05/09/2012 10:57 am ET Updated Jul 09, 2012

Alternatives to the MBA in New Emerging Markets

In today's competitive economic environment, procuring further education to find employment is necessary in many fields, however it is a particularly salient issue in the business world. While many individuals who return to school (either online or through traditional on-campus programs part time) decide to pursue an MBA, there are several other types of graduate business degrees. Pursuing one of these rarer specialties can really make someone stand out in the crowd.

While MBA degree programs focus on a wide-ranging skill set that encourages growth of leadership skills, many other graduate business degrees are more specialized. This is perfect if you are certain of your career path. Examples of other types of graduate business programs include Master of Science in International Real Estate, Master of Science in Information Assurance and Master of Science in Business Administration, Taxation. Choosing the right degree should be a function of the career goals and interests of the individual student.

MBA programs generally have a longer program of study than other types of graduate business degrees. The advantages of an MBA, however, include its instant recognition and content that transfers across virtually any business environment. Nonetheless, in a US News and World Report article on choosing an MBA program, Kelsey Sheehy does stress the importance of finding out what types of concentrations or specific coursework is available at a given school. Each MBA program has its own area(s) of specialty and even its own personality, and it is important to find a good fit in terms of both academic and personal interests.

According to the official website of the GMAT, the basic differences between an MBA and other business Masters degrees, notably that admission as a candidate for the MBA degree differs from others in that most schools require a certain amount of previous business experience. Therefore, recent graduates of undergraduate business programs may find it easier to apply for a Master of Science degree. Additionally, MS degrees offer a specificity that is not found in the broader-based MBA framework, which emphasizes transferable management skills. Candidates with a more specific educational background -- for example, an MS degree with an emphasis in business taxation -- can expect to find a job that is closely related to their specific area of expertise.

Many online and traditional graduate schools offer both types of degrees and various options for concentrating on a specific facet of business management or operations. Therefore, the decision as to which type of degree would be most appropriate for any individual should be based in large part on his or her post-graduation career goals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great resource for comparing various types of business careers and includes information regarding education, salaries and job outlook.

Other personal factors that should figure into your choice of a graduate program should include the time commitment, program cost, overall quality and reputation of the school offering the program and the time frame for graduation. Finding the right degree program does require a commitment of time and effort but if you consider the amount of time that you will be spending working towards a graduate degree, it should be considered a worthwhile investment in your future.