In this episode of Business Casual, our hosts discuss the growing popularity of the Master’s in Management (MIM) degree. The MIM degree is becoming the predominant graduate degree in business in Europe and is attracting humanities graduates who struggle to find employment.
While MIM programs are well-established in Europe, they are still relatively new in the United States, raising some questions that you might find answers to in this episode. The conversation explores the differences between MIM and MBA degrees, the benefits of MIM programs for students with non-business backgrounds, and the potential complementarity of MIM and MBA degrees.
[00:00:07.770] – John
Well, hello, everyone. This is John Vernon with poets and quants. Welcome to Business Casual, our weekly podcast with my co hosts Caroline Diarte Edwards and Maria Wich Vila. We’re going to talk about a degree that is gaining in popularity in the US. And is the predominant graduate degree in business in Europe. It’s the master’s in management. What separates a MIM from an MBA? We’ll tell you in a few moments, but generally, if you graduated from an undergraduate institution with one of those wonderful degrees like I did in Political Science or English, I double majored, or maybe you majored in philosophy or geography or any one of the humanities subjects, and you are finding it difficult to locate a job. The MIM is where it basically shows you how to get not only a job, but land one in a company that no longer has the kind of rotational training programs that companies once did. Back into the 1980s, many companies reduced many layers of management and training programs for newly graduated people with geography, English, political Science, and other degrees kind of went away. Companies began disinvesting in those kind of training programs, hoping to get graduates who they could hire and who could contribute in the job from day one.
[00:01:42.660] – John
And this is what has made really, the Master’s in Management so popular. It is a pre experienced degree can be anywhere from one year to even three in some cases, and it really prepares you for a role in business. Companies in Europe. Love MIMs. In fact, many of the MIM programs at the business schools are more selective than their full time residential MBA programs in the US. Probably the highest ranked MBA program with a MIM is Kellogg at Northwestern. The degree is proliferating in the US. And is considered to be a big growth area for US. Business schools. Caroline, what’s the difference really, between a MIM and an MBA?
[00:02:29.390] – Caroline
There are a lot of different flavors of MIMs, so it does depend on which school and which program that you’re looking at. So, for example, the INSEAD Masters in Management, it’s a pre experience program versus the full time MBA, for which students typically have, on average, five to six years of work experience. And so the Masters in Management is actually a little bit longer, so it’s 14 to 16 months, whereas the full time MBA is ten to twelve months. And that reflects the fact that with the full time MBA program, the faculty can really rely on the fact that students coming into the classroom have really rich and deep professional experience that they can draw on and they can relate what they’re learning to their previous experience and give it that context very quickly. Whereas students who are coming in straight from undergraduate, I’m sure that they’ve done internships. A lot of them would have done internships and would already have start to build their resume. But of course, they won’t have the same length of professional experience that the MBAs would have. And so it’s necessary to just take things a little bit more slowly and start from an earlier point in some of those classes.
[00:03:49.170] – Caroline
And so it makes sense to take things to expand the program over a longer period. And I think it’s a wonderful option. It gives students a great, as you said, a great entry point into the marketplace. It gives them a wonderful credential. It’s not just an academic experience. The schools will also work with students on figuring out their career plans and connecting them with employers. And so it’s a great springboard into the marketplace, into the workforce, and into recruitment opportunities. So, a great way to transition from an undergraduate degree, as you said earlier, John, particularly in Europe, a few years back, the European Union restructured the undergraduate degrees to harmonize undergraduate programs because there was a lot of variability in Europe, with some undergraduate programs being very long. In Germany, even sort of five, six years was not at all uncommon and some very short. So in the UK, typically three years. So there was an effort to harmonize the undergraduate degree across Europe, and that led to a lot more students coming out of their undergraduate degrees at an earlier age. And this fed an appetite for pre experienced Master’s degrees. And so this is also responding to that need, particularly in Europe, where students feel that after three years, they don’t feel quite yet done with their education.
[00:05:23.380] – Caroline
And they see these programs as a great way to transition from perhaps a very academic learning environment, as you said. Perhaps they’ve been studying English or history or something quite abstract, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself immediately to a professional career. And therefore, taking a Master’s in management would be a wonderful way to transition and build a great foundation of skills so that they can then make that successful transition into the workforce.
[00:05:55.970] – John
And you learn to speak the language of business. I mean, if you’re an English undergrad and you go into the marketplace, you have no idea what return on equity is, how stock markets work, how the global economy is interdependent. You just have no basic knowledge of how business operates. And business does have a language, and learning that language is important if you’re going to get a job at a company. Maria, what’s your take on MIM?
