Programs cover a wide range of areas, including cutting-edge topics like the metaverse and blockchain, but the most popular areas are typically management, accounting, data analytics, finance, and marketing.
With so many options out there, choosing the best master’s degree to suit your career ambitions can be a challenge.
Before applying, you should know the answers to the following questions: Who are the different master’s programs for? What jobs do they lead to? What do you study on the course? What do you need to know to get accepted?
To answer those questions, we spoke with students and faculty from five of the most common business masters degree options at some of the world’s leading business schools.
Read on to find out how to choose the best master’s degree for you.
You can skip forward to find out more about the master’s degree that interests you most by clicking on one of the links below.
Dr Wang Jiwei, MSc in Accounting director at Singapore Management University (SMU)
Who is a Master’s in Accounting for?
Our Master of Professional Accounting (MPA) is designed to create a pathway for non-accounting graduates working or seeking to work in a field that requires specialized knowledge in accounting.
We also have a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) which specializes in data and analytics. It’s designed for students who already have a background in accounting or business related disciplines, but wish to further their career and skills set in this data-driven era.
What skills/qualifications do you need to apply?
The overall quality of the applicant determines admission to the program. This would include prior academic performance at university, work experience, referees reports, interview scores, and GMAT/SMU Admission Test is compulsory.
Applicants must have sufficient background in math. Applicants with post-undergraduate working experience will have an added advantage. Applicants to the MSA must also have a business or accounting background.
What will you learn on a Master’s in Accounting?
Through the MPA course, students will learn about the three pillars of accounting; the business fundamentals, accounting core and the professional services which would include the following modules: management accounting, taxation, audit, corporate financial management and financial accounting.
The MSA equips students with the essential skills to harness data for critical decision making. They learn to make use of tools such as R, Python, Tableau, and SQL for data analysis, data visualization and data management. They also can learn machine learning techniques, and understand how they can be applied to the accounting and finance work.
What jobs can you qualify for after a Master’s in Accounting?
An accounting master’s degree is versatile. Every company needs somebody who is well versed in finance and accounting. Hence, the career of an accountant is not limited to the accounting, banking and finance industry. Good accountants are in demand in every sector.
In the recent years, the role of an accountant has evolved. Many organizations are eliminating manual accounting work, because computers and robots can automatically generate accounting entries.
But at the same time, we also see a growing demand in other job functions, mainly in the areas of data processing, management analysis and financial analysis. In the current market, there is a demand for domain experts who understand finance, accounting and data technology and how the systems work.
Top tip for applying to SMU?
What will give our applicants an edge is whether they have the drive to excel, the gumption to overcome challenges and the passion to make a meaningful impact through their work.
Master’s in Accounting student Q&A
Ryan Guo Yu Sheng, SMU MSA student (part-time), manager of Global Operating Certificates at Visa in Singapore
Why pursue a Master’s in Accounting?
I have always been a tech-savvy accountancy graduate, and most of the process and data technology applied in my work was self-taught and unstructured. After completing a specialist diploma in Business Analytics in 2017, I was looking to further my knowledge and build on the basics learned in that course.
An understanding of data analysis and usage of automation and robotics have become essential to the modern finance function and this is also part of my effort in future-proofing my own career. There is an increasing focus on the application of technology to finance processes and simply relying on our IT colleagues to fill us in on technical developments is a thing of the past.
What advice do you have for prospective Master's in Accounting students?
A candidate should be technically savvy. Dealing with data requires a highly analytical and structured skillset, along with a sense of creativity for data transformation and programming. Having a conceptual understanding of accounting is important.
Crystal Grant, former director of admissions (pictured above), and Kalyan Talluri, MSc Business Analytics program director at Imperial College Business School (pictured below)
Who is a Master’s in Analytics for?
There's a huge range of Master's in Analytics programs available, which reflects the growing demand from candidates and employers for graduates who are able to derive business insights and competitive advantage from big data.
Some will be aimed at new or recent graduates looking to launch their career, whilst others will be suited to professionals hoping to up-skill to progress or change jobs.
What skills/qualifications do you need to apply?
Programs vary in the balance of business versus technical experience required, but if you have a passion for data analytics, quantitative skills and commercial awareness, you should be able to find a Master's in Analytics that supports your goals.
Successful candidates to our MSc Business Analytics bring a wide variety of academic and work experience. We look for strong quantitative, communication, problem-solving and team-working skills. A passion for coding is also important, as the curriculum is very practical and you should be ready to learn and use programming languages.
What will you learn on a Master’s in Analytics?
Masters in Analytics aim to help graduates and young professionals understand the content, relevance, and importance of big data problems facing businesses. Our program takes a practical approach including a variety of machine learning, statistical, and operations research techniques.
