Top Graduate Degrees in Business (2021)

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The last decade has seen an increase in the number of graduate business degree programs, and that includes more than just the MBA. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), specialized master’s degrees in business have gained ground, particularly among younger, less experienced candidates. GMAC’s 2020 Application Trends Survey found that 43 percent of business master’s programs reported growth of over 20 percent in applications in the last year.

Recent graduates and young professionals are exploring a wide variety of graduate business degrees in 2021. Some of these programs can be completed in as little as a year and for a fraction of the tuition of an on-campus MBA program. Yet they still lead to careers with high average salaries and a promising job outlook.

Getting a graduate business degree is one of the most lucrative decisions a person can make. But it also takes careful planning and consideration: which degree is the right one for you? To get the details on the best graduate degrees of 2021, read on.

Methodology

In selecting the best graduate business degrees of 2021, we used a mix of the following criteria:

  • Authoritatively Sourced: The data points below have been pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the General Management Admissions Council (GMAC).
  • Online Pedigree: Practically every university has some experience with online learning, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the highlighted programs below have a proven track record with innovation and experience when it comes to online education.
  • High Salary Potential: The careers associated with the degrees below all have a high median salary of $100,000 per year.
  • High Growth Potential: The BLS significantly revised its growth forecasts for the labor market after the Covid-19 pandemic, with the national average rate of growth for all professions now only 3.7 percent. Still, the degrees listed below lead to careers that outperform the average.

Please note that all median annual salaries (May 2019) and projected growth figures (2019-2029) are from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Master’s of Business Administration (MBA)

The MBA is still the king: according to GMAC research, it’s by far the most popular graduate business degree program. As a generalist degree, those who earn their MBA can enter into a wide range of business careers.

The core curriculum of an MBA program supplies a critical foundation of business knowledge in areas such as accounting, marketing, human resources, finance, strategy, and management; concentrations allow for MBA candidates to add further specialization in their area of interest. MBA graduates often go on to earn high salaries and enter leadership roles within their field.

  • Affiliated careers: General and operations managers, top executives, HR managers, marketing managers, and financial managers
  • Median annual salary: $100,780 (general and operations managers)
  • Projected growth: 6 percent (general and operations managers)

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

The MBA programs at UNC Kenan-Flagler are consistently ranked as some of the best in the world, and its online MBA was ranked best in the world for 2021 by US News and World Report.

In addition to the core curriculum, candidates can select from over two dozen elective options and add a concentration in data analytics and decision-making, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, or strategy and consulting. The program consists of 64 credits.

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Format: Online or Hybrid
  • Tuition: $66,840 per year
  • Duration: 18-36 months
Arvind-Malhotra

Featured Professor: Arvind Malhotra, PhD
Dr. Arvind Malhotra is the H. Allen Andrew Professor of Entrepreneurial Education and Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler. He received his PhD in business administration and MS in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Southern California.

Dr. Malhotra’s research is focused on crowdsourced innovation as a method of solving complex societal problems. He has consulted, conducted applied research with, or led executive development projects for the US Air Force, the US Navy, ExxonMobil, Sprint, ESPN, and others.
 

Other Programs of Note:

Master’s in Management

Originating in Europe, the master’s in management (MiM) degree is designed to help recent undergraduates jumpstart their careers in business leadership. MiM programs typically last no more than a year; other graduate-level management courses, such as an MS in management (MSM) or quantitative management (MSQM), may hew to their own timelines.

But graduate degrees in management generally require less work experience and less tuition than their MBA counterparts, making them an attractive option for young business professionals just beginning their careers.

  • Affiliated careers: Sales managers, HR managers, administrative services managers
  • Median annual salary: $126,640 (sales managers)
  • Projected growth: 4 percent (sales managers)

New York University Stern School of Business

NYU Stern’s online master of science in quantitative management (MSQM) is open to applicants of any undergraduate major and level of work experience. The degree provides graduates with a forward-thinking blend of business management foundations, leadership, and analytics. The classes are delivered online, asynchronously, with students attending two immersive four-day residencies on campus. The program consists of 33 credits.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $69,400 total
  • Duration: 20 months
Harry G

Featured Professor: Harry G. Chernoff, PhD
Dr. Harry G. Chernoff is the deputy chair of the department of technology, operations, and statistics at NYU Stern School of Business, where he is also a clinical professor of real estate and operations management. He received his MS in quantitative analysis and his PhD in operations management from Stern.

Dr. Chernoff has been a faculty member at Stern for over 30 years and earned numerous honors and awards for his excellence in teaching.
 
