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Specialized Masters programs

Specialized Masters programs

With the rising popularity of the specialized master’s programs and more and more schools offering a wide range of options, especially catered to meet the industry needs, this growing trend of earning a specialized master’s degree, before venturing out into the job market, is not surprising.

According to the United States Census Bureau, since 2000, the number of people aged 25 and over, whose highest degree was a master’s in the US has doubled to 21 million.

The UK has also seen a gradual rise in the number of enrollments. According to HESA, the numbers for taught Master’s has increased from 163,405 in 2013-14 to 183,500 in 2017-18.

What is specialized masters? Why pursue a specialized master’s degree?

With the job market getting too competitive, there’s the general perception that an undergraduate degree itself wouldn’t suffice; students feel the need for a postgraduate qualification that would prepare them for a career in their chosen professional area.

A specialized master’s degree is one that would help you upgrade your knowledge in a specific field through a thorough in-depth study and also help you gain the latest technological skills.

These programs are designed to meet the needs of the constantly evolving market demand. Equipped with a specialized master’s, you’d be able to differentiate yourself in your area of expertise.

You can also leverage the college’s career resources and make use of placement opportunities. All this would give you a head-start in your career.

A specialized master’s would allow you to continue studying, immediately after completing your undergraduate education, hence these programs tend to attract the younger age group.

Here are some examples of specialized masters programs:


Admission eligibility & prerequisites

Applicants need to have completed a bachelor’s degree. The undergraduate degree usually does not need to be in the same or related discipline in which you’re applying.

Some master’s courses, especially outside the US may need some prior work experience or academic background in the chosen field. Always make it a point to check the entry requirements of the particular program you’re interested in.

Application requirements

Your specialized masters application would include:


Specialized Master’s duration

A lot of programs can be taken either full-time or part-time. So, the time taken to complete would vary depending on your choice. Full-time programs in the US usually last for two years while in the UK and Europe, they may last for a year or lesser.

Some schools offer flexibility of completion. For example, at the George Washington University School of Business, you could complete the specialized Master’s program course requirements within five years.

Specialized Master’s tuition fees

The tuition fees and the total expenses would depend on various aspects. Firstly, a one year program would cost much lesser than a two year program.

Factoring in the living and related expenses and the opportunity cost (forgone income while pursuing your studies), a one year program would be more pocket-friendly compared to the two year format. The fees would also vary depending upon the specialisation you choose.

Secondly, public university fees would be much lesser than a private university. Further, in-state candidates at public universities can expect lower fees compared to international candidates. For example, at UCLA, a public research university, for graduate study, the fee is $17,272 per year for California residents and about $32,374 for non-California residents.

At the elite graduate school-Princeton, you’d have to shell out $53,770 a year for tuition fee and an additional $31,350 yearly for living expenses.

At MIT, the tuition for a 9-month academic year would come to $53,450.

At HEC Paris, the ten month duration specialized master’s would cost around €29,950.

At London Business School, specialized master’s can take 12 to 16 months to complete. The tuition for a year would range from £33,000- £36,000 with an additional £7,500 for the fourth term.

Always make it a point to look out for all the available financial aid options while applying, which can reduce your financial burden to a great extent.

Work during / after study for international students

International students on an F1 visa in the US for full-time study for at least one academic year can take up employment or internship after completing nine months of study.

The CPT (Curricular Practical Training) and OPT (Optional Practical Training) are the two options. Under the CPT, you may work before completing your course.

However, after completing the course requirements, you’d need an OPT under which you can work for twelve months in the same field of your study.

If you have a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) designated degree, you are eligible for a STEM OPT extension for another 24 months.

