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MBA vs Master Degree (MIM): Masters in Management Alternatives or Substitutes?

By Thomas Graf



Can Master in Management (MIM) programs be alternatives to the Master of Business Administration (MBA)? What is the difference between Master in Management (MIM) programs and Master in Business Administration (MBA) programs? Of course MIM and MBA have similarities – because both are postgraduate management programs – but still differ in several aspects. Here are the key differences.


Key Differences between MIM and MBA

1. Age

MIM programs usually do not require professional experience although they are open to young professionals who have been working for some time, mostly up to a year. As a result, the Master in Management students are generally much younger than fulltime MBA students, at some schools the average age is 23 years (with a range from 20 to about 27 years) compared to the average age of 27 to 32 in MBA programs.

2. Professional experience

Professional experience of Master in Management students does not play a major role during the studies, whereas MBA programs gain a lot of value from the professional experience the students bring into the course discussions. In a nutshell: Master in Management programs are primarily designed for talents in their early career stages right after their undergraduate degree or after about one year in job. MBA programs, by contrast, target people with a minimum of two or three years of professional experience.



3. Tuition fees

As for the tuition fees, the Master in Management programs are cheaper than MBA programs. Whereas the most expensive fulltime MBA program in Europe – offered by the London Business School – sums up to over € 70,000 (August 2013), the most expensive MIM programs cost only about half of that. This may have to do with the different target groups: young people who have not yet been able to earn and save much money on the MIM side, and experienced people in or aiming at leadership positions on the MBA side.

4. Curriculum and content

According to the Global MIM Survey 2012, Master in Management and MBA programs overlap by about 30 percent. Both program types provide an overview of general management topics, foster team work, and use case studies to simulate real-world situations.

The Master in Management (MIM), however, focuses more on the theoretical side of the management field than the MBA. You may find subjects that require strong mathematical or analytical skills and the final dissertation may be research-oriented. This is the case for many Master of Science in Management programs (M.Sc.), and particularly when they require a first degree in business or economics. Accordingly, the MIM also provides theoretical fundamentals of management research and may even qualify for a PhD program.

By contrast, MBA programs primarily emphasize the practical side. In an MBA program, for instance, you may never ask for the origins of accounting techniques such as the EVA (Economic Value Added, (c) Stern Stewart) but focus only on its appliance, instead. After having covered core subjects on managerial functions such as finance or accounting, you will concentrate on more integrative courses and analyze business cases from the practical position of managers. You may work on in-company projects integrated in your studies or engage in a business plan competition. Instead of a final dissertation, you may present a consultancy project rooted in real-world businesses and, by that, demonstrate what you have learnt throughout the program.


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5. Admissions criteria

  • GMAT: For MBA programs, business schools attach great importance to the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) - particularly, when the school or program is renowed or highly ranked. Though many schools also offer the GRE or their own on-campus tests as alternatives, the GMAT is still an important means to select MBA students. Also for MIM programs, business schools seem to increasingly require the GMAT. According to the Global MIM Survey 2012, 40 percent of the MIM programs require the GMAT - even though individual interviews with MIM program managers indicate that the grade in the first academic degree is considered as more important than the GMAT.
  • Professional experience: As a general rule of thumb, MBA programs do require professional experience whereas MIM program do not. There are Master of Business or Management programs, of course, that target senior managers (Search for Masters in Management for Executives here). Following the Financial Times Master in Management Ranking and to avoid confusion in terminology, however, we treat only Masters in Management as "MIM programs" that are open for graduates without professional experience. 
  • Academic background: MBA programs are open for graduates (with work experience) from any academic background. MIM programs are similar but different. About one third explicitly targets graduates with an academic background in business or economics. The other two thirds can be split into three groups: one group is open for people with a business or economics degree and also for people from some other (often social sciences) disciplines that have a strong methodological education (psychology, physics, sociology etc.); the second group is open for graduates from all academic areas; and the last group explicitly targets graduates without a first degree in business or economics. 

6. Reputation

The MBA is the traditional degree for postgraduate studies in management. Therefore, the MBA is still more known among HR managers than the MIM. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to expect MIM programs gain popularity due to their increasing profileration: 83 percent of the institutions that offer MIM programs face an increasing number of applications. As for the reputation of the two programs two points can be made at the moment:

  • First, the MIM is primarily a European phenomenon as 68 percent are offered in Europe - even though US business schools such as Thunderbird are catching up. Presumably most US firms will assess the MBA as more valuable than the MIM if they know the latter at all.
  • Second and maybe more important, MBA and MIM are degrees for different target groups - the former for young professionals and professionals, the latter for graduates. Hence, it seems very likely that HR managers do not perceive MBA and MIM in competition to each other but as different degrees for different target groups who apply for different positions.

7. Career Perspectives

The Master in Management (MIM) is a degree for graduates without or with only little professional experience. Hence, Master in Management graduates start their first job after the MIM and, by this, apply for entry positions. By contrast, the MBA is for people who are in business already for several years. Hence, they will become "experienced hires" for companies and apply for more advanced jobs, for example leadership or management positions.

 

MIM - MBA: Which degree to choose?

Overall, the difference between Master in Management and MBA is important to consider. The Master in Management (MIM) is a further qualification for young, talented and ambitious people, who perceive their bachelor degree as not sufficient for their early career plans. MBA students, on the other side, usually have started their careers already and want or need new knowledge, analysis tools, and networking opportunities - for example to change their function or line of business, to meet the challenges of a promotion, or simply to increase their outside career options.

  • MIM vs MBA Masters degree in Management in a nutshell: The Master of Management (MIM) helps graduates to start a career while the Master of Business Administration (MBA) helps young professionals and professionals to enhance and develop their management career.
 

How to assess the quality of management programs

An interesting aspect when searching for general management programs such as the Master in Management (MIM) and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) is: How do you assess the quality of the program? Here are some tips:

  • Check the accreditations: AMBA certifies Management Programs, EQUIS and AACSB certify institutions. Once an institution has the EQUIS or AACSB accreditation all programs are automatically accredited too.
  • Check the relevant Rankings: the Financial Times Master in Management Ranking, the Financial Times Global MBA, Distance MBA, and Executive MBA Rankings, the Financial Times European Business School Rankings and also the Business Week MBA Ranking and the MBA Ranking of the Economist. In addition, make yourself familiar with the criteria by which the rankings are made. You can find these criteria in special reports published on the respective website.
  • Talk to your potential future employers: Do they know the school of your interest? Do they have experience with graduates from there? Do they actively recruit on campus? Which career paths do they offer with a MSc or MBA from that school?
  • Talk to Alumni of the program that you are interested in: Ask the Admissions department to bring you in contact with alumni with a minimum of one year after graduation. Ask them if they would do the program again and how they benefitted from it.
 

Recommended websites on the MBA

Master of Business Administration Compass

www.mba-compass.com: Your platform for finding MBA programs all over the world, founded by Thomas Graf. A special filter function allows you to search explicitly for programs that require the GMAT or alternative tests vs. programs that do not require such tests. Background articles, for instance a comparison of the MBA ranking methodologies of Financial Times, Businessweek, Economist, Forbes and US News as well as a Testimonial section with reports from MBA alumni. 

Bärbel Schwertfeger

www.schwertfeger-mba-channel.com: Website of the German journalist Bärbel Schwerfeger. Since 1985, Schwertfeger is publishing in Germany's most renowned newpapagers, magazines, and journals primarily in the area of business, management education, and personal development. Her website is full of background articles and news about business schools, MBA programs, and Executive Education. Mostly written in German but also including some English articles


Further links to MBA-related articles