 

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science in Marketing

A master of science (MS) in marketing is a specialized degree program for those committed to marketing as a career. Usually lasting only a year, these are high-paced and focused programs that cover branding, consumer behavior, market research, product management, and public relations. Increasingly, MS in marketing programs are including data analytics as a key component of their curricula. Graduates of these programs go on to positions of marketing leadership positions in a wide range of industries.

  • Affiliated careers: Marketing managers, marketing analysts, marketing specialists
  • Median annual salary: $135,900 (marketing managers)
  • Projected growth: 6 percent (marketing managers)

Florida International University College of Business
The MS in Marketing program from FIU Business offers a curriculum that considers digital, branding, and analytics in every course. Along the way, students will earn certifications in Google Analytics, Tableau, and Lean Six Sigma. Graduates will be ready to launch careers as marketing managers, digital media specialists, and social media directors. The program consists of 30 credits.

  • Location: Miami, FL
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $27,500 total
  • Duration: 10 to 16 months
Yi Ju Chen

Featured Professor: Yi Ju Chen, PhD
Dr. Yi Ju Chen is a teaching professor in the department of marketing and logistics at FIU Business. She earned her MBA from California State University San Bernardino and her DBA from Argosy University. Dr. Chen’s research is focused primarily on consumer behavior and international marketing, and she teaches marketing courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
 
 
 

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science in Finance

A graduate degree in finance is for business professionals seeking to advance in finance-centric careers: financial advisors, financial analysts, financial managers, and insurance underwriters. These programs build upon undergraduate study of finance, going more in-depth than an MBA program would and preparing graduates to earn the Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) credential.

Within this degree, some specialization exists: beyond the MS in finance, there is the MS in quantitative finance (MSQF), the MS in risk management (MSRM), and the MS in financial analysis (MSFA).

  • Affiliated careers: Financial managers, financial analysts, financial advisors, insurance underwriters
  • Median annual salary: $129,860 (financial managers)
  • Projected growth: 15 percent (financial managers)

Boston University Metropolitan College

The online master of science in financial management (MSFM) program at BU’s Metropolitan College gives students specialized education in global finance, including investment analysis and international finance. Students may choose to add a concentration in either international finance or investment analysis. Metropolitan College is a participant in the CFA Institute University Affiliate Program, which acknowledges that the MSFM curriculum adequately prepares students for the CFA exam. The program consists of 40 credits.

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Accreditation: AACSB, CFA Institute
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $28,427 per semester
  • Duration: 18 to 24 months
Irena Vodenska

Featured Professor: Irena Vodenska, PhD
Dr. Irena Vodenska is an associate professor in finance at Boston University’s Metropolitan College, where she is also director of finance programs. She earned her MBA from Vanderbilt University and her PhD in econophysics (statistical finance) from Boston University.

Dr. Vodenska’s research primarily focuses on network theory and complexity science in macroeconomics. As a principal investigator (PI) for Boston University, she has won interdisciplinary research grants awarded by the European Commission and the National Science Foundation.
 

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science in Technology Management

A graduate degree in technology management, engineering management, or information technology gives graduates the ability to take on leadership roles in tech-oriented business teams.

These degree programs are generally for those with STEM-backgrounds who want to add business fundamentals; some programs may reverse the order of operations and cater to business professionals who want to learn more about the nuances of leading a tech organization. Graduate degrees in technology management can lead to lucrative careers at the top of the tech industry, with high salaries to match.

  • Affiliated careers: Computer and information systems managers, engineering managers, cybersecurity managers
  • Median annual salary: $146,360 (computer and information systems managers)
  • Projected growth: 10 percent

Columbia University School of Professional Studies

Columbia University’s master of science in technology management program gives new tech graduates the strategic and tactical skills they need to become leaders in their field. The program focuses on implementing and leveraging new tech, developing managerial and communication skills, and anticipating and adapting to emerging trends within the industry. Electives cover topics such as cybersecurity strategy; enterprise information security; raising capital; and modern database architecture. The program consists of 36 credits.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $2,266 per credit
  • Duration: 12 to 24 months
Arthur M

Featured Professor: Arthur M. Langer, EdD
Dr. Arthur M. Langer is the academic director of the MS in technology management program at Columbia University, where he is also a professor of professional practice. He is also the director of the Center for Technology Management.

Dr. Langer has numerous published articles and papers relating to IT organizational integration, mentoring, and staff development. Prior to joining the faculty at Columbia, Dr. Langer held leadership positions at Coopers & Lybrand, Software Plus, and Macco Software.
 

Other Programs of Note:

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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