Master’s programmes vary so widely that there isn’t a typical master’s experience. Similarly, the thesis and research requirements for degrees vary across fields of study.
For example, if you’re pursuing a masters in political science or public policy, you’ll have a difficult time finding a programme that doesn’t require a thesis.
As an LLM candidate, you’ll have a clear choice between thesis-based and a non-thesis degree.
MBA programmes don’t typically require a thesis paper and differ from other master’s disciplines as they focus on the practical aspects of the degree, rather than MBA research.
Thesis-based MBA programmes
If you’re considering an MBA, you’ll still learn research methodologies and develop theoretical models. But, it’s not the aim of these degrees. MBA graduates usually don’t return to formal education, a key reason to develop research skills.
MBA candidates have a choice, however, as some schools allow for MBA thesis research, although they might not call it that.
At Columbia Business School, it’s called Independent Study, and at London Business School, MBA thesis research is known as a Business Project.
At most business schools, thesis work takes the place of elective courses, internships or start-up incubators. That’s the difficulty for many candidates who would otherwise pursue a thesis-based MBA degree.
Who wants to trade in all those delicious electives or the chance of working for a company that might hire you in the future?
It’s a tough choice.
Benefits of MBA internships
American MBA programmes feature internships sandwiched between the 2 years of study. In Europe, 1-year MBA programmes, typically push students towards shorter internships at the end of classroom work.
An MBA internship, even an unpaid one, offers a chance to get out there and test the business waters you want to move into. It’s especially useful for international students looking to secure a work visa after graduation.
Outside of internships, entrepreneurial competitions offer a similar level of practical experience if you’re interested in launching your own business.
With a heavy emphasis on practical experiences, which test the MBA models learned in class, you might find it difficult to pursue another direction.
The value of MBA thesis research
Despite the emphasis on internships and practical experience, business still values research. Theories, and the models they develop, are important in every area of business.
However, most MBAs aren’t planning to develop theoretical models of their own.
If you’re like most business master’s, you want to make the most of existing models and theories to develop your start-up or ensure your company operates ethically while increasing profits.
And, there’s always a need for talented researchers to develop these models and theories.
PhD after an MBA: Why a business PhD may be right for you
However ubiquitous the MBA might be, it isn’t the highest achievable degree in the field. There’s still a doctorate to be had. And, it’s at this level where most business research is conducted.
If a PhD in business interests you, you can jump straight into a PhD after your undergraduate business degree, skipping the master’s level altogether.
Or, you can pursue a business master’s and then your PhD; the choice is yours, unlike other disciplines that follow a more linear path.
When should you pursue a thesis-based MBA?
A thesis-based MBA may be right for you if:
You’re considering a doctorate in business, but still want to make the most of the master’s experience, you should consider a thesis-based MBA.
You’re interested in theories and the development of business models – or you plan to teach – a thesis-based degree should also be considered.
A deeper understanding of a geographical location or norms will enable you to effect real change in the world.
Most MBA candidates, however, are interested in the practical side of the degree and putting those practices into action as soon as they can, making independent MBA research superfluous, without undervaluing it.
Whichever route you plan to follow, remember that your education is as individual as you are. Take some time to think it over before finalising your decision; it’s a big one.
Already know which MBA is right for you?
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Post updated for accuracy and freshness on November 6, 2019. Originally published on August 11, 2016.