Students can expect to learn solid technical skills in programming, including R, Python and SQL, data structures, and algorithms. They’ll learn skills in optimization, econometrics and statistics, networks, and machine learning. Industry-specific application is core to the program, and students learn to apply their mastery of tools to real business problems.
What jobs can you qualify for after a Master’s in Analytics?
The most popular destination for our graduates is consulting, however others go on to work in technology, FMCG, e-commerce, finance, healthcare, and media. Graduate roles vary depending on candidates’ previous experience, but include positions like business analyst, data scientist and, consultant. Employers include Accenture, Amazon, BCG, eBay, EY, Microsoft, and Revolut.
Top tip for applying to Imperial?
Don’t just list your experience of coding and programming languages. Highlight your problem solving skills by showing how you’ve applied your technical expertise on interesting projects. Demonstrating big-picture thinking, commercial awareness, and the ability to articulate complex information in a compelling and accessible way will help your application stand out.
Master’s in Analytics student Q&A
Pinelopi Chamalelli, MSc Business Analytics student at Imperial, joining the analytics graduate scheme of a major consulting firm in London after graduation
Why pursue a Master’s in Business Analytics?
Analytics is the future; every business no matter its size collects more and more data, and desires to utilize them for a more efficient decision making. So, the opportunities we have after this program are endless not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of variety, since analytics can be applied in every single industry.
What advice do you have for prospective Master's in Analytics students?
Coding skills or generally the ability to learn a new programming language or a new software package quickly is crucial. Three main programming languages we use are Python, R, and SQL, since these are widely used in the industry.
Good knowledge of linear algebra and statistics also help a lot. A good business understanding is also crucial for a successful data scientist.
Diane Jordan, associate director of admissions, MIT Sloan
Who is a Master’s in Finance for?
Our Master of Finance is for individuals interested in learning the fundamentals of modern finance that emphasizes a foundation in how markets work. Students of the program come from a variety of bachelor’s degree disciplines including business, economics, finance, and significant representation from the STEM areas.
What skills/qualifications do you need to apply?
We seek smart, motivated applicants who are passionate about finance. Recent graduates, early career professionals in finance, engineers, mathematicians, physicists, computer programmers, and other high-tech professionals are encouraged to apply.
We look for: Success in academic, extracurricular, and professional endeavors; Ability to collaborate to accomplish a common goal; Ability to inspire others to achieve success; Excellent communication skills; Willingness to seek alternative solutions to existing challenges; Motivation to pursue goals.
What will you learn on a Master’s in Finance?
You’ll begin with rigorous courses in finance theory, financial mathematics, and financial accounting. You’ll be required to pass the Programming Literacy Test in either R or Python programming languages.
You’ll work with analytical tools—financial modeling, portfolio and pricing theory, statistics and data analytics, and computational methods—to help tackle multi-faceted challenges that arise in finance, from capital budgeting and cash flow analysis, to dynamic asset allocation and big-data-based investment strategies, and more.
You’ll take part in project-based courses solving real-world problems with MIT's partner corporations and culminating in presentations to corporate decision makers. You’ll choose electives from financial technology, to quantitative methods, to economics, to specialized disciplines such as healthcare finance, fixed income, mergers and acquisitions and asset management.
What jobs can you qualify for after a Master’s in Finance?
Jobs at asset managers, consulting firms, investment and corporate banks, brokerage firms, financial data providers, ratings firms, hedge funds, venture capitalists, insurance companies, public institutions, fintech, and more—from Fortune 500 companies to leading-edge boutiques.
Companies who have hired Master of Finance graduates from MIT for each of the last three years include Bain & Company, BCG, BlackRock, Deloitte, Morgan Stanley, McKinsey, and Citi.
Top tip for applying to MIT Sloan?
Get to know us and the admissions process through online chats and events to help you decide if MIT is a good fit.
Master’s in Finance student Q&A
David Smadja, student at MIT Sloan, has an offer for an associate position at a major investment bank in New York
Why pursue a Master’s in Finance?
Prior to my master’s, I graduated from a master of applied mathematics. Though I had a good understanding of the quantitative side of financial markets, I felt I was missing some important financial knowledge. To me, masters in accounting, for example, are not capable to cover everything you need to know to succeed in the field of finance like a master’s in finance does.
What advice do you have for prospective Master's in Finance students?
The role of the master’s is to teach you what’s necessary to break through the industry but I reckon that some preliminary skills are beneficial. If you’re interested in financial markets, some coding and analytics skills (statistics, optimization, AI a plus) are a minimum to have. If you’re more interested by the corporate side, a good understanding of financial statements analysis and accountability rules is crucial.
Eric Simard, associate director, MSc admissions at Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario, Canada
Who is a Master’s in Management for?
It’s for ambitious, recent graduates who want a specialized Master’s degree, that will hone their skill-set, develop their leadership abilities and accelerate their career success. Students are admitted from a variety of disciplines, backgrounds, cultures.
