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MBA已降温,专硕正当道

Ethan Baron 2016年03月17日

MBA已经过时。美国商学院正在推出名目繁多,几乎适合任何职业方向的专业硕士项目。相信总有一款适合你。心动了?风险提醒:尽管专业硕士一般只需要读一年甚至更短时间,学费并不便宜。更为重要的是,专硕项目鱼龙混杂,不乏一些质量低劣的鱼目混珠之辈。你可得擦亮眼睛!

对于很多中端商学院来说,过去几年的日子可谓相当艰难。

由于前些年涌现的MBA热潮,MBA已经成为美国最普遍的研究生学位,但时至今日,MBA的高速增长已经陷入停滞。有些大学由于申请和入学人数过低,已经取消了全日制在校MBA项目,比如维克森林大学和西蒙斯学院等。仅仅三个月前,罗切斯特大学西蒙商学院刚刚把两年制MBA的学费下调了将近14%。另一方面,长期作为商业教育利润大头的在职MBA的入学率也在下滑。

就在MBA热逐渐冷却的同时,越来越多的专业硕士学位项目正在各大商学院遍地开花,因为它们提供了一张求职的“快车票”。自从2009年左右以来,各大顶级商学院都在以极快的速度添加此类专业硕士项目,所涉及的领域既包括金融和市场营销等传统专业,也包括商业分析、大数据等热门领域,以及其他一系列较为小众的商业课程。

过去三年里,美国排名前25名的商学院有一半都推出了新的专业硕士项目,而且这些项目也吸引了大量的申请者。据美国研究生管理录取委员会统计,全球超过五分之一有意申请商学院的学生仅仅关注这些专业硕士项目。

但一些圈内人也警告称,有些商学院仅仅是把这些日益火爆的专业硕士学位当成印钞机,可能无法提供学生真正想要的成果。

对于考虑就读商科研究生教育的人来说,专业硕士为他们提供了一块进入商界的跳板,等到学生需要晋升或者转行从事一般管理岗位时,他们仍然可以继续拿一个MBA学位。很多专业硕士项目瞄准了刚刚毕业的大学生,也有较少一部分专业硕士项目主要针对处于职业生涯早期和中期的职场人士。

范德堡大学欧文管理学院院长埃里克•约翰逊表示:“我们不认为这些项目是‘MBA的简化版’,它们更像是本科项目的加强版。”全美排名前50的商学院的专业硕士项目主要集中在以下六个领域:会计、商业分析、金融、管理、金融工程、供应链管理。

大多数专业硕士项目都需要申请者通过GMAT或GRE考试,但和MBA不同的是,专业硕士一般不需要比较丰富的工作经验,不过技术类学位一般都要求申请者修完本科级别的课程,或者拥有本科学位。

顶级商学院专业硕士毕业生的就业率和起薪通常比较高,许多排名中游的商学院在这方面也表现得相当不错。比如,加州大学洛杉矶分校安德森管理学院于2008年增设了一个金融工程硕士学位。在该项目2014年的毕业生中,有93%在毕业后三个月内找到了工作,较2010年的75%有明显提高。而且,2014级毕业生的平均起薪为85,000美元(较前几年有所下降。2010到2013年,该校金融工程专业硕士毕业生的起薪达到了95,000到100,000美元之间,已经非常接近该校MBA专业2014级毕业生平均110,000美元的起薪。)

德克萨斯大学麦库姆斯商学院的商业分析硕士项目去年只招收60名学生,但它一共收到了650份入学申请。就大学毕业后直接进入该项目就读的学生而言,毕业后的平均起薪(2013年和2014年)约为75,000美元。而两个班级所有学生的起薪中值约为89,000美元。相比之下,该校2014年MBA毕业生的起薪为107,000美元。在该校商业分析专业的硕士毕业生中,除了一名学生以外,所有人都在毕业后60天内找到了工作。

要想从商学院拿到一个专业硕士学位,一般来说要比读MBA便宜得多,这主要是由于专业硕士一般只需要读一年甚至更短。但专业硕士的学费并不便宜。比如,在纽约大学斯特恩商学院,三个硕士项目每年的平均学费高达69,000美元。卡耐基梅隆大学泰珀商学院开设的计算金融学专业硕士项目长度为16个月,学费达到8万美元以上。

在美国排行前25名的商学院中,最便宜的专业硕士项目是信息系统学,提供该项目的有华盛顿大学福斯特商学院(33,000美元)和印第安那大学凯利商学院(34,500美元)。密歇根州立大学布劳德商学院的会计和市场研究硕士项目,对该州居民只收取30,000美元的学费。

在排名较高的商学院,专业硕士学生要想顺利毕业,也得花一番苦功才行。比如麦库姆斯商学院商业分析专业的系主任迈克尔•哈斯勒指出:“学生要在被压缩的时间段里刻苦学习。”该校商业分析专业每学期需要修满15个学时,而德克萨斯大学的其它9个研究生项目每学期一般只要求修满9个学时。

凯利商学院的菲利浦•鲍韦尔认为,苛刻的要求会给专业硕士项目带来有益的影响。“如果你推出一个比MBA更严格的项目,那么只有这种颠覆性的方法,才能给项目带来价值。我们认为,一个专业硕士项目要想获得成功,它在某些方面就需要比MBA更苛刻。”

另外,专业硕士项目一般会吸引来大量的国际学生。比如密歇根大学罗斯商学院供应链管理专业有90%的学生都是国际学生。加州大学洛杉矶分校安德森管理学院和卡耐基梅隆大学泰珀商学院的金融工程专业有80%是国际学生。杜克大学福库商学院的管理硕士专业有43%是国际学生,麦库姆斯商学院的商业分析硕士专业有37%是国际学生。

在美国商学院排行榜的中游,有相当一部分商学院开设了数量更为庞大的专业硕士项目。在Poets&Quants网站给出的美国商学院排行榜上,排名前25名的商学院中,只有3所开设了5个以上的专业硕士项目。而在排名第26到第50名的商学院中,有些商学院开设了相当多的专业硕士项目。比如排在第26名的南加州大学马歇尔商学院提供了11种专业硕士学位,排名第50的天普大学福克斯商学院提供了13种专业硕士学位。

排在前50强中下游的一些商学院除了开设传统的会计和金融等专业外,还提供了很多小众商业领域的专业硕士学位,比如南加州大学马歇尔商学院除了开设金融学和营销学的专业硕士学位,还提供医疗管理硕士、图书馆信息管理硕士和资深商业硕士等学位。天普大学福克斯商学院开设的专业既包括营销、会计和商业分析等热门学科,也包括网络安全和精算学等较为小众的学科。

实际上,如果你认真检索一下排名在全美50强中下游的商学院,你几乎能找到适合任何职业方向的专业硕士项目,从加州大学欧文分校梅里吉商学院的生物工程管理硕士,到威斯康星商学院的全球不动产硕士,再到南卫理公会大学库克斯商学院的运动管理硕士,再到乔治华盛顿大学的政府合同硕士——总有一款专硕适合你。

专业硕士项目的遍地开花,以及班级规模的扩大,也是一系列因素共同影响的结果。首先对于学生来说,很多大学毕业生都想迅速“镀金”,在求职时将自己和其他本科毕业生区别开来。而对企业来说,科技的进步使每个领域的竞争都在加剧,企业也想雇佣能够立竿见影产出成果的员工,不想耗费时间对其进行岗前培训。

不过,商学院咨询机构Eduvantis公司的创始人蒂姆•维斯特贝克也提醒道,有意申请专业硕士项目的学生必须警醒,市面上的专硕项目鱼龙混杂,不乏一些教学质量低劣的鱼目混珠之辈,这些低质量的专硕学位并不会给学生带来他们想要的成果。

“有人到一所商学院读书,结果学校却说:‘唉,我们还以为这是一个提供专硕项目的很好领域呢……但是事实证明我们的竞争力有问题。’这种情况并不鲜见。” 维斯特贝克说。

维斯特贝克指出,这些问题之所以会发生,几乎都是由于商学院的管理者们对本地的市场情况关注不够造成的——一方面是对学生就业市场关注不足,另一方面则是对商学院的竞争环境关注不足。

