Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame. “Mendoza graduate business programs will see a great increase in experiential learning that welcomes students outside the classroom and into the real world. We value experiential learning for its ability to help students best develop, hone, and apply skills that are always evolving, and to put into practice our mission of growing the good in business,” says Stephanie Brown, assistant director of admissions.
Societal impact & tackling climate change are high on the agenda
Other global challenges are also impacting the future of management, as Leila Guerra, the vice dean of programs at Imperial College Business School explained recently to Forbes, “Societal impact and actions to tackle climate change will be an integral part of all business school programs,” she says. Drawing on Imperial’s globally acknowledged excellence in healthcare, as well as areas such as innovation, data analytics, and climate change, the business school already offers a growing range of specialized Masters from an MSc International Health Management to an MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance.
For Leila Guerra, “Business Schools have a significant role to play and will act on it.”
The Master in Sustainability and Impact Management at Mannheim Business School in Germany is another example of a Business Masters acknowledging issues we are facing today and in the future, including sustainability and the global climate crisis. And the Saïd Business School at Oxford University provides the option to combine the one-year MBA with a one-year MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise, and the Environment as part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme, a unique two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.
Expect business master’s programs to continue to evolve as the world transforms. According to Patrick Duparcq at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business, “Businesses adapt and so do academic institutions. In program content, we’ll see a faster rate of adoption of topics that would have helped companies to weather the most painful challenges faced during the pandemic: risk management, global supply chain optimization, managing remote work, and digitalization.”
The world of work has never been so unpredictable and therefore freshly-trained and newly-skilled Masters graduates have never been a more attractive asset for a company.
Looking to the future, Subramanian Venkat, associate dean at NU GSB, says: “Globally, there is a boom in jobs related to online marketplaces as well as fintech. We expect such developments to continue. In most markets, as countries come out of the pandemic, economic growth will occur, and this should help graduating students over the next few years.”
Investing in further education, building business abilities, and developing an international network seems like an opportunity too good to miss.