Read more on CPT vs OPT

Also read Right age for MS in USA

Specialized Master’s salary

  Job role after completing Master’s Average US salary (according to payscale)
1. Software engineer $87,000
2. Project Manager, Information Technology (IT) $76,000
3. Human Resources (HR) Manager $70,000
4. Data Scientist $94,000
5. Data Analyst $66,000
6. Clinical Project Manager $101,000
7. Operations Manager $70,000
8. Marketing Director $88,000
9. Marketing Manager $65,000
10. Project Manager, Engineering $107,000
11. Project Manager, Construction $79,000
12. Accounting Manager $79,000
13. Business Development Manager $73,000
14. Financial Analyst $63,000
15. Finance Manager $79,000
16. Business Intelligence (BI) Analyst $73,000
17. Senior Systems Engineer $95,000
18. Research Analyst $55,000
19. Geotechnical Engineer $62,000
20. Health and Safety Manager $70,000

Also read:
Master’s degree specialisations that pay the highest salaries
Average Salary after MS in USA, Canada and Australia

General or specialized master’s

General master’s usually refers to a degree like the MBA or MiM which covers a broad spectrum of subjects ranging from finance, accounting, economics, marketing, human resources, operations, strategy to entrepreneurship. However, specialized master’s refers to study focussed on one specific subject area. In the UK, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education requires specialized or advanced study master’s degrees to have at least one-third of the program has to be dedicated to a research project, leading to dissertation.

Read more on Master’s degree

Here are the rankings for some of the popular specialized master’s programs

Rankings for Specialized Master’s Program in Finance

Top programs for Master’s in Finance

QS rankings 2019

Top programs for Master’s in Finance (Pre-experience)

FT rankings 2018

Top programs for Master’s in Finance (Post-experience)

FT rankings 2018

London Business School 1 HEC Paris 1 London Business


HEC Paris 2 ESCP Europe 2 University of Cambridge: Judge 2
MIT (Sloan) 3 Edhec Business School


3 Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University


London School of Economics 4 Skema Business School


4 Amsterdam Business School


Oxford (Said) 4 Essec Business School
5 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 5
Cambridge (Judge) 6 University of St Gallen
6 Florida International University: Chapman 6


Top programs for Master’s in Marketing QS Ranking
Columbia 1
Imperial College 2
HEC Paris 3


Top programs for Master’s in Business Analytics QS Ranking
MIT Sloan 1
Imperial College 2
Texas-McCombs 3
ESSEC & CentraleSupélec 4


Specialized Master’s programs in Business vs MBA

When it comes to choosing a postgraduate qualification in business related field, most of the students are in a quandary about which of the two programs the specialized Master’s or the MBA would be the right option.

The same business schools may be offering both the specialized business master’s as well as an MBA, so which one should you choose? Let’s examine the differences between the two so that you are in a better position to make up your mind.

Getting into a top international MBA program requires 3-5 years of work experience whereas for a specialized master’s, work experience is usually not required.

An MBA program covers the breadth of general management topics and thus provides a wider perspective of various industries and functions and would suit those who’d be aiming for business or leadership roles in strategic or management positions.

The electives and concentrations allow you to take some courses in specific interest area, but if you’re looking for deeper insights and specialized skills and knowledge in a specific area, a specialized Master’s would be a better option for you. It would work in favour of those who’d like to be involved in technical or operational roles.

Both an MBA and specialized master’s can improve your career prospects and also provide you the opportunity to study and work in your preferred geographical location.

With an MBA, you’d be in a position to switch roles, functions or industries after completion of studies whereas specialized master’s is focused on a particular field of study, so you wouldn’t have too much flexibility to take up jobs beyond your chosen specialty.

An MBA is much more expensive than a master’s program. Though a master’s degree can help you earn higher salaries than undergrads, it’s also a fact that it cannot be compared to the enviable packages MBA grads are likely to receive.

An MBA program uses a more practical teaching methodology through case studies and real world problems compared to a master’s degree. The experienced cohort in an MBA program provides better scope of learning through peer experiences.

Though each of the courses has its pros and cons, there’s nothing that can stop you from earning an MBA even after completing your specialized master’s if you decide to move on to senior management roles.

At the same time, you can always pursue a specialized master’s after an MBA to delve deeper into a particular subject area.
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References: 1 2 3 4