If you have a bachelor’s degree in the humanities or liberal arts, you might feel that studying a business masters isn’t an option for you. But that’s not necessarily the case.
BusinessBecause spoke with admissions experts to find out everything you need to know about studying a business masters without a bachelor’s in business.
Business schools value a diverse skill-set
Business schools value diversity. Each year admissions teams across the globe look to recruit students with a diverse range of backgrounds among their cohorts. That includes people with different nationalities, levels of experience, and undergraduate degrees.
While a typical Master in Management (MiM) or Master in Finance cohort will contain a large number of business undergrad students, you’ll also find students with degrees in subjects ranging from the humanities to the sciences.
At HEC Paris, which offers one of the world’s top-ranked MiM programs, 35% of students have business undergraduate degrees, while a further 30% come from engineering backgrounds. As many as 15% of students were humanities and social sciences undergrads.
“It isn’t necessary to have a business undergrad degree to enroll in a business masters. In fact, at HEC Paris, applicants from every discipline are encouraged to apply,” says Tracey Delorme, associate director of admissions for masters programs at HEC.
Diversity among the cohort helps to improve students’ learning experience by ensuring a wide range of viewpoints during in-class discussions. It also ensures that graduates are attractive to employers who value candidates with a diverse set of skills.
Graduating from a MiM while also having substantial knowledge of a subject like biology, for example, can go a long way in differentiating your job application. Interdisciplinary knowledge can ensure that roles which combine business with a more technical focus are available to you.
“It can be very positive because students often have double competencies when they finish their master’s and enter the job market,” says Michelle Sisto, associate dean of graduate studies at EDHEC Business School.
“It’s a huge selling point. These candidates can understand business issues and navigate more technical topics,” she adds.
Courses can help you prepare for business school
While business schools are prepared to admit you without prior experience, you might still have doubts about whether you’re ready to study a business masters.
Programs range from generalist degrees such as the MiM to specialist programs in subjects like finance, accounting, and business analytics.
At EDHEC, MiM students aren’t required to undertake any preparatory learning, however if you want to work on a particular topic before arriving on campus you can access a range of online subject-specific courses to make sure you’re prepared.
If you’re less confident in your abilities, you can also choose a different program format.
MiMs are typically either one or two years in length, enrolling in a two-year program gives you more time to get to grips with the course content.
“The first year covers broader business themes which provides students from a non-business background the opportunity to fill in the gaps and then specialize during the second year,” says Tracey from HEC Paris, which offers a two-year degree.
Enrolling in a specialized program will typically involve more quantitative or technical elements. This can be challenging: specialized programs are more likely to dive straight into complex subjects and extended programs are less common.
Students enrolling in specialized degrees may therefore require more preparation, says Michelle. But if that’s the case there are online, foundational, and summer courses available.
“We might request that an incoming student without an undergrad business degree enroll in one of our summer courses so that they are fully prepared for the start of class,” she explains.
How to apply without a business bachelor’s
Applying for a business masters means you’ll have to go through the typical processes of submitting academic transcripts, answering essay questions, providing references, and taking the GMAT or GRE. If initially successful, you’ll be invited to attend an admissions interview.
But if you are looking to apply for a business masters without a prior business degree, it’s important that you take time to carefully craft your application to reflect your career goals. That’s particularly important during your essay questions and the interview process.
You might have planned an entirely different career but found a passion during your bachelor’s that led you to pursue a career in business. Alternatively, a career in business could have been a long-term goal, but you wanted to gain a more well-rounded perspective with another subject before beginning your career.
Whatever your motivations: make sure you show admissions teams how a business masters fits into your career goals, and why your target school is the right fit.
“We want to know why you want to change your focus, what your vision is, and evidence of mature reflection on your next steps,” explains Tracey.
“You have the right to change and evolve as you discover new fields along your academic journey. Tell us about it,” she adds.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t be deterred from applying for a business masters if you haven’t studied a business bachelor’s. There are plenty of resources available to help you prepare, and business schools welcome the diverse viewpoint you can bring to the classroom.
In a job market where employers are increasingly valuing hybrid profiles, your background could even give you a competitive edge when it comes to graduation.