What’s the Best Management Master’s Degree for Working Professionals?
Looking for a master’s in management to advance your career? Here are five questions you should ask.
After more than 20 years in the workforce, Karen Bishop was understandably nervous about returning to school for a master’s degree in management.
“I got my bachelor’s degree in 1992,” says Bishop, a human resources professional for Cabot Corporation (a global leader in the specialty chemical industry). “It’s been many years since I was in school. But I’ve always enjoyed learning, and I’ve taken a lot of professional development and continuing education classes over the years.”
Still, Bishop had gaps in her knowledge that kept her from advancing to senior levels of leadership—gaps that only a business master’s degree could fill.
“I was comfortable speaking in high-level meetings on anything directly related to HR,” Bishop explains. “But I didn’t have the confidence to offer an opinion about HR-related issues that overlapped with finance, accounting, supply chain or other areas. I needed to broaden my perspective so I could become a better advocate for HR.”
She investigated MBA programs and spoke to other working professionals who’ve gone back to school for graduate business degrees. But Bishop discovered the perfect match in the master’s of management program at Merrimack College.
“I went to an open house and met some of the faculty,” she says, “and they were very accommodating. They took the time to understand what I was looking for professionally, and explained how I could get what I needed out of the program.”
There was also the fact that TFE Times lists Merrimack’s management master’s degree as one of the 10 best in the nation.
“I’ve reached the point in my career where I need more,” she says. “Not more money - more responsibility. More job satisfaction. More of a voice in the big decisions that affect our company.”
Find a Management Master’s Degree That Works for You
After just one year as a part-time graduate business student at Merrimack, Bishop is already seeing the benefits.
“It’s just what I was looking for,” says Bishop, who’s still employed full-time at Cabot. “After so many years as a working professional, I’m a little out of my element on a college campus. But the faculty and staff are helping me choose classes and get everything I need. Merrimack doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all management degree. It’s a very personalized approach.”
For working adults like Bishop, flexibility and customization are crucial factors in selecting a management master’s degree. Midcareer students come from a diverse range of organizations, industries and professional backgrounds, and they have varying schedules and demands on their time.
As she shopped for a master’s in management degree, Bishop asked questions such as:
- How big are the classes? Merrimack College’s small classes appealed to Bishop, who sought lots of faculty attention as she transitioned back to school. She also wanted to interact with fellow students rather than simply take notes in a large lecture hall.
- Do courses emphasize professional practice? Because she intended to keep working while earning her management master’s degree, Bishop sought courses that focused on real-world scenarios more than academic theory. Merrimack’s practice-based curriculum allows her to examine work challenges in the classroom, and to take classroom concepts into the workplace and apply them immediately.
- Do faculty have industry backgrounds? On her first visit to Merrimack, Bishop talked extensively with professor Bruce Han, who spent nearly a decade working for corporations such as Eastman Kodak and TRW. She chose Merrimack’s graduate management program in part because most of the faculty are professional peers who’ve worked in organizations that resemble her own.
- Will the program conflict with my work schedule? While Merrimack offers an online management master’s degree that can fit into almost any schedule, Bishop chose the traditional on-campus format. She sought the face-to-face camaraderie of in-person learning, and Merrimack’s one-evening-a-week course schedule complemented her work hours.
- How long does it take to complete the degree? If she’d been in a hurry to finish the management master’s program, Bishop could have graduated in less than a year. Because she sought to preserve her work-life balance, she opted for a part-time schedule that lets her complete the degree over two to three years.
“It’s very personalized,” Bishop says. “My adviser has been incredibly supportive, and every instructor is very helpful, very available. There are hundreds of other business students at Merrimack, but they make me feel like I’m really important.”
“I’ve reached the point in my career where I need more. Not more money - more responsibility. More job satisfaction. More of a voice in the big decisions that affect our company.”
― Karen Bishop, MS Management ’20