September 15, 2013 10:19 pm

Q&A: Masters in Management 2013

Ask the Expert

Applications to Masters in Management degrees are soaring. Why is this degree so popular? What do recruiters look for when hiring graduates from these programmes? Will a Mim become a prerequisite for many companies, banks and management consultancies? How does a Mim differ from an MBA?

On Wednesday, 18th September 2013 , between 14.00 and 15.00 BST, a panel of experts answered these and other questions about studying for a Mim.

On the panel were:

HHL

Andreas Pinkwart, dean of HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, ranked number nine in the FT Masters in Management Ranking 2013

After completing his training as a banker, Professor Pinkwart studied macroeconomics and business administration at the Universities of Münster and Bonn, where he also received a PhD. He became dean of HHL in 2011 and holds the Stiftungsfonds Deutsche Bank Chair for Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship.

Susan Hart

Susan Hart, executive dean of the University of Strathclyde Business School, ranked number 33 in the FT Masters in Management Ranking 2013

Professor Hart has worked for a variety of private sector companies, ranging from multinational to small manufacturers in consumer and industrial enterprises. She is currently a board member of AACSB and on the EQUIS awarding panel of the European Foundation for Management Development.

Frank Bostyn, Dean, Reims-Rouen business school.

Frank Bostyn, dean of Neoma Business School, ranked number 39 in the Financial Times Masters in Management Ranking 2013

Frank Bostyn has an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining Neoma, he was dean of Antwerp Management School.

Della Bradshaw

Della Bradshaw

Della Bradshaw, FT Business Education Editor

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Why do you think a masters in management degree is so popular?

Susan: When people study for a first degree, it is often out of interest – but that can change over time so that as graduates, they find that managerial positions and functions are open to them, but they don’t have specialist training – hence the decision to take a postgraduate masters. Others, of course, pursue degrees where the masters component is integrated.

Andreas: The degree is popular because the Mim programme is not focused on only one subject, instead it provides the graduates with a general management tool kit. In times of economic difficulties, Mim graduates are best prepared for challenging job opportunities. The Mim helps in improving soft skills as well as hard skills, and the international aspects of the programme (international faculty and student body as well as the studying abroad option) are also well received by students.

Frank: Many of these programmes are successful in integrating a real working experience into the curriculum. This facilitates a smooth passage from school to professional life and, hence, an accelerated career launch at a relatively young age.

Della: In countries such as France (with the Grande Ecole programme) and India (the PGP) these degrees have always been the elite educational programmes. This is why the captains of French industry and even the French President have Mim degrees. In other European countries I think there is a real sense that these degrees give those from undergraduate degrees a real advantage when looking for their first job – essential in a depressed economy.

In the US I think the situation is somewhat similar to that in Europe, but I think there is also a sense that these pre-experience degrees can tie in students to the institutions from a younger age, rather than waiting for them to enrol on an MBA programme in their late twenties.

I suspect we will see some US schools use the one-year Mim as a proxy for the first year of the MBA, effectively introducing a one-year MBA programme.

What do recruiters look for when hiring graduates from Mim programmes? Do you think a Mim will become a prerequisite for many companies, banks and management consultancies?

Susan: Postgraduate degrees generally give candidates an edge, particularly for banks and management consultancies, but also for companies such as P&G, or Johnson & Johnson, etc. Some work experience – at whatever level – is useful, but more important is the ability to articulate and match the skills/experience gained to what the company is looking for. Good company research is a must.

As well as a good standard of general academic, numerical and critical/analytical thinking skills (don’t underestimate the need), companies will also look for good communication skills, both verbal and written and, increasingly, an effective, relevant and appropriate social media presence. IBM, for example, put a very high value on this, looking for evidence of the ability to network and engage effectively.

Companies will also look for evidence of good team working skills and the potential for leadership, evidenced by volunteering to sit on class committees, for example, or taking initiatives to run events or even engage in some entrepreneurial activity. You must differentiate yourself in a competitive market and there is plenty of opportunity for this at Strathclyde.

Andreas: Recruiters often look for analytical skills and numeric comprehension from Mim graduates. The candidates’ personality as well as his or her presentation skills are important aspects, too.

Regarding the importance of a Mim degree, in general we can say that Mim graduates often have priority over bachelor graduates when it comes to personnel decisions. With their practical and international experience they are very good candidates for challenging jobs.

Frank: They look for bright people with an open mind, a solid knowledge of management, flexibility, and a willingness to accept change and innovation. And more and more: a strong capability to communicate, relate with other people and motivate them.

For many companies, banks and management consultancies, a Mim is already an important selection criteria, used as a reliable screening device in their recruitment process.

Della: I think it may well become a prerequisite at many top companies, as they try to offload the cost of graduate training from the company to the individual employee. What I think we may well see is graduate recruiters offering deferred positions to young graduates on the understanding that they will study for a masters degree on one of a list of selected programmes.

How does a Mim differ from an MBA?

Andreas: The Mim degree differs from an MBA by their different prerequisites. MBA students are required to show at least two to three years of work experience whereas Mim students only have to show very limited experience. MBA students therefore are older, mostly between 28 and 32 years of age. Mim students are younger with an average age of 23.

While in MBA programmes, the students come from different study backgrounds (eg engineering, fine arts, medicine), in most Mim programmes the participants have a solid business background.

The curriculum of the MBA programme is more practical whereas the Mim programme provides a theoretic basis, too. The Mim helps with job entry while the MBA can be a job booster and might foster a possible job change.

Frank: In theory, the difference is that an MBA is a post-experience programme, while a Mim is pre-experience. However, the relevance of this difference is diminishing. Many MBA programmes (I am not talking about an executive MBA, which is another matter) require less years of working experience and tend to become quite junior in nature.

Solid Mim programmes, on the contrary, are strong in integrating work experience into their curriculum and, hence, into the learning experience of the student. So, in the end, differences at the moment of entering the job market become marginal.

My name is Francesco and I am 25. I graduated last year from my two-year masters degree in a second-tier school (University of Bologna, Italy) and I currently work as a consultant in KPMG Advisory (1.5 years experience).

I am not satisfied with my job and I have been unable to obtain a better position. Ideally, I would like to land a job in strategic consulting at a top-tier firm. However, I am willing to consider a change in industry and I am available to international experiences.

My question is: considering my age, my background and my experience would it make sense to enrol now in an masters programme? Or would it be more sensible to gain some more experience and then go directly for a MBA programme?

My considerations are that by the time I’d finish the masters I would be 27, perhaps a little old if compared with my potential peers. On the other hand, I could get a job that would eventually pay for my MBA, if still needed. And the masters is way more affordable than a MBA.

Frank: Hello Francesco. I guess this depends on whether you want to specialise in one field at this point in your career. If so, you could opt for a specialised masters. An MBA as a learning experience for you might be a bit too much of the same. Maybe an EMBA might be more relevant, later in your career. 27 is still young if you choose the right specialised masters.

Susan: My initial reaction would be to remain with KPMG until eligible for the MBA and save up over the next couple of years for fees rather than just dive in to do another masters programme. Three-plus years experience with a MNC would make you eminently more employable post-MBA.

It’s quite normal to feel some frustration within the first few years of employment so you should further explore other opportunities within KPMG or externally with a similar organisation. If your degree is non-business then you could consider our Mim and look to convert to an MBA at a later date.

Andreas: In case you have studied business administration or an equivalent field of studies, then the MiM would be a perfect choice. For the MBA you should gain more years of work experience.

Which masters in management from the FT rankings list would you recommend for an engineer? (chemical engineer)

Dimitris Che

Andreas: For a chemical engineer we would recommend a Mim programme which is non consecutive – meaning the candidate is not required to show a first degree in business administration. There are different ones. Just consult the website of your preferred business school. Afterwards get an impression of the programme by talking to current students or get in contact with the recruiters.

Frank: You can consider them all. I am pretty sure that such a combination – engineer and MiM – is a strong ticket, anyway.

Susan: The very nature of Mim programmes is that they are general business degrees, so they enable you to expand your career options by combining the specialist knowledge of your undergraduate degree, for example, chemical engineering, with a broad and general business and management postgraduate education.

Some business schools refer to these as conversion degrees. From the ranked schools, most of these fall into this category so I feel that the majority of them would be of relevance to you. It’s really a case of narrowing down where in the world you want to study and which school best meets your needs.

From my school’s perspective, we are part of the wider University of Strathclyde, and our Faculty of Engineering has an excellent reputation, so we do attract and graduate many engineers from our business masters programmes.

Does the country of study determine or influence the likelihood of one working in that country, or are the different methodologies/content broadly accepted by employers?

Susan: The country of study is not as important as the content of what you study, the skills you develop (or gain) and the extent to which you become able to lead, manage and motivate people as you prepare to mature as a manager.

Look at what schools offer you in the areas of personal development and experience. At Strathclyde, learning underpins the fundamental knowledge base of management, but we focus on developing your skills, so that you can do the job and we also emphasise your self awareness so that you can become more aware of how you impact on others, your organisations, your team, and even yourself.

Frank: The Mim degree is widely recognised internationally. However, some companies prefer to recruit from schools in their own country, not only to work in this country, but also very often in subsidiaries abroad / in the home country of the student.

The idea is that they know the quality of the degree of the schools in their country, and are sure that the recruit is acquainted with their national culture, but is also knowledgeable of business practices and culture in his or her home country.

Della: The teaching is largely universal but the brand recognition of schools fluctuates from country to country. Also, the careers development office will probably have great contacts with local companies, but only limited contacts with corporations in other countries.

Andreas: Taking the German example: Students who are studying here, especially at a reputable institution, may indeed have advantages to be considered by German employers. What we see is that our graduates are highly appreciated on the international job market because of our curriculum and accreditation. The business school applicant should therefore closely look at each curriculum in detail. Tip: Get in contact with the school’s career service to ask detailed questions.

In the FT Mim ranking, German schools, as well as some Scandinavian schools, fared poorly in international mobility, why is that? Is there an isolationism towards these schools? How are they accepted in the Anglo-Saxon world?

Della: Graduates go where the jobs are. Germany is a large country with a strong economy and relatively strong employment for highly-qualified people.

Susan: Maybe traditionally some of these schools have not been as widely networked as others?

Andreas: Germany is the biggest economy within Europe. International students explicitly decide for a German business school. They want to gain international experience on that attractive labour market.

Is the demand for Mim graduates high in big consulting firms? If so, are they only looking for the big names on the CV – such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, or top Mim schools – or are other degrees generally appreciated by consultancy employers?

Frank: Consulting firms recognise more and more the relevance of the Mim degree. As with MBA’s, these firms look for a mix and recruit at all levels. Some have indeed a preference for higher ranked schools.

Susan: It’s not so much the big names, but as I said in an earlier answer – it’s all about how you differentiate yourself, by combining experience, learning, leading, motivating – and these happen both in and out of the classroom.

I would say to students studying a masters early after their undergraduate studies that there will be a need to gain experience to really become outstanding in the consulting world.

Andreas: Yes, the demand for Mim graduates in big consulting firms indeed is high as our school’s placement statistics show. About 60 per cent of our graduates start working in this sector. Big names in the applicant’s CV might be important as well as very good grades in all degrees.

Should we choose our Mim in accordance with where we would like to start our career?

I’m French, currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in China. I want to work in Asia but for a European company, should I study for a masters in China or in Europe?

Maxime Leccia

Frank: Hello Maxime. Location might matter, but more important is that you demonstrate an international experience. Having been exposed to different cultural contexts is definitely an advantage, that is why many schools build in exchange facilities into their programmes.

In your case, after your bachelor in China, I would rather opt for a European Mim, especillay if you prefer to work for an European company.

Susan: Choose the course, more than the location. What is it you want to focus on? Where will you get the best education for you, taking into account knowledge, skills and personal awareness? Do you want international experience? Think about accreditation, too – that is the real seal of education at the top of its game.

What does a “generalised Mim programme” mean? Could I still take specialist courses?

Bernd

Frank: The focus of a Mim programme is on general management, a broad understanding of business. But most schools, offering two-year programmes, include specialisations or majors in their programmes. This is indeed a strong point of these programmes, because they allow you to delve a bit deeper into one of your preferred topics, and that might also facilitate you in the take-off of your career. This addition of some specialisation renders it easier, at a junior level, to integrate into a company.

Susan: It depends on the school – at Strathclyde, you would cover the essential elements of management – managing people (HRM), budgets (accounting and finance), customers, customer relationships and brands (marketing). You’d learn about data management for better decision making and operations management, as well as going on to work on strategy formulation and implementation.

You’ll work on your personal developments – skills, style, leadership and you’ll also get much project work for organisations to complete as part of your studies. You’ll work in teams. You also have the opportunity to study one of the specialist subjects from across seven departments – entrepreneurship, marketing, management science, and so on, and your project can, if you wish, build on one of those specialisms, to give your Mim a bit more of an ‘edge.’

Andreas: A generalised Mim programme in comparison to a specialised one contains a general management curriculum. The majority of schools, such as HHL, offer some fields of specialisation, ie finance, accounting, marketing, logistics and supply chain management, entrepreneurship, advanced economics and advanced general management. By choosing electives the students can set a topical focus on the career for which they are aspiring.

Della: Most programmes will allow you to specialise on a general theme - marketing or stategy, for example. But if you know you want to work in banking or marketing when you graduate, you might want to look at these specialised masters degrees. The ones in finance and accounting are particularly successful. You may also find that the fees are cheaper....

Why do British universities offer such a low value for money in comparison to their European counterparts? Why did they fare a lot worse in the rankings as well?

Fernando Pernica

Susan: Perhaps there is a perception regarding the one-year approach that is common in the UK?

Della: The fees at UK universities are high – the two-year programme at LSE costs more than £40,000, for example. This has a direct impact on the value for money of the programme.

As to their position in the rankings..... UK business schools have often been late into the game in introducing Mim degrees. So the three UK schools that top the MBA rankings – London Business School, the Saïd Business School at Oxford university, and the University of Cambridge Judge Business School – are not in this ranking. Compare that to France, where HEC Paris, ESCP Europe and Essec Business School all do really well in the Mim rankings.

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