Half a century ago, London Business School launched a new programme that created a global trend among business schools: a 12-month master’s degree in leadership and strategy. After its success, companies urged the school to develop programmes with specialized academic and technical knowledge—like a first-of-its-kind master of finance degree that LBS debuted in 1993.
Since that early beginning, specialized master’s programmes have grown in popularity, first across Europe and more recently in North America, attracting tens of thousands of students fresh from undergraduate business schools seeking specific skills to launch their careers. These programmes also draw students from other disciplines—engineering, the arts, science—seeking to broaden their marketability and apply their skills in a business context.
WashU Olin Business School has been a leader in creating innovative specialized master’s programmes that meet the market’s needs and attract students. We were very early to market with a master of science degree in customer analytics, for example, which expanded last year into three additional analytics tracks focused on healthcare, supply chain and financial technology.
Our strategic plan calls for continuing that expansion, adding to our existing suite of SMPs with more programmes that anticipate demand in the marketplace and attract new students to a quality business education.
“There is huge demand for this. It’s one of the areas where we see the most growth,” said Ohad Kadan, vice dean for education and globalization at Olin, who is spearheading our expansion efforts. “If you look at our mission to provide world-changing business education, this fills a void. It’s developing and we have robust demand.”
In the near term, we are adding two tracks this fall—accounting and talent analytics—to our business analytics programme. Both are already drawing very robust application numbers that are, frankly, exceeding expectations.
The success of our business analytics programme—and our intention to expand that area—is a tribute to the work Seethu Seetharaman, director of the programme, has done in creating a rigorous curriculum, preparing students and attracting practicum projects from partner businesses.
Looking out a little further, we also plan to introduce a new master of science degree in administration, MSB, expected to launch in fall 2020. While the MBA is largely designed for students with several years of career experience, this new MSB degree fits the mould of other specialized master’s degrees, targeting students before they begin or early in their career journeys.
We expect this new degree to be highly attractive to arts and science students who want to get the basics of a business education in order to apply their skills and launch their careers.
I’m also excited by the opportunity this degree may present for the terrific students who already attend other schools at WashU. This is an opportunity for undergraduates to build on their achievements by gaining a background in economics, finance, accounting and other aspects of business management.
It will also allow some degree of specialism in areas like marketing, finance, and so on, so that, for example, a student with an arts background might graduate with an MSB with marketing, giving them an edge in gaining employment in that field.
These are only the innovations we have in the active planning stages right now. Expect more to come—including an expansion of the global master of finance programme that will offer students the opportunity to get a joint degree from more international business schools beyond the five partners we already have.
As Ohad noted earlier, I consider these additions to Olin’s curriculum an important service to the marketplace for highly trained, thoughtful business leaders. When I think about our vision and mission to provide world-changing education and research, this is the sort of thing I’m proud we’re working on at WashU Olin.
Pictured above: Seethu Seetharaman teaches business analytics courses and is director of the master of science in business analytics. He is also director of the Center for Analytics and Business Insights.