MBA Alternative for Recent Grads Gains in Popularity

by Vault Education Editors | April 21, 2011

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If not already accepted, then it’s definitely gaining credence that the MBA's august reign is in decline. The business degree market has been diversifying, making available a variety of options outside of the traditional, two-year, full-time, on-campus MBA program. Part-time and Executive MBA programs especially have become popular for candidates unwilling to drop their jobs to return to school. Now, writes Inside Higher Ed, another MBA alternative seems to really be “taking off”: the one-year masters in management degree.

At Wake Forest University, for instance, the number of master of arts in management (MAM) candidates has jumped from 13 to 96 in five years, according to the article. But, the thing is, this program doesn’t require students to have worked a real job. No previous real-world work experience; just passion. In fact, this program has been designed precisely to help students get their foots in doors.

“Really, the purpose is to build a bridge from the liberal arts to a vocation,” said Steve Reinemund, dean of Wake Forest’s Schools of Business. Reinemund left the corporate world in 2007 as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. “Going back to my corporate experience, the big lack of skills that I found over my years was not in people that were technically capable, but in people who had global perspective, leadership ethics, the ability to lead and innovate. And that’s really what we’re trying to achieve here, by bringing students in and rounding them out from experiences they’ve already had.”

If there exists a demand for this kind of thing, and employers are seeking liberal arts or science majors with a bit of business savvy, and the programs are actually doing some real teaching and the students some real learning, then why shouldn’t there be more business degree options available?

One worry, of course, is that these programs could evolve into diploma mills. After all, universities still hurting from slashed budgets and endowments could probably use the tuition dollars (business programs are considered cash cows with their relative cheapness of operation and high enrollment). Another concern is with the shoddy state of business education at many schools. Should students take a year potentially loafing through more school instead of just going out and getting some actual work experience?

Nowadays, with the values of enterprise on the upswing, innovation being actively sought after, new leadership paradigms emerging, companies aren’t necessarily looking for talent that takes the conventional path from college to work to MBA program. And I suspect, given rising tuition costs, an often questionable ROI, and our collective waking-up to the horrors of student debt, that young folk increasingly don’t want to take it.

[Inside Higher Ed]

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