Why MBA? Top MBA Alternatives.

In the past, MBA programs have long been considered as a gateway to the ultimate professional career. But that perspective has now changed. The hype of MBA being the absolute career booster and key differentiator among the professional pool, have now been less rooted by individuals and recruiters alike. In today’s dynamic world, companies look for young and determined individuals with raw and varied skillsets with a versatile approach to corporate situations.

The following alternatives to an MBA program are much more specialised, focused, and are economically viable for a fresh graduate out of college.
Before pursuing a different educational path, you need to ask yourself two important questions :

What is your career objective?


What skillsets are required for your career objective?

If you are crystal clear on these questions, then this blogpost can provide you some perspective. So, here it goes :-


Masters programs are specialised courses on different subject domains such as finance, strategy, etc and are typically for 12 to 18 months. It gives you an in depth knowledge of the chosen subject at a fraction of the cost of an MBA. Masters programs at good universities provide you with an international outlook of the subject, whilst improving your skills in project management.

While applying for a masters programs, top schools around the world mostly prefer GMAT score for an admission. And, while scores and admission criteria vary as per entry requirements of different universities, try to keep the GMAT scores above 650 out of 800 to have an edge while applying to various top ranked Masters programs. Students from non-English speaking countries might have to write IELTS as well. A score in the range of band 7-8 is good enough.

Different examples of Masters programs which can be pursued are as follows :

A. Masters in Management (MiM)

Most MBA programs require professional experience of 2 to 5 years. In contrast, MiM requires no professional experience and can be chosen fresh our of college. MiM gives you a more streamlined and specialised approach to the study of Management as opposed to a more generalised approach in an MBA. The degree can take a variety of names, such as – MA (Strategy and International Management), MSc (Management), MSc (International Business), etc.
In addition to that, MiM degree has now been gaining traction in bagging competitive entry roles in the industry. And with companies wanting younger professionals with specialised knowledge, this degree provides a definite edge to a candidate. This is currently more popular in Europe, but catching up fast in the US as well.
Check out some of the top colleges for MiM in FT Rankings 2017

B. Masters in Finance

The conundrum of MBA vs MSc (Finance) or any other degrees specific to finance, has long been in debate. The clear difference between choosing any one of the degrees is the career choice that one has to decide. While MBA gives you a broad coursework spectrum encompassing different business functions, masters in finance gives you a focused approach on a detailed study of finance. The course outline for MSc Finance involves quantitative methods in trading finance, investment theory and asset management, portfolio management, and valuation.
With global companies growing and startups flourishing more than ever before, there is a definite increase in the demand of these organisations needing specialised professionals to manage their finance more effectively and efficiently. And with the global financial services sector making up to 15%-19% of the global GDP, and growing at a compounded annual rate of 6%, the opportunities for finance professionals will only go UP.


Check out some of the top colleges for MSc. Finance in FT Rankings 2017

C. Masters in Supply Chain and Operations Management

This degree has one of the most dynamic prospects in a rapidly growing business scenario. Supply Chain Management, in its heart, is all about sourcing and delivering products as efficient and effective as possible to proactively radicalise their cost structure to efficiently serve customers. With companies envisioning effective and efficient procurement and delivery of products and services from suppliers/source to the end consumers, the need for logistics professionals has grown significantly.
The coursework generally includes – strategic logistics management, supply chain analytics, enterprise systems, modelling operations, and global operations management

Check out some top schools for Logistics Management :

D. Masters in Digital Marketing

The advent of digital age has forever changed how businesses are being conducted. Online marketing channels are being increasingly used instead of traditional marketing systems to facilitate better to the end consumers.
Masters in Digital Marketing offers a good blend of creativity and analytical skill development. Creative and technical efforts are required to effectively market company products digitally to a broad spectrum of consumers, and as millennials continue to disrupt on how interaction is done over social media, digital marketers continue to have growth opportunities in this dynamic business world.

The coursework typically includes market research methodology, digital marketing strategy and data analysis, innovation strategy, and digital project management.

Top schools for Digital Marketing are located in Ireland and UK, and in the US as well. Check out Trinity College Dublin’s Masters in Digital Marketing Strategy program to get an idea!


A professional certification is one such educational alternative where one can gain specialised knowledge in a particular field to gain an entry to the industry or transition to a new line of business in case for an established professional.

The choice of pursuing a professional certification typically comes down to three factors

These programs cost a fraction of money in comparison with masters programs

These programs may help in advancing your career in a specific field. For example, Chartered Accountancy is one such prestigious certification for advancing one’s career in audit and taxation.

And, the time required to gain a certification is typically less than a masters degree. It ranges from as less as 2 weeks and can last till 4 years in some rare cases.

So, here are some of the professional certifications that one can consider for their career objectives :

A. National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) Professional Certifications

National Institute of Securities Market (NISM) Certification

An excellent initiative by the NSE in providing professional certifications to graduate students, it is the definite pathway in getting competitive entry roles in Indian securities market and the retail finance sector in India.

Each certification cost an average of less than Rs. 2000 with which curriculum and preparation materials will be provided online, free of cost. Interested applicants can take this exam after an average of 72 hours of preparation material. Any undergraduate student can choose to get a certification from a wide variety of specific fields, such as, derivatives, mutual funds, risk management, operations, investment advisory, research analysis, etc.

In addition to these certifications, NISM has certification partnerships with Moody’s, ICICI Centre for Financial Learning, and Association of International Wealth Management of India to provide joint certifications in fields such as derivatives market strategies, credit analysis, and equity analysis.

Go check out their website for a slew of certifications and other details :

NSE Academy Certification in Financial Markets (NCFM)

NCFM offers a comprehensive set of 50 module certifications divided into foundation, intermediate, and advanced with 11, 25, and 14 modules, respectively. Modules range from securities management to algorithmic trading, so you can find your niche. Such certifications are job oriented for Indian banking and finance industry.
Go check out their site for more details on different modules :

B. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The CFA Program is a comprehensive globally recognised graduate level finance certification which provides a strong foundation in investment theory & analysis, and portfolio management. It is mandated by the CFA Institute and expects its professionals to abide by a stringent code of conduct and ethics. CFA is a differentiating factor for a candidate in gaining an entry to competitive finance industries such as hedge funds, mutual funds, and financial services.

The CFA Certification requires an individual to pass Three Levels, which is the main requirement for gaining the CFA Charter. College students planning to go into CFA can register for and give exam for Level 1 in June or December once they are in their final year of graduate degree. Currently, the cost for early enrolment and exam fees for the CFA Certification is $1380.

Check out their site for more detailed information :

C. Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

Management Accountancy deals with the study of the financial accounts of the business to devise planning methods, assisting in management decision making, formulating performance management systems, and providing expertise in financial reporting and control to assist management in the formulation and implementation of an organisation’s strategy.
CIMA Qualification is the world’s leading qualification in the field of Management Accounting. ICPA, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and CIMA, two of the world’s most prestigious accounting bodies, have established Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) as the most valued, globally recognised management accountant designation. On becoming CIMA Members you are automatically entitled to the CGMA Designation.

CIMA requires a candidate to pass four module levels, namely, entry level, operational level, managerial level, and strategic level.

The career prospects of becoming a CIMA member is huge as it opens doors to various roles in auditing and consultancy. For more info, check:

D. Associate Professional in Human Resource (aPHR)

Human Resources form a vital part in any organisation imaginable. It is the people who make up companies and with more corporations hiring diverse set of employees, there is a definite need for HR professionals to properly direct and leverage the performance of people to positively impact businesses.

The aPHR Certification is granted by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) which is accredited by National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). It is one of seven certification programs that HRCI offers, in accordance with the experience level of a candidate. HRCI is the largest HR certification organisation in the world, with nearly 40 years of history, and connects you with more than 140,000 certified HR thought leaders working in more than 100 countries and territories.

To be eligible for the aPHR you must have a high school diploma or global equivalent. The exam length is of 2 hours and 15 minutes consisting of 100 scored questions (mostly multiple-choice) + 25 pretest questions. It is a computer-based exam at a Prometric testing center.

Check out their website for more details :

E. Digital Marketing Certificates

Digital Marketing is one of the most important skill sets of the century. If you have a zeal for creativity, and have good analytical skills, digital marketing is the way to go! Some ‘gold standard’ certificate courses for digital marketing include:

Google AdWords

Hubspot Inbound Marketing

Facebook Blueprint


This blogpost provides you with definite options on what can be pursued in any given field. But, before you leap into a professional graduate certification or commit to a master’s degree, you should consider your end career goal – Are you satisfied with your field and only require certifications to gain an advancement in it? OR, Do you see a definite need for a masters program for your chosen field? Decide on various factors such as cost, time, opportunity cost etc. and finalise on a definite decision after a thorough research. We will be happy to answer any queries that you might have. Drop your questions in comments!

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2 thoughts on “Why MBA? Top MBA Alternatives.

  1. Great, useful and insightful post! Totally agree that most long-winded (often disjointed) theory-based studies are fast becoming more of just a novelty. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work!

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