2006年，伊万•瑞辛从威斯康辛大学麦迪逊分校（University of Wisconsin at Madison）毕业，拿到了政治科学专业的学士学位，并在年销售额53亿美元的消费品和药品柔性包装生产商Bemis找了一份营销助理的工作。她喜欢这份工作，但“政治科学与销售柔性包装毫无关系，”她说。“我想学些东西，这样当机会来临，能够走上管理岗位时才不致于错失良机。”
这种（实实在在、或者说认知上的）竞争力优势可以解释为何当前全美管理研究生课程如此之火爆。美国研究生入学管理委员会（The Graduate Management Admissions Council）的数据显示，尽管2011年申请传统MBA课程的人数“显著降至”美国商学院总申请人数的67%，但超过2/3的管理研究生课程都出现了入学人数大幅增长。
管理研究生课程通常包括统计学、金融学、会计学以及“类似项目管理、团队领导和企业传播这类大量的实用技能，”亚利桑那州大学凯瑞商学院（W.P. Carey School of Business）的常务院长艾米•希尔曼介绍说。凯瑞商学院正在计划今年推出一项新的管理研究生课程，满足日益增长的需要。
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2006 with a B.S. in political science, Evan Rezin found a job as a marketing associate at Bemis, a $5.3 billion-a-year maker of flexible packaging for consumer goods and pharmaceuticals. She enjoyed the work, but "political science has nothing to do with selling flexible packaging," she notes. "I want to be ready to move up into management when the opportunity comes along."
So Rezin enrolled part-time in the master's in management program at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay. She'll graduate in June. Halfway through her studies, she got assigned to one of Bemis's biggest customers. Rezin believes that's no coincidence: "I suspect I wouldn't have been promoted to a national sales rep position if I hadn't been working on a master's."
That kind of competitive edge (real or perceived) explains the current jump in enrollment in master's in management programs nationwide. The Graduate Management Admissions Council reports that while applications to traditional MBA programs were "down significantly" at 67% of B-schools in 2011, more than two-thirds of master's in management programs are seeing a surge in enrollment.
It's easy to see why. While MBA tuition averages $60,000 and can run as high as $100,000, a master's in management will set you back, on average, about $30,000 -- or far less if you enroll at a state university in your home state.
MiM degrees are quicker, too. Full-time students can usually complete the degree in nine months, versus two years for an MBA. Studying part-time, as most MiM candidates do, allows students to earn the degree in two years or less while working full-time, or conducting a full-time job search.
Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is in the admissions requirements. While MBA curricula are intended for seasoned businesspeople with an eye on the C-suite who want in-depth, specialized knowledge, MiM courses are designed to give liberal arts grads like Rezin a broad, general understanding of how the business world works.
MiM courses typically cover statistics, finance, accounting, and "lots of practical skills like project management, team leadership, and business communications," says Amy Hillman, executive dean of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State, which is launching a new MiM program this year to meet rising demand.
"We're seeing a lot of MBA applications from students with undergraduate degrees but no work experience," Hillman explains. "We're also hearing from corporate recruiters that they want liberal arts and engineering grads who have some basic business knowledge as well."
A word of advice from Rezin, however: Even though no business experience is required for enrollment, "people really should work for at least a couple of years first, rather than going straight from undergraduate to graduate school. You'll get a lot more out of it if you have some experience, so you can connect the theories to reality."
For that very reason, MiM programs almost always include a consulting project. At Arizona State, for instance, in the last 15 weeks of their course work, students "will be working in teams in real companies solving real problems," says Hillman. "It's important, because sometimes in the classroom business sounds easy. But out in the real world, it can be a little messier." Too true.