These days a Masters is not just an asset but a necessity. Better and more qualifications are the best ‘letter of recommendation’ you can put on the job market. Therefore, gaining a postgraduate degree is a win-win move, as long as you know which programme will best meet your needs and aspirations. If you are set on a career in business management, there are two obvious choices you can make: a Masters in Management (MIM) or an MBA. These two might look like mirror images of each other, yet there are essential differences between them which you must consider before plunging back into the world of practically-oriented academia.

Age and experience matter

In addition their university degree postgraduate students usually have a work c.v. to testify to their vocation in business management.  Work experience is the key when it comes to making a choice between MIM and an MBA. Generally MBA candidates have more  ‘clocked work hours’, with three or more years extensive work experience, This gives them an unbeatable advantage in the selection process, since most MBA programmes rely heavily on the professional experience which their students bring into the course discussion. For the Masters in Management work experience is not essential and in fact the majority of candidates have very little practical experience, sometime no more than a year. They are either at the start of or at a very early stage in their career. MIM candidates in other words are business people in the making, whereas their MBA counterparts have already entered the business world and their goal is to move up the hierarchical ladder.  MBAs are geared towards those who aspire to  top management positions, while an MIM gives graduates a chance of a good ‘first shot’ at the market.

Experience comes with age, therefore, quite naturally, there is an age difference between those who choose a degree in MIM and those who choose to pursue an MBA degree. The average age os students studying for the Masters in Management is  23, compared to 27 to 32 in MBA programmes.

In a nutshell, the MBA and the MIM are aimed at  two different target groups – the former for young professionals and professionals, the latter for graduates.

Study the curriculum before you sign up for the programme

Teaching methods and class content are all-important when deciding upon a degree. In terms of study matter the two programmes overlap – both offer a general management masters degree, integrated team work and case studies. However, the MIM is a great deal more theoretical than the MBA. Traditional lectures and tutorial classes are quite common. In an MIM programme, for example, you may find subjects which particularly require mathematical or analytical skills and your final dissertation may be research-oriented. An MIM thus provides you with the theoretical fundamentals of Management Research and may even qualify you for a PhD in Management later on.

An MBA programme, on the other hand, is more of a ‘hands-on’ experience. It is dominated by case studies or real-world examples of business issues or problems which students are expected to explore and discuss in small groups. Thus, in an MBA programme, you may never have to ask about the origins of an accounting technique, but rather focus on its application and instead of a dissertation you may present a consultancy project based on real-world business..

The field you want to specialize in may also prove to be a factor when tou take the decision about the choice of degree.. The generalized approach of an MBA programme equips a student for a range of business-related situations, while the more specialized nature of a Masters in Management qualification provides the candidate with the precise academic and theoretical framework to tackle a specific area. Gary Garber, now an HR Management graduate from Cornell University,  decided to switch programmes, opting out of the MBA and signing up for the MIM which gave him  the specialized knowledge he needed. “In making my decision to switch programmes, I spoke with several HR professionals I know through our local professional network. They, my advisor, and our dean of business graduate studies, all gave me the same advice. In a nutshell, what they told me was that if HR is really what you want to do, then the Masters is your option. You also have to remember that in specialized fields, a lot of schools have MBA programmes but a Masters degree is something that can set you apart in the industry.”

How global do you want to get?

The MBA continues to be the most sought-after degree in the world - and for good reason. It offers you a truly international experience. MBA candidates can work and study in different parts of the world and most of the top MBA programmes either have campuses scattered around the globe or work in partnership with other elite institutions to offer their students a variety of exchange programmes. The MIM, on the other hand, is a great deal more regionally based. The MIM degree is becoming more internationalised and in recent years a number of universities have started offering it in English. With an MIM location matters – if you want to start your career in a less crisis-prone part of the world, it is best to pick a university within that region. MBAs are not so location-dependent, especially with the new trend of campus rotation.

What are your stakes on the job market?

Both degrees will increase your chances of landing the job you dream of, provided that you know exactly where you are headed. An MIM graduate should not expect to find a managerial position upon walking out of the university gates. MIM students lack the c.v. of their MBA counterparts. Their work experience is limited, and they should be content  to apply for a satisfactory entry position rather than ‘aim high’ for a managerial job. MBA graduates on the other hand are considered ‘experienced hires’, since they have been in business for several years prior to their MBA degree and as such, they are more or less entitled to apply for a leadership or management position.

In a nutshell

If you can not decide whether to choose a Masters in Management or an MBA degree there are a few pointers for all who are in doubt .  The Masters programme is for talented and ambitious young people with limited (if any work) work experience who would like to start a career in business. It is also more theory-oriented in terms of teaching style and more specialized in terms of content. The MBA is usually for those who have already started their careers and want or need new knowledge, analysis tools and networking opportunities in order to change their line of business or secure a promotion. Finally, MBAs are relatively global, while MIMs are just beginning to globalise with English as the language of instruction for more and more programmes outside the US and the UK.