An MBA straight out of uni could be a big step in the right direction

A pre-experience Masters can help when you're eager to get your career going

With graduate unemployment in the UK at a 15-year high, it shouldn't come as a surprise that one of the fastest-growing degrees is the pre-experience business Masters. In fact, such is the growth in these specialised Masters programmes among graduates who want to stand out in today's tough job market that the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) claims it's becoming the new Bachelors degree.

GMAC, whose recent Corporate Recruiters Survey highlights the trend, found that 83 per cent of Masters of finance programmes reported applications were up, along with increases in 69 per cent of Masters in management and 51 per cent of Masters in accounting programmes. The research said that students hoped that these courses would help in accelerating their career paths, developing their leadership and managerial skills, increase their salary potential, allow them to develop general business knowledge and, most importantly, improve their job prospects after graduating.

Their decision seems to be paying off, according to GMAC, with 41 per cent of companies planning to hire recent Masters in management graduates in 2012, an increase from 35 per cent in 2011, while 35 per cent of companies plan to hire recent Masters in accounting graduates, up from 29 per cent in 2011. The most noticeable increase is in the number of small companies who plan to hire graduates with business Masters degrees.

"The economic challenges of recent years have put pressure on European companies in particular to reduce costs and become more efficient – corporate goals that typically translate into a more stagnant hiring report. Consequently, job seekers in Europe at all levels face increased competition for available positions," explains Julia Tyler, executive vice-president at GMAC. "Specialised business Masters degrees help candidates develop a specialised skill-set that continues to add value in the workplace."

Many businesses don't have a formal graduate training scheme, points out Roger Delves, director of Ashridge Business School's Masters in management. "For these businesses in particular, an applicant who has studied to Masters level in management is likely to get more of a running start than an applicant with a Bachelors degree in management, taking the burden of early development from the employing organisation."

Graduates of these Masters, he says, require less development, start to contribute faster, arrive with a better grasp of broad basics around finance, strategy, leadership, teamwork and other core competencies. "This makes the individual a quicker learner and means that the employing organisation need invest less time and money in an early‑years development programme."

Omid Aschari, managing director of the Masters in strategy and international management at the University of St Gallen, also says he's witnessed a trend towards more employers seeking self-starters who can prove their commitment to raising their own game right from the start. "There are many challenges for today's companies in weighing up the risks and opportunities of doing business such as political instability, trade barriers, shorter production life cycles and technological innovations. Companies now have to map out their strategies accordingly and therefore become more flexible and adaptable by employing people who have the relevant knowledge, skills and competencies," he adds.

Business Masters with an international focus are particularly valuable, he claims. "Candidates must be global-minded or risk a massive competitive disadvantage. Companies are in dire need of talents that can perform in different cultural settings based on personally reflected experiences. Our programme, for example, creates unique opportunities for student teams to immerse themselves into new environments and thereby reinforce personal development."

Some people, however, believe it's important not to get carried away with the worth of these degrees. "Yes, we are certainly seeing an upward trend, but it's still not taken as seriously as a chartered accounting qualification or a top-class degree, such as maths or history, from a blue-chip university," says Simon Brocklebank-Fowler, chairman of Cubitt Consulting and honorary visiting fellow of Cass Business School. He says the MBA is still the gold standard international business qualification that will "give you a network for life, and let you explore your entrepreneurialism as well as your institutional skill-set in a protected and challenging environment. This is still much more valuable than pre-experience qualification or vocational Masters."

Phil Dunne, partner at AT Kearney, agrees. "MBA graduates with six to eight years of prior work experience are still our core recruits. In my mind, they are worth the price premium over Masters of management graduates, who we deploy in very different roles."

But Lucy Newton, senior lecturer in business history at Henley Business School, believes the Masters versus MBA debate is not comparing like with like. "An MBA is a way to get your foot up the ladder once you've got some business experience behind you. The pre-experience Masters degree is just that – a way of furthering your business education before you get that all-important work experience."

Indeed, GMAC points out that the majority of applicants to Masters in management, accounting and finance are 25-years-old or younger and have far fewer years of work experience than applicants to MBA programmes.

Newton also insists those with good first degrees can still benefit from a pre-experience Masters. "Just this month, we were at a London careers fair for undergraduates. Many of the students were in their second or third year of degrees in the likes of law, history and English and they were looking for a good conversion course to get into business. I think a Masters in business management is a good solution for differentiating themselves in today's marketplace.

"It also gives people a chance to really specialise – there's even a pre-experience Masters in Islamic finance – while other people may choose to do a more generalist Masters."

Even Newton, however, is not prepared to go as far as saying these Masters are the new Bachelors degrees. "I say this because there are excellent business and management Bachelors degrees, with one-year placements, in which students don't need any kind of business conversion course. Indeed, many of these students are getting jobs with the employers they are doing their placements with. After all, if you're good, employers would rather keep you than taking the risk through the selection procedure. When I visited Disney, I was told that their graduate intake was almost entirely filled through students who have done a placement year with them."

If you are considering a pre-experience business Masters, Newton's advice is to consider not only your employability, but areas of business you feel passionately about. "I see so many students who think purely about employability, but the topics covered have got to light your candle both in the short and long term. These courses not only last a whole year, but are intensive and in any case, it's no good studying something that might help further your career, but which you come to eventually realise you don't really want a career in anyway."

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Life and Style
Out and about: for 'Glee' character Bert Hummel, having a gay son was a learning curve
lifeEven 'cool' parents need help parenting gay teens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Commercial Property Surveyor

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading firms of Cha...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A keen Graduate Structural Engineer with...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Data & Delivery Guru

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Data & Delivery Guru is required to...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible