Professional growth Featured

7:00pm EDT January 31, 2007

It’s not uncommon for professionals without any formal management training to find themselves taking on management roles as they rise through the ranks in their career. Improving their management skills can help them better deal with everyday workplace challenges and issues, and also sets them apart as highly skilled employees in an increasingly competitive workplace.

However, for those without an undergraduate business degree, obtaining a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can be a daunting task. But the Master of Science in Management (MSM) may be the perfect solution for those with no formal management education, according to Tomas H. Parks, Ph.D., dean of the School of Business at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

“The MSM prepares people to excel as managers in any number of industries,” he says. “Unlike an MBA, an MSM provides advanced training in business without requiring as many number-crunching courses, focusing instead on organizational and personnel management.”

Smart Business spoke with Parks about the MSM program and who would benefit from receiving such a degree.

What is the MSM program?

The MSM is a graduate program requiring 36 credit-hours that looks at many of the different areas and challenges faced by today’s managers. It is designed for people who did not necessarily foresee themselves in management roles, but through career progression have taken on greater management responsibilities. While the MSM program has been around for a very long time, many people aren’t aware of it because there has been so much focus on MBA programs.

What are the benefits of receiving an MSM degree?

The MSM is applications oriented. While students do spend some time learning the theories of management, they really benefit from gaining tools they can use in their jobs. The program is structured as a building process, beginning with the foundations of executive management and moving ultimately into strategic management and looking at the organization from a big-picture perspective.

One of the things I really like about the MSM program is that many managers think the organization’s strategies are irrelevant to them, but organizations really benefit when every manager thinks strategically.

How does the MSM program differ from an MBA program?

In terms of the length of programs, the MSM and MBA both take the same amount of time to complete, but there are significant differences in content. The MBA program is much more quantitative, which is great for those with a background in accounting, statistics and finance. Also, in most cases, the MBA is for somebody with an undergraduate business degree because it builds on that foundation of knowledge.

The MSM, on the other hand, has no prerequisites, so an undergraduate business degree is not required. Anyone with any major can earn an MSM, which focuses more on the people side of the organization rather than the numbers side.

Who should consider the MSM program?

In addition to being a better fit for someone without an undergraduate business degree, the MSM is also better suited for those in certain business segments — such as not-for-profit organizations — because of its strong focus on people management. The MSM is also ideal for those who come from nontraditional management positions in industries like nursing, engineering, computer science and education. People who progress throughout their careers in these industries often don’t have the traditional foundation of business classes that those with an undergraduate business degree have. The MSM is a great way to augment and strengthen their management skills.

How can obtaining an MSM degree help employees who are looking to move into leadership roles?

The MSM program offers working adults significant opportunities for career advancement. In fact, a number of our graduates have received promotions as a direct result of having obtained their MSM degree.

How can working adults earn an MSM while working full-time?

The MSM program at Mount Vernon Nazarene University is set up specifically for working adults. It is offered in an accelerated format, allowing students to complete the program in 22 months. Students attend class one night per week for four hours a night. This program is ideal for this accelerated format because it integrates students’ work experience with their class-work. We tap into the real issues and challenges that they face during their workday and make them a part of the learning process.

TOMAS H. PARKS, Ph.D., is the dean of the School of Business at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Reach him at (740) 392-6868, ext. 3310 or