Craig Wallace, chair of the Department of Management at the Daniels College of Business, makes sure leadership is at the root of everything MSM students do.


Prospective graduate business students have a wide variety of degree programs to consider. Most often, the MBA is the degree that comes to mind. However, a Master’s of Science in Management (MSM) might be the best graduate degree for you. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at these two elite degrees.

Student Profile:

For both programs, students come from a variety of educational, employment, and geographic backgrounds and generally complete the program as a cohort taking all required classes together. Upper tier MBA programs accept students with at least two years of professional work experience (with preference for significantly more experience). Program courses and challenges are designed to leverage this prior experience and to enhance an already established career.

In contrast, MSM programs focus on students who are recent graduates with undergraduate degrees in a variety of disciplines. Such students are looking to develop their leadership and business skills – usually aligning with career passion. As a result, MSM programs do not require full-time work experience, although some such experience can be beneficial. Program courses and challenges are designed to enhance undergraduate work and provide a springboard to a career that is ‘fast-tracked’.

Program Structure:

Most MBA programs are 2 years long encompassing the full range of business disciplines: corporate financial reporting, ethics, data skills, economics, organizational behavior, strategy, finance, and sustainability. In addition to the core program content, students choose elective classes for possible concentrations (e.g., Accounting, Analytics, Finance, Marketing, Strategy).

In contrast, MSM programs focus on managerial and leadership competencies and are typically less than a year long. This program is more appealing for those wanting to quickly expand their employment opportunities at the onset of their career. Upon completion, graduates have a solid foundation in management and leadership to complement their pre-existing technical skills and are fully prepared to launch their career.

Career Opportunities:

The MBA degree has a long history and as a result MBA graduates can be found in almost all business sectors and functions. Most employers have hired MBA graduates in the past and are familiar with the broad general business skills that they can offer. MBA graduates have honed their skills through experiential challenges and typically have additional full-time work experience and internship experience. Graduates return to the market with a fresh perspective and enhanced skillset to continue an established career.

Over the past decade or so, however, there has also been a significant increase in interest from employers both within and beyond the business world in hiring students from graduate programs that develop more specialized skills in management and leadership. Graduates from MSM programs are ideally equipped to take advantage of these opportunities. Employers hire MSM graduates for the management and leadership expertise and mindset they have developed during the MSM program that complements the technical expertise developed in their prior academic programs and other experiences. This combination of skills is of great value not just in the business world but beyond in scientific, government, and non-profit organizations. It is also worth noting that MSM graduates retain the option of returning to school again in the future after a few more years of work experience to obtain an MBA or other advanced degree.


Hopefully this post has provided some clarity on both the similarities and differences in MBA and MSM programs. Both have much to offer but the question of which program is right for you is really one of fit. If one, or both, of these programs is of interest to you we would be happy to hear from you and determine the program that best fits your academic and career aspirations.