印第安那大学凯利商学院的菲利浦•鲍韦尔对许多教育机构的专业硕士学位抱有更谨慎的态度。

鲍韦尔是凯利商学院“凯利直通”在线专业硕士项目的负责人,他表示:“有些商学院不顾一切地推出了专业硕士项目,他们想挣一笔快钱。考虑到这些商学院的做法,真正设计得非常优秀的专硕项目其实是非常稀缺的。就连一些优秀的商学院也打算推出质量较差的专硕项目。”

鲍韦尔认为,专业硕士的快速膨胀,在很大程度上与MBA学位的需求下滑有关。“MBA成本的增长速度超过了它所能带来的效益。不论何时,当这种情况在一个市场中发生,都会给那些能提供更好价值的替代品创造更大需求。而目前MBA的机会成本已经太高了。”

鲍韦尔指出,一个专业硕士项目要想取得成功,首先必须解决就业安置的问题。“从一开始就要考虑最后的问题,而不是简单地把几门课程打包在一块,希望学生来上课。”然而不幸的是,现在很多商学院都是这样做的。

鲍韦尔表示:“就算这个市场没有饱和,也很快就会饱和了。但我认为,只要有了设计得很优秀的专业硕士项目,就不用害怕市场饱和。”(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

审校:任文科

For many mid-tier business schools, the last few years have been tough.

The hyper growth of the MBA degree, making it the most popular graduate degree in the U.S., has stalled. Some schools, including Wake Forest University and Simmons College, have recently pulled out of the full-time, on-campus MBA market after years of declining applications and enrollment. And only three months ago, Rochester University’s Simon School of Business slashed the price of its two-year MBA by nearly 14%. Meantime, enrollment in many part-time MBA programs—long a profit-making mainstay of business education—has been sliding as well.

Against this sobering backdrop, however, alternatives to an MBA are multiplying in business schools, as increasing numbers of specialized master’s degree programs offer a quick ticket to a job. Since around 2009, top schools have been adding such programs at a dizzying pace, both in traditional fields such as finance and marketing as well as in hot fields such as business analytics and big data and a broad spectrum of other business niches.

Half of the top-25 schools have unveiled new specialized master’s programs in the past three years, and they’ve been attracting huge numbers of applicants. Globally, more than a fifth of prospective business students are focused exclusively on specialized master’s programs, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.

But business school insiders warn that some schools see the increasingly popular master’s degrees as a license to print money, and may not provide the outcomes students desire.

For people considering graduate business education, a specialized master’s presents an opportunity for a jumpstart into business, and keeps open the possibility of getting an MBA later, when advancement or a movement into general management may require it. Many programs are aimed at recent college graduates, while a smaller number offer an early- or mid-career boost.

“We don’t see these programs as sort of ‘MBA lite,’” says Eric Johnson, Dean of the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management. “They really are much closer to undergraduate programs on steroids.”

Six fields dominate the specialty master’s programs at the top 50 U.S. business schools: accounting, business analytics, finance, management, financial engineering, and supply chain management.

Most programs require the GMAT or GRE exam, but unlike MBA programs significant work experience is often not necessary, although technical degrees generally have undergraduate-level course or degree prerequisites for enrollment.

Employment rates and starting salaries for specialty master’s graduates of the top-ranked schools tend to be reasonably high, and are also strong in many mid-tier schools. The UCLA Anderson School of Management added a master’s in financial engineering in 2008. Among Class of 2014 graduates, 93% had found jobs within three months of graduation, up from 75% in 2010. Average starting base salary for the 2014 class was $85,000 (a drop from previous years—it had been $95,000 to $100,000 between 2010 and 2013, much closer to the Anderson MBA Class of 2014’s $110,000).

In the University of Texas McCombs School’s business analytics MS program—which last year had 650 applications for a 60-seat cohort—starting salaries for graduates who had come straight into the program from college was $75,000 for 2013 and 2014, with a median salary of $89,000 among all students in the two classes. The school’s 2014 MBAs, in contrast, received starting pay of $107,000. All but one of the graduates of the two business analytics classes were employed by 60 days after finishing the program.

Getting a specialized master’s degree from a business school is generally much less costly than getting an MBA, mostly because it usually takes a year or less. But tuition is not cheap. Three of the master’s programs at NYU Stern School of Business run at around $69,000 for the year.

Carnegie Mellon University’s 16-month MS in computational finance, housed at the Tepper School of Business, costs more than $80,000.

The least expensive programs offered by Top 25 schools are the master’s in information systems, from the University of Washington Foster School of Business, at $33,000, and from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, at $34,500. Michigan State Broad College of Business runs accounting and marketing research master’s programs with tuition less than $30,000 for state residents.

Master’s programs in highly ranked B-schools tend to be arduous. “We’re working folks very, very hard in a compressed time frame,” says Michael Hasler, director of the McCombs business analytics program, which demands 15 credit hours per semester, compared to the typical load of nine in other University of Texas graduate programs.

The Kelley School’s Philip Powell believes rigor adds impact to a master’s program. “If you can introduce a program more rigorous than an MBA, that’s a disruptive way to think about an MS program, and that’s the way to deliver value,” Powell says. “We’ve learned that if an MS program is going to be successful, in some ways it needs to be tougher than the MBA.”

The specialized programs generally attract large numbers of international students. The University of Michigan Ross School of Business master’s in supply chain management students are about 90% international. Financial engineering programs at UCLA Anderson and Carnegie Mellon Tepper attract some 80% foreign students, while the master’s in management at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business attracts 43% internationals, and business analytics at McCombs takes in 37%.

Moving down the rankings from the top, the number of specialty master’s programs swells. Among Poets&Quants‘ top 25 business schools, only three have five or more specialized master’s programs, while more than half of the next 25 schools offer them, some in vast numbers: the USC Marshall School of Business, ranked 26th, has 11 degrees, and the No. 50 Temple University Fox School of Business has a whopping 13.

Also in the lower half of the top 50 are offerings in many niche fields, on top of the more widely available degrees in areas such as accounting and finance. USC Marshall, for example, confers master’s degrees in finance and marketing, but also in medical management, business for veterans, and management in library and information science. Temple Fox’s lineup covers popular fields such as marketing, accountancy, and business analytics, and also narrower areas including cyber security and actuarial science.

In fact, once you get down into the lower half of the top 50 B-schools, you’ll find a program for just about any career direction, from biotechnology management at the U.C. Irvine Merage School, to global real estate at the Wisconsin School of Business, to sport management at SMU’s Cox School, to government contracts at George Washington University.

Specialty programs have been multiplying and growing in class size as a result of a confluence of factors. On the student side, there’s growing demand among college graduates who want a quick boost that will differentiate them from others with undergraduate degrees. On the employer side, technological advancement has ratcheted up competition in every sector, and companies want to hire employees who can start producing right away, with little or no training.

But would-be specialty master’s students beware: among the many useful programs are a few that were ill-conceived, and are less likely to give graduates the outcomes they want, warns Tim Westerbeck, founder of the business school consulting firm Eduvantis.

“It is not an uncommon situation to go into a school that says, ‘Gosh, we thought this was a really good area to offer a program in…but it turns out we’re having trouble competing,’” Westerbeck says.

Almost always, when there are problems it is because school administrators have not paid enough heed to local market conditions: both the job market for students, and the competitive environment with other schools, Westerbeck says.

Indiana University Kelley School of Business’s Philip Powell is even warier of the specialized master’s degree at many institutions.

“It’s an act of desperation by some business schools,” says Powell, faculty chair of the “Kelley Direct” online MS programs. “They want to make a quick buck. Given the way business schools act, the market’s going to be really scarce with really well-designed MS programs. Even the quality schools are going to launch bad MS programs.”

Powell attributes the explosion of specialized master’s programs in large part to declining demand for MBA degrees. “The cost of the MBA has risen faster in real terms than the benefits, and anytime that happens in a market that’s going to open up demand for alternatives that give a better value proposition. Opportunity cost of the residential MBA, it’s just gotten too high,” Powell says.

To be successful with an MS program, a school has to start with the question of career placement, Powell says. “You begin with the end in mind; you just don’t slap courses together and hope students show up, ” he says.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of schools who are doing that.

“If we’re not saturated we’re quickly going to be saturated,” Powell says. “But I don’t think we’re going to be saturated with the smartly designed MS programs I’m talking about.”

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