[00:06:28.210] – Maria
So my take on it is, I think, for Europe, for all the reasons that Caroline explained, I think it makes a lot of sense in some ways. I’ve always sort of viewed the MIM degree as an opportunity for people who, perhaps, as you mentioned earlier, John, get to the end of their undergraduate careers and realize, oh, my gosh, maybe I do want to pursue a career in business, but I didn’t study it. Or I didn’t have the opportunity to study it before, but I don’t want to go back and redo my bachelor’s degree, but I don’t have experience. I’m too young for an MBA. So it’s always seemed to me to be sort of like a stop gap. It’s not quite an MBA, but it’s not quite a full bachelor’s. And so I think it’s a great opportunity for people to make that transition. I know in the States, for example, in the past, because as you mentioned, the MIM in the States is not as popular, but for example, if you were an English major or political science major and you got a job, say, at McKinsey, that’s what the Tuck, the Dartmouth Tuck Business Bridge program used to be.
[00:07:20.520] – Maria
The corporations would send these recent graduates to it was significantly shorter than a full Master’s, but it was sort of like, I think a ten or twelve week type of program on the Tuck campus. And it would be full time and it would be kind of like a crash course and all of the business fundamentals that they would need, for example, to get in front of a client and talk about things like return on equity. And so I think the MIM in the US. It’s interesting that it’s starting to emerge because I’d be curious to learn more from Caroline. Is it more of a standardized experience in Europe? Because it has been around for longer? Because I think one of the trickier things with the US. Landscape is that there doesn’t seem to be a complete standardization. Like, some schools will have the Master’s in Asset Management and some schools will have the Masters in Management Science or Masters in Management data analytics. There doesn’t seem to be sort of a cohesive curriculum, whereas with an MBA, while the electives may vary pretty dramatically from school to school, the core MBA and what is an MBA program is very well known in the US.
[00:08:21.790] – Maria
But I think with the Master’s degrees there’s, like the Master’s in Finance, that’s MIT Sloan, that’s 18 months. But then they have a Master’s in Management Science, I think it’s called. That’s nine months. It’s sort of all over the place. So do you happen to know do either one of you happen to know if in Europe it’s already a little bit more of an established curriculum and everyone sort of universally knows what the MIM is?
[00:08:47.290] – John
Or is it yeah, I think that’s true in Europe, definitely, because it’s so popular and there are so many of them in the US. If you talk to directors of MIM programs I had a recent interview with the head of the MIM program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School, and she admits that there’s an education job here. Both the market, as defined by aspiring students as well as employers need to be educated about the degree and what its value is because it’s still very early on in the US. Market. And I think you’re right, there could be a lot of confusion with a lot of the other specialty master’s degrees that are out there. And this is quite a different and distinct product because it really just gives you the fundamentals of what a business education is. I mean, the basic accounting, finance, marketing strategy, and then some capstone project typically, that allows you to integrate those basic skills in a project of one kind or another. And different schools have different flavors of this. But I see most of this as pretty commoditized. Now At Paris has just done an entire revamp of its Masters in Management program to emphasize ESG issues.
[00:10:10.370] – John
And that’s kind of interesting too, because particularly in Europe, and I will say Europe is ahead of the United States in terms of sustainability and ESG. And a lot of the European schools and their MIMs have this emphasis, but not to the extent that HEC has gone to develop it. In part after conversations with incoming students, alumni and employers who see sustainability and all the other issues related to governance and the role of business and society as key drivers of new business graduates and what motivates them and what they need to be thinking about, what kind of skills they need to bring to the workplace. So I do think that while the knowledge is generally commoditized, there are some changes afoot, particularly in Europe, that are the result of demand from incoming students and from employers. Even in Europe, the programs are growing because it’s only recently that INSEAD and IESE and Barcelona launched MIM programs even though they’re so well established in Europe. So even in Europe, the classes are expanding in enrollment and new and very great schools. I mean, IESE and Barcelona and INSEAD are among the top five world business schools and they’re just only getting into the MIM game.
[00:11:43.620] – John
So there’s no doubt that this degree seems to be in demand and has great value. I mean, Caroline, why do you think INSEAD waited so long, in fact, to enter that market?
[00:11:56.340] – Caroline
Well, I think they were waiting to see how things panned out in the market. I think there was also some hesitancy to launch a program for pre experienced students because the school, the MBA is the average age is 28 29. So it’s quite different to be addressing an audience that is straight out of undergrad. It’s a very different group. So I think that there was some hesitancy about bringing in that group and concerned that it would be a very different type of student. But actually the experience has been extremely positive. It’s been very successful. The MIM students at Ins yet are a wonderful group of actually surprisingly mature young students. And I think the school is thrilled with how it’s gone. But it was definitely a different program. And also initially, when MIMs began to emerge, the price point was quite low compared to full time MBA programs. And so I think the school was also figuring out how to potentially launch a program that really fit with INSEAD, where it’s really a premium product and they weren’t going to offer a heavily discounted program just for the sake of launching that particular program and competing in that market.
[00:13:36.310] – John
Yeah, that all makes sense. I should let everyone know. And this is kind of interesting that Caroline is about to embark on a journey that every parent ends up doing. She is bringing one of her children, a daughter, on a college trip. And I wonder if Caroline might theorize about what major you would like your daughter to undertake when she does get into one of the schools that you will visit over the next couple of weeks. Do you want it to be humanities major and then maybe get a MIM? Or would you prefer that she just enrolled in a business school and get that business degree and move forward with that?
[00:14:17.810] – Caroline
Well, I am definitely not going to tell her what she should study. She’s extremely headstrong and I will be put in my place very quickly if I try to express my reference. She’s actually very interested in psychology, which I think could be a very interesting course of study and also could be relevant to a lot of different future career paths. But I really don’t care. I just want her to study something that she loves doing and whatever that is is absolutely fine with me. I have no particular direction I’m trying to push her in at all, but.
[00:15:00.530] – John
I do with two parents who have MBAs from world’s leading schools, Stanford and INSEAD. I’m sure that an MBA is in her future, no matter what her major is at undergrad.
[00:15:11.020] – Caroline
Well, I don’t know. So she actually doesn’t particularly show an inclination that direction. But my third child is already trying to figure out how she can start a business, so I do have some hope for her. But I would actually be thrilled if one of my kids did want to do a program like the MIM one day, because thinking back to my own experience, I studied French and German undergrad and French and German at the university where I studied was I was studying medieval German, right? And it was a very academic program. And so then I went to work in consulting in London. As you said, John, it’s a whole different language that you have to learn. And the firm that I worked for, they had to invest a huge amount in training those recruits, right, because they recruited young talent from top universities. But a lot of people like me, who had been studying something that was completely unrelated to the world of business and didn’t necessarily have a lot of experience, relevant experience, it’s tough on the employer because they have to invest a lot of money in that training and it’s a huge learning curve for that young professional.
[00:16:26.310] – Caroline
So I think something like a Min would have been a great experience for me. So I would personally be thrilled if one of my kids went in that direction in the future. And it doesn’t preclude you doing an MBA later on, either. I did talk to the admissions director, Lindsay, about that. Is that something do you see that it’s kind of a completely different program, and someone who does a MIM would therefore not be a good candidate for an MBA, because haven’t they covered a lot of the same curriculum? Actually, what they’re seeing is that the programs can be complementary because the MBA, you have a lot of different electives. You’re addressing things from a different level at that stage. And so they actually are seeing people who’ve done the MIM who are interested in then coming back and doing an MBA later on. So I don’t think having a MIM precludes you then from doing an MBA at a great school later on.
[00:17:26.750] – John
Yeah, really good point. Maria, any last words on the MIM?
[00:17:32.110] – Maria
No, I’m excited for it to start to take off more in the US. Because there’s such a variety of masters in finance, masters in asset management, like in the US. And I do wish that there would be some standardization because I think that would be more helpful for the schools, for students, for educating the marketplace, as you mentioned. John right. It’s one thing if I’m a recruiter and I know what I’m getting with a MIM. A graduate versus a Master’s in quantitative finance versus a Master’s in Finance versus a Master’s in asset management. Like, there are just so many different ones in the US. And yeah, I do think that based on the MIM curriculum, it’s very similar to it’s the same thing where I took accounting and finance and a bunch of classes like that in college. And when you’re in undergraduate, I suspect the MIM might be very similar where it is more about the mechanics of here’s how you build a balance sheet, here’s how you build a PNL, here’s how you depreciate an asset versus when you get to business school. You are looking at it from a much higher level.
[00:18:28.900] – Maria
And so at first I thought, wow, I already took accounting in college. Why is business school forcing me to take it again? That’s annoying. But it was a completely different ballgame. It was less about the definitions and the mechanics of it and more about here’s how a management team can use accounting and the principles of accounting to manage their overall business. So I don’t think that there may be some overlap in the course titles. However, I believe the way in which the coursework is examined is very different between the two programs. So I’m excited for all of these opportunities for people to learn more.
[00:18:59.540] – John
True. And I should point out that the Financial Times has been ranking MIM programs for a number of years. That ranking tends to be pretty European centric. Very few us. Schools have participated in it. So it’s not a full list globally, but it’s a really good indication of sort of the MIM landscape, particularly in Europe. And you can come to Poets and Quants and you will see. What we tried to do is to look at the top US. Schools and determine who is already offering a MIM and how do they differ from each other, what do they cost, how long do they last, what schools are in the game, and how do they teach this subject to pre experienced students. So I think you can benefit from that. Check out our story, online now at Poets and Quants on the best MIM programs in the US. Meantime, thanks for listening. This is John Byrne with Poets and Quants. You’ve been hearing our Business Casual podcast with Maria and Caroline.