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MBA Or Specialized Master’s: How To Decide What’s Right For You?

MBA or specialized master’s? There are various options available to you if you’re considering a business school postgraduate degree to launch your career. So which option is best for you?

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Thu Sep 7 2023

BusinessBecause
Vast swaths of students graduate from business school every year, going into exciting careers with top companies across industries ranging from finance to healthcare to real estate. 

Many graduate from MBA programs—the generalist business degree can help students launch management careers across a whole host of sectors. Others enroll in specialized degrees focused on key areas such as finance, marketing, business analytics, or accountancy. 

With both generalist and specialist degrees providing a valuable boost for your career, it can be tricky to decide which is best for you. Here’s what you need to know to decide between an MBA or specialized master’s. 


Different degrees teach different skills 

MBAs offer a comprehensive training in the fundamentals of business. Enrolling in a top program, such as the Nanyang MBA at Nanyang Business School (NBS), ensures you will gain a well-rounded business acumen. 

Providing an interdisciplinary curriculum covering key areas such as marketing, accounting, and human resources, as well as future-ready skills to help students become impactful leaders, the Nanyang MBA is one of the first in Asia to offer a tailored 'Sustainability and Innovation' track. 

Typically aimed at experienced students—the Nanyang MBA has a minimum requirement of two years’ work experience—the program has a key focus on leadership, with emphasis on developing students' cultural intelligence, negotiation skills, and ability to manage diverse teams. 

Studying an MBA that offers such a broad curriculum can therefore put you on the fast-track to a leadership position and prepare you to manage effectively with a holistic understanding of business. 

While an MBA provides you with a broad knowledge base without delving too far into any specific topic, enrolling in a specialized master’s degree will see you deep diving into one subject. 

For example, the MSc in Financial Engineering (MFE) teaches advanced financial knowledge and skills, with modules such as Asset Pricing Theory, Derivative Securities, and Advanced Statistical Modelling.

Specialized degrees in other subjects such as business analytics, marketing science, and accountancy offer similarly technical, specialist knowledge. For Sean Koh, graduate of the MFE, the specialist nature of the program made it the right choice for his desired career path. 

“I wanted a course that was quantitative in nature and included some form of technology in its curriculum,” he explains. “The program combines finance, math, and programming together—in today’s highly digital world being a technologist with programming skills is highly desirable.” 


Both provide the business school experience 

While differences in the curriculum ensure you can develop alternative skill sets, some elements of the business school experience remain the same for both students enrolled in MBA degrees and specialized master’s. 

Studying on campus ensures you gain access to the wide variety of resources business schools have to offer. For example, you can attend social events throughout the year and join a club or association that’s affiliated with the business school. 

Business degrees of all kinds typically balance a focus on theory with practical learning experiences. This means both MBA and specialized master’s students typically get the chance to take part in business simulators, guest lectures, and networking events. 

There’s also the valuable prospect of working with the school career service. At NBS, the Graduate Studies Career Development Office (GSCDO) provides all students with career counselling, resume and interview workshops, and opportunities to connect with top recruiters and alumni working with world-renowned companies. 

For Sean, connecting with alumni played an integral role in helping him land a top job in the financial sector after graduation. 

“We had alumni coming back to share with us their experiences working in banks as well as audit firms,” he says. “I was then able to see the importance of what I was learning and draw links to the kind of career that I wanted to pursue.” 

As an MBA student, Laura Lutao had a similar experience after gaining access to a wealth of cross-industry alumni during her studies. Nanyang MBA alumni typically work in a variety of sectors, with some of the most popular being technology, consulting, finance, manufacturing, and consumer products. 

“The alumni affairs office is very proactive when it comes to setting up a platform for us to be able to engage with alumni,” she explains. “I think being able to interact with these people solidified what path I envisioned for myself going forward.” 


Both degrees are valuable for your career 

Having graduated from their degrees at NBS, both Sean and Laura have gone on to make exciting career moves. While Sean launched his career at Glencore, working as a risk manager, Laura is currently a sales operations lead at fintech firm, Xendit. 

The combination of knowledge acquired during their degrees and the extensive access to career support at the business school was integral in helping both grads take the next steps in their careers. 

For Laura, however, arguably the most important factor were the soft skills she developed during her MBA. With a greater focus on leadership and interpersonal abilities, the MBA helped her grow both professionally and personally, she feels. 

“The skills that I really value and were new to me when I came into the program were the non-technical ones, like cultural intelligence, ethics, or negotiation. Things you don’t discuss using a textbook." 

Since leaving the program, Laura decided not to return to her home country of the Philippines and has instead remained in Singapore, working in a role that has involved leading a sales team across 11 different markets in the APAC region. 

Taking on a regional focus while living and working outside of her home country has required much of the cultural learning she gained during the program, she says. 

"An understanding of how to problem solve and to find a middle ground with people who have different ideas and different work ethics are the most important things that I was able to apply in a regional role."  

On the other hand, enhancing his technical skills was an essential step for Sean in achieving his goals upon completing the program. 

“Through the program I was able to further sharpen my programming skills as well as understand the importance of risk management,” he says. “In my current role I have to do derivatives pricing as well as managing risks, the skills required for this were imparted during the program.” 


How to choose your business school degree

Faced with a choice between an MBA or specialized master’s, it’s therefore clear that you must understand what skills are required for your chosen career path. 

If you’re aiming to enter a specialist industry that requires technical knowledge, a specialized master’s can provide you with the expertise to excel. 

If your goal is to gain a more well-rounded business acumen and enhance your leadership abilities, an MBA can provide you with the soft skills necessary to become an effective manager. 

Whichever path you choose, enrolling at business school opens up a wealth of opportunities both immediately after graduation and as you progress throughout your career. 

Student Reviews

Nanyang Business School

Student

Verified

6/07/2020

Good campus life and extra-curricular activities

This is a great place to learn and interact with more like-minded people. The campus is something that stands out to me. The infrastructure is great and the university is very well-built. There is lots to do on the high campus, from a large number of eating joints to the numerous clubs and sports activities. I also quite like Singapore as a country, as there is so much to do around not very far from campus. The educational facilities are extremely good, there are lots of opportunities to take on research projects and do industrial projects, which I really enjoy. The only thing I dislike about NTU is that the number of international students is really low and I would like to see a larger international intake in the future. Definitely recommend for the amazing educational facilities and on-campus social life.

Student

Verified

12/06/2020

An international campus that provided diverse choices for students

It's a beautiful campus with a high degree of internationality, providing diverse choices for students in terms of research opportunities and career consultation. Also, scholars are knowledgable and very inspiring, and are good at motivating the thinking of students.

Student

Verified

12/06/2020

Great University

In overall, the university has met my expectations with its wonderful lectures and research staff. However, there are some issues with the administrative side, i.e. administration may give you different answers on the same question. Also, the university’s website often provides outdated information and it takes time to get what you need; perhaps there is not enough people for managing it.

Student

Verified

1/06/2020

Good resources

I would recommend. Good resources for research. Knowledgeable professors and instructors. Conducive environment for studying and doing assignments. Helpful staff and faculty. Food options are good. An overall good place to study.

Student

Verified

18/09/2023

On Campus

inefficient communication and lack of transparency

The administrative team at the university is slow to respond and is often inadequate in their responses and solutions. The uni is also unclear and resistant to explain their actions and motivations when carrying out policies or when questioned

Nilah

Verified

13/03/2024

On Campus

Formative experience for success

NTU prioritizes giving students ample time for independent research. The academic schedule consists of 6–7 weeks of study, followed by a week without classes, allowing students to catch up on any material they may have missed. This is succeeded by another 6–7 weeks of study, culminating in a week dedicated to final exam preparation and exams. The curriculum is designed to be student-friendly, minimizing burdens such as excessive assignments, projects, exams, quizzes, and attendance requirements. This approach affords students the freedom to pursue personal interests and self-development. In my experience, each of the four courses I took had a comparable workload, typically comprising 2 assignments, 3 easy labs, 2–3 quizzes (some without), and 1 final exam. In contrast, comparable courses at other universities often entail significantly heavier workloads, including 3 homework assignments, 5 projects, 5–6 pop-up quizzes, mandatory attendance, 2 midterms, and 1 final exam. Moreover, each project typically demands 3–4 days of work. It is hard work, but it pays off.

Lim

Verified

11/04/2024

On Campus

Academic atmosphere

Nanyang Technological University offers a vibrant academic atmosphere that fosters innovation and excellence. The strong emphasis on research and practical learning equips students with real-world skills. Positives include access to state-of-the-art facilities, collaborative projects, and a diverse student body. However, the competitive environment can be intense, leading to high stress levels. NTU's academic atmosphere encourages growth but requires resilience to thrive.

Xu

Verified

11/04/2024

On Campus

Diverse professors

As a student at Nanyang Technological University, I have been extremely impressed with the quality of education I have received. The professors are knowledgeable, approachable, and passionate about their subjects, which makes learning engaging and enjoyable. The teaching styles vary from lecture-based to interactive discussions and group projects, providing a well-rounded learning experience. The use of technology in the classrooms also enhances our understanding of the course material. One of the things I love about NTU is the diversity on campus. Not only are there students from all over the world, but the professors also come from various backgrounds, making the learning environment truly global. English is the main language spoken on campus, which makes it easy for international students to feel at home. In terms of examinations and coursework, the workload can be challenging at times, but the support from professors and classmates makes it manageable. The exams are fair and assess our understanding of the material effectively.

Lee

Verified

11/04/2024

On Campus

Video lectures

As a student at Nanyang Technological University, I am extremely impressed with the transportation options available on campus. The buses and shuttles make it easy to get around the huge campus. The beautifully landscaped garden campus adds a peaceful and scenic vibe to studying. The facilities, from the state-of-the-art labs to the comfortable study spaces, are top-notch. The video lectures are a convenient and effective way to supplement classroom learning.

Jain

Verified

11/04/2024

On Campus

Focus on science

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) excels in its focus on engineering and science degrees. The curriculum is robust, integrating theoretical knowledge with practical applications. Professors are industry experts, providing invaluable insights. State-of-the-art facilities enhance learning experiences. Opportunities for research and internships abound, fostering innovation and professional growth. NTU's emphasis on cutting-edge technology prepares students for real-world challenges. NTU's commitment to engineering and science education is unparalleled, shaping tomorrow's leaders in these fields.

Haidar

Verified

10/04/2024

Blended

great canteens

While at Nanyang Technological University, I can confidently say that the quality of education here is excellent. The professors are knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects, and the curriculum is challenging yet rewarding. The campus itself is green and natural, providing a peaceful and inspiring environment for learning. The canteens offer a wide variety of delicious and affordable food options, catering to different dietary preferences. From local delights to international cuisines, there is something for everyone. The student housing facilities are also well-maintained and comfortable, providing a home away from home for students. NTU's reputation as a top-ranked university is well-deserved, with cutting-edge research and a strong emphasis on innovation.

Naili

Verified

10/04/2024

On Campus

high quality education

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is a top-notch educational institution that offers a wide range of programs and opportunities for students. The campus is well-equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, and the faculty members are highly experienced and knowledgeable in their fields. As a student at NTU, I have had a positive experience so far. The university provides a conducive learning environment and encourages students to think critically and creatively. The campus is vibrant and diverse, with a strong sense of community among students and staff. I would definitely recommend NTU to prospective students looking for a high-quality education in a supportive and stimulating environment. The opportunities for research, internships, and extracurricular activities are plentiful, and the university is committed to providing a well-rounded education that prepares students for future success.

Tan

Verified

11/04/2024

On Campus

Student experience

As a student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the experience is vibrant and enriching. Surrounded by lush greenery, the campus offers a serene environment for studying and relaxation. While parties and nightlife options are available, the focus leans more towards academic pursuits. The campus buzzes with activities, clubs, and events, catering to diverse interests. However, the tuition cost is competitive, offering value for the exceptional education and resources provided. I recommend my university

Ilyanajwa

Verified

11/04/2024

On Campus

High quality of life

As a student at Nanyang Technological University, I'm thoroughly impressed with the quality of education. The faculty is highly knowledgeable and supportive, fostering an engaging learning environment. Tuition fees are reasonable for the value provided. The campus food options are diverse and delicious, catering to various dietary preferences. The transport system is efficient, with easy access to public transportation. NTU offers a high quality of life, combining academic excellence with a vibrant campus culture.

Shi

Verified

12/04/2024

On Campus

good value for money

At Nanyang Technological University, I find the tuition fees reasonable considering the quality of education and resources provided. The university offers diverse programs, experienced faculty, modern facilities, and opportunities for research and internships. While tuition costs are substantial, the value for money is evident in the comprehensive learning experience and the potential for career advancement. NTU delivers on its promise of excellence, making it a worthwhile investment in one's future.

Yu

Verified

7/05/2024

On Campus

Educational experience

I am a student at Nanyang Technological University and I am thoroughly impressed with the quality of my program. The lectures are engaging, delivered by knowledgeable professors who make complex concepts easy to understand. The classroom setup is modern and conducive to learning, with interactive technology enhancing the educational experience. Exams are challenging yet fair, testing our understanding and critical thinking skills effectively. In my leisure time, I appreciate the vibrant campus life, with a variety of clubs, events, and facilities to explore, fostering a well-rounded university experience.