This creates a unique experience in classrooms which is meant to help students understand, reflect on, and challenge their tendencies, preferences and biases.
At Ivey, students apply to a specific field of study which will allow them to focus their learning in one of three areas; Business Analytics, Digital Management, or International Business.
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What skills/qualifications do you need to apply?
We evaluate applicants on a number of dimensions including; Relationship management; Leadership orientation; Openness to learning; Adaptability; Program readiness; Academic performance in their final two years of their undergraduate degree; Motivation for joining the program; Short and long-term career objectives; Pre-program experience; and International exposure/experience.
What will you learn on a Master’s in Management?
Master’s in Management programs are designed to help students bridge the gap between a solid theoretical foundation received in undergraduate studies and the practical and soft skills needed to make a difference in the early stages of their career.
Through Case-Method approach to education, Ivey MSc students are put in the position of the decision-maker and are asked to analyze data, develop alternatives and then make and defend their recommendations. We are focused on creating the next group of business leaders who are able to walk into a new role and take action.
What jobs can you qualify for after a Master’s in Management?
Graduates take positions in a variety of industries including; Technology, Management Consulting, Financial Institutions, Telecommunications, Consumer Packaged Goods, and more.
The majority of our graduates take starting positions in leadership rotational programs or in consulting firms focused in Risk, Technology or Human Capital. Many have titles such as data science associate, area manager or data analyst, and they work in a variety of organizations such as PwC, Scotiabank, Amazon, Walmart, Deloitte, Proctor & Gamble, Accenture, Sun Life Financial, BMO, Bell, EY, and Morgan Stanley.
Top tip for applying to Ivey?
Candidates should connect with our admission and recruitment team before submitting their application. They should spend time learning about what our programs have to offer by attending webinars, talking to current students, and reaching out to our MSc alumni. And they should consider and reflect on how the Ivey MSc in Management can support their short and long-term career goals.
Master’s in Management student Q&A
Deanna Hamilton, student at Ivey Business School, starting a consulting career after graduation
Why pursue a Master’s in Management?
I wanted to pursue a career in business and a Master’s in Management seemed like the perfect way for me to develop my knowledge as I did not study business during my undergrad. I also aspire to work internationally one day. Ivey’s Global Lab opportunity offered an eight-week, hands-on, international in-company experience which allowed me to immerse myself in an unfamiliar environment and work cross-culturally.
What advice do you have for prospective Master's in Management students?
Aside from the obvious skills of being a hard worker and passionate about the program, I think it is crucial for students to be open to learning and willing to adapt. It is essential for you to be willing to step out of your comfort zone to really take advantage of every opportunity on the program. Interpersonal and communication skills are also necessary for most jobs and, coming into the program, many of my classmates already had exceptional communication skills.
Ning Li, academic program director of the MS in Marketing at Johns Hopkins, Carey School of Business
Who is a Master’s in Marketing for?
For students looking to continue in their marketing studies or students looking to pivot into marketing from another field. Those who are looking to become marketing experts will receive training in business foundations in addition to numerous high-level marketing electives.
What skills/qualifications do you need to apply?
Candidates will need undergraduate level communication and analytical skills.
What will you learn on a Master’s in Marketing?
Students will learn behavioral and quantitative methods and best marketing practices to address the most critical issues facing today’s marketer, including the impact of data and social media on marketing strategy, consumer behavior, social responsibility, competitive economics, business-to-business marketing, and more.
What jobs can you qualify for after a Master’s in Marketing?
Students can pursue careers in Marketing and Business Analytics, Marketing and Sales, General Management, Consulting, and more. Some employers who have hired our recent graduates include Amazon, China Telecom Americas, IBM, Johns Hopkins Medicine, P&G, and Tencent.
Top tip for applying to Carey?
Be Honest. No applicant is perfect and if there is a part of your application you are concerned about, be honest. Be open to why this program appeals specifically to you. This is important because honestly addressing concerns is important in marketing roles.
Master’s in Marketing student Q&A
Charlie Wang, MS in Marketing student at Johns Hopkins, Carey School of Business
Why pursue a Master’s in Marketing?
I value a program with a multi-disciplinary scientific approach to business where I’m exposed to a range of subjects, such as economics, psychology, and data science. Compared to other programs, Master’s in Marketing students explore a wider range of theories and models, and are able to quickly adapt to work in a variety of industries.
What advice do you have for prospective Master's in Marketing students?
Two skills that are essential are curiosity and fast learning skills. You don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need to be curious. You are expected to quickly adapt to the multi-disciplinary curriculum at a fast pace.
My advice: Start making friends now! Marketing students should be aware of the importance of relationships. Developing deep and enduring relationships with not only clients but also organizations will directly or indirectly affect one’s success.
This article was first published in March 2019 and updated in August 2022
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