M.B.A. programs have long been the bread and butter for local business schools.

That’s changing as local schools are adding non-M.B.A. specialty master degree programs to meet demand from companies for more specialized managerial and data analysis skills.

The trend is reflected in the Business Journal’s coverage of higher education this week, which adds an inaugural list of business schools offering specialized master degree programs. Three other annual lists of higher education institutions serving Los Angeles County – M.B.A. programs, the largest colleges and universities and largest community colleges – remain part of our coverage (see lists on pages 10, 18, 24 and 26).

Master of Science degree programs have proliferated at business schools over the last five years. They are more narrowly focused on specific fields than the relatively broad-based curriculum for Master of Business Administration – or M.B.A. