MiM Now or MBA Later – Which One is Better?

It is one of the most critical conundrums a master’s applicant in business can face – should one pursue an MiM now or MBA later? The person looking at this decision is usually about to complete his/her Bachelor’s program, and is deciding on the best course of action for the future. The Master in Management and the Master in Business Administration are both popular, professional programs. Through this article, we discuss the pros and cons of choosing each side. While the final decision is specific to one’s circumstances and objectives, understanding these factors can certainly help take a better decision.

MiM v/s MBA: The Fundamental Differences

In an earlier post, we have compared MiM and MBA programs, noting the basic differences between them. While both programs are Master’s programs in business, they are different in terms of the actual course content, availability of advanced courses, and even career options (most MiM recruiters are looking for professionals at the beginning of their careers, while most MBA recruiters are looking for mature, experienced professionals with existing, relevant skill sets and experience).

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MiM Now or MBA Later? The Debate Begins

Given this, one must carefully assess one’s objectives and future plans. Is the plan function-centric (e.g. expertise in marketing) or industry-centric (e.g. leadership in the technology industry)? This is the relevant question to begin with, and will help you get a better sense of the direction you must take. If you aspire for a management role, then gaining the functional expertise now makes the most sense, and an MiM fits the bill better. On the other hand, if you wish to rise to leadership in your industry eventually, then gaining stronger operational and administrative skills first (for a few years), and then topping that up with a career boost through an MBA might make more sense.

As an example, consider a recent engineering graduate who aspires for product leadership in the technology industry. This person has more to gain from an MBA than the MiM, because even after the MiM, he/she is unlikely to get placed in product management roles directly. Rather, he/she will go through various roles aligned to marketing/project management and will take a few years to reach the product management domain. On the other hand, someone who chooses 3-4 years of work experience before going in for a Master’s in business will gain stronger technology, project, and product skills, and be ready for product management right after an MBA. That said, there are no hard and fast rules around this. It is possible to reach the goal through the MiM as well.

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Some industries also place a premium on familiarity with business roles within that industry. For example, if one wishes to excel in management consulting, then an MiM makes more sense. Directly beginning one’s career in consulting (post-MiM), this person would have a faster growth and career trajectory than someone else who laterally joins consulting post-MBA.

A Question of Interest, not just Roles and Jobs

Another important factor in deciding between an MiM now or MBA later could also boil down simply to interest. There are roles in some countries that you would find difficult to achieve without a Master’s in business. For example, in India, a move to consulting from an engineering background is not very common. A move to banking/investments from an engineering background is even more rare. An MiM can therefore provide an avenue to move into a role you wish to work in, and there is no substitute for that. This route is then always preferable to, say, working in an engineering role for 3-4 years and then hoping to make the move to consulting/investments post an MBA. It might be possible to make it happen, but then the 3-4 years spent in pursuing something which is neither your passion nor aligned to your ultimate goals is simply a waste of potential.

MiM + MBA – Feasible? Needed?

We also get a lot of queries from prospective MiM candidates on whether/when they should pursue an MBA post an MiM. Many tend to look at the MiM as not an end in itself but simply a means to strengthen their profile for an MBA later.

In terms of feasibility, pursuing an MBA post an MiM is certainly possible. Many have done it as well, but the decision was more of a career need as it evolved rather than a plan at the outset. That is the right way to look at it as well – why would one wish to pursue a Master’s program in business again unless there is a compelling reason in terms of gaining stronger leadership skills/specific functional skills for an industry shift later?

In terms of need, there will only be rare cases where the skill gap is wide enough to require an MBA after an MiM. Yes, the MBA is a more advanced program, but then one may reconsider pursuing a program to take only a few advanced courses, unless those courses present definite career progress not possible otherwise.

This said, there are many professionals who reach the top of their professions simply with an MiM – no MBA needed. Partners in consulting firms, Managing Directors in investment banks, and several top corporate CEOs are testimony to this, and a simple LinkedIn lookup will reveal as much.

Concluding Advice – Shape your Career, don’t just Collect Degrees

Ultimately, the question of MiM now or MBA later comes down to the skills you need to fashion a career of your choosing. Make sure you choose the right programs, pursue these skills, and gain the ability you need. Ultimately, that is the purpose of all education, whether done through an MiM, MBA, or any other program.

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