Master's Degrees That Could Improve Your Hiring Potential

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A recent study reveals the master's degrees that are most in-demand by employers.

By Terence Loose

Did you know that 75 percent of companies said they planned to hire master's in business administration (MBA) grads in 2013? And over a third of them said they planned to hire recent grads with master's in accounting, finance, and management?

That's according to a study titled "2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey" by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The study collected surveys from over 900 employers in 50 countries worldwide, leading to some newsworthy findings.*

And according to Deb Hornell, a business and management consultant with 25 years of experience and author of "Good Things for a Full Life," a master's could be the new bachelor's.

"It's almost like high school used to be the entry-level degree, then it was a bachelor's degree. Now, I think the master's is becoming the entry-level degree for a lot of companies. They want you to understand the framework of business before you come in the door," she says.

So to give you an idea of which master's degrees employers are looking for the most, we took a deeper look into the GMAC study and asked Hornell her opinion about the master's degrees it included as well. Read on to find out which master's degrees employers are looking to hire now.

Master's in Business Administration (MBA)

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71% of Companies Surveyed
Hired MBA Grads in 2012**

75% of Companies Surveyed
Planned to Hire MBA Grads in 2013**

A master's in business administration (MBA) tops the list on GMAC's report. It might be because this degree takes a person's business skills to the next level by covering all facets of business - from management and leadership to marketing and strategy, says Hornell.

Why Employers Want This Degree: The world, especially the world of business, is changing much more rapidly these days, says Hornell, so companies have to react fast. "They need people coming in the door who understand how business runs, people with the skill sets to help turn around situations quicker, or to take start-ups into the marketplace. An MBA does that," she says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right MBA Program.

Potential Career: Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers plan, direct, and coordinate the administrative functions of a company, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They usually need a bachelor's in human resources or business administration, the Department of Labor notes.

Master's in Management

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42% of Companies Surveyed
Hired Master's in Management Grads in 2012

43% of Companies Surveyed
Planned to Hire Master's in Management Grads in 2013

A lot of business is management. Management of assets, management of people, management of time. So it might not be surprising that more than 40 percent of employers planned to hire graduates with this degree in 2013.

Why Employers Want This Degree: Along with coursework in core areas of business such as finance, accounting, and marketing, this degree also includes organizational behavior, which is popular among employers, says Hornell. "It brings in leadership. Employers like this degree, because it focuses on the skills it takes to align people and move them in the same direction toward a common goal." That's what good managers and leaders do, she says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Management Program.

Potential Career: Medical or Health Services Manager

These people help clinics, hospitals, and other health care facilities run efficiently by coordinating the delivery of medical and health services, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Hornell says that those with a master's in management or organizational behavior often qualify for these positions.

Master's in Finance

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41% of Companies Surveyed
Hired Master's in Finance Grads in 2012

43% of Companies Surveyed
Planned to Hire Master's in Finance Grads in 2013

The financial sector may have been looked upon unfavorably by some after the housing crash of 2008 and 2009. But the resulting struggling economy made finance - and those skilled in it - even more important to those who run big businesses, says Hornell.

Why Employers Want This Degree: "This is a degree that focuses on the quantitative aspects of business," says Hornell. She says it's not surprising that employers find this degree very attractive, since financing has become such a cornerstone in the business world. Every business of any size has a finance expert, and many times they are responsible for the financial health of a company. That makes skills in this area very sought after, she says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

Potential Career: Financial Analyst

If you are fascinated with investments, such as stocks, bonds, and other such financial products, this might be the career for you. The U.S. Department of Labor says these professionals provide guidance to businesses and individuals in these areas. The Department of Labor says that even though many positions require a bachelor's degree in a related field, employers often require an MBA or a master's in finance, especially for advanced positions.

Master's in Accounting

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34% of Companies Surveyed
Hired Master's in Accounting Grads in 2012

38% of Companies Surveyed
Planned to Hire Master's in Accounting Grads in 2013

Is accounting not sexy enough for you? Well, employers seem to think otherwise, at least, if you believe the GMAC report: well over a third of businesses surveyed said they'd hire these grads.

Why Employers Want This Degree: "Again, [there is] a very quantitative focus to this degree. It's about the bottom line. And all businesses care about the bottom line," says Hornell. In addition, she says, this degree also prepares students to deal with facets of the business such as tax return preparation - which is an inevitability and important to most businesses.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Potential Career: Accountant

The U.S. Department of Labor says accountants do such things as compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, organize and maintain financial records, and conduct other important fiscal matters. So how do you pursue this career? The Department of Labor says that although most positions require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting.

Master's in a Non-Business Field

52% of Companies
Surveyed Hired Non-Business Master's Grads in 2012

54% of Companies Surveyed
Planned to Hire Non-Business Master's Grads in 2013

Business-focused master's degrees aren't the only graduate degrees that the GMAC study says employers are after. In fact, the study found that over half of employers planned to hire recent grads with non-business master's degrees.

While there are many master's degrees that fall outside the realm of business, Hornell says a master's in education administration is high on the list of two types of employers: those that want people who understand how to learn and teach (i.e. lead), and municipalities that are adapting to national education reform.

Why Employers Want This Degree: "The reason I chose education is because I think the most important thing when someone is getting a degree is learn[ing] how to learn," says Hornell. "Keep curious. That's what people need right now." She adds that although No Child Left Behind (the government's program to help close achievement gaps among students) was noble, it didn't fulfill its promise. As a result, "there is a lot of revamping going on in the education system, particularly in big cities. That will add demand for this degree," she says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Education Administration Program.

Potential Career: Public School Principal

The U.S. Department of Labor says elementary and high school principals lead their school's staff and teachers toward a specific goal. Public school principals often must have a master's degree in education administration or education leadership, the Department of Labor says.

* According to GMAC, the organization conducted the study with support from partners EFMD and MBA Career Services Council and 158 business schools worldwide. The GMAC 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey drew responses from more than 900 employers in 50 countries around the world, including adequate samples to report details for the Asia-Pacific region (with Central Asia), Europe, and the United States.

** All survey results come from the 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). As for the Master's in Education Administration, GMAC could not be reached for data on that specific degree, and none was found in the report.

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