Graduate Management Admissions Council

A faster (and cheaper) alternative to an MBA

March 14, 2012: 10:37 AM ET

Master's in management programs are booming, especially among liberal arts grads in pursuit of a competitive edge.

FORTUNE -- After graduating from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2006 with a B.S. in political science, Evan Rezin found a job as a marketing associate at Bemis, a $5.3 billion-a-year maker of flexible packaging for consumer goods and pharmaceuticals. She enjoyed the work, but "political science has nothing to do with selling flexible packaging," she notes. "I want to be ready to move up into management when the opportunity comes along."

So Rezin enrolled part-time in the master's in management program at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay. She'll graduate in June. Halfway through her studies, she got assigned to one of Bemis's biggest customers. Rezin believes that's no coincidence: "I suspect I wouldn't have been promoted to a national sales rep position if I hadn't been working on a master's."

That kind of competitive edge (real or perceived) explains the current jump in enrollment in master's in management programs nationwide. The Graduate Management Admissions Council reports that while applications to traditional MBA programs were "down significantly" at 67% of B-schools in 2011, more than two-thirds of master's in management programs are seeing a surge in enrollment.

MORE: Want to revamp B-school? Ask the recruiters.

It's easy to see why. While MBA tuition averages $60,000 and can run as high as $100,000, a master's in management will set you back, on average, about $30,000 -- or far less if you enroll at a state university in your home state.

MiM degrees are quicker, too. Full-time students can usually complete the degree in nine months, versus two years for an MBA. Studying part-time, as most MiM candidates do, allows students to earn the degree in two years or less while working full-time, or conducting a full-time job search. More

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