Aug 20, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Love business but don't want an MBA?

There's always more than one way to do things. Students who opt for MBAs do so because they want to be business experts -- and they want the prestige that comes with those three letters after their name.

If you want that business expertise, but don't want the MBA, you have options. Lots of them. From alternative degree programs to creative ways of doing it on your own, you can learn the secrets of the MBA without having to get the degree. It just takes a bit of thought and planning.

Let's take a closer look at five alternatives to the MBA.

1. Mentorship

Business is about establishing relationships -- and so is business education.

Finding the right mentor has distinct advantages over the MBA. Benefit one? You find someone who truly cares about your career and its trajectory--someone to guide you through making tough decisions who can also open your eyes to new opportunities. 

A good mentor forces you to consider new opportunities that you may have not previously considered, based on his or her background. You may stretch yourself more if you try a suggestion or opportunity that your mentor organizes for you.

Want to push yourself? Find a mentor who wants to see you succeed, with some of the skills and experiences that you never knew you wanted.

2. MiM

Those seeking business education through a degree program other than an MBA may want to consider the degree's largest competitor: the Masters in Management or MiM.

MiM students are typically much younger than MBA students and do not have as much professional experience as MBA students. If you have been in a job for about a year, want additional business education, and are not ready for the commitment and professional development required for most MBA programs, consider this degree. 

Another perk? They have an international flavor -- you can get a MiM almost anywhere in the world, and learn business management and leadership skills at the international level.

3. Start your company

There is no better way to learn business than by doing. Just be ready to make a lot of mistakes. 

Starting up--at any level--requires management, leadership, planning, financial responsibility, and tech savvy.

Ask yourself? Do you want to spend $200,000 on an MBA? Or invest that money in your start-up?

4. Join an organization that trains leaders

Find a place to work that gives you the training and mentorship (see #1) that rivals the MBA. You will gain real-world experience, learn from leaders in the field, and learn by example.

One place that offers this opportunity? The military.

If that is not for you, consider taking an entry-level position at a high-end company that has leadership training programs. 

Companies like Amazon, AT&T, Marriott, and Google offer management training programs. Start small. Work your way up. Make connections--and make a career.

5. Specialized master’s degrees

If you are not quite ready to throw yourself into a start-up or on-site program, choose a different kind of master's -- a specialized one.

Here's the trick: you need to know where you want to specialize.

Specialized master's degrees offer shorter, less expensive, more concentrated postgraduate management courses.

Want business training in digital marketing? How about entrepreneurship or innovation?

A recent article in Business Because highlights King's College London's Business School that recently opened a dedicated specialized master's program stemming from its School of Management and Business. 

Stephen Bach, the school's dean, says they created the program based on employer demand. He said, “The MBA market is changing. Employers and students tell us that the appetite for MBAs has softened, hiring trends are moving towards earlier career graduates with strong analytical and interpersonal skills, an entrepreneurial mindset, and a well-developed sense of personal responsibility and resilience.”

Popular specialized master's degrees include data analytics, business information technology, and entrepreneurship.

Business students at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business have similar options, with specializations in supply chain management, finance, and accounting.

They also offer cutting edge STEM-related business analytics degrees that give students experiences with cybersecurity, web analytics, and the opportunities to intern at large firms seeking employees with these skills. 

Read more about business studies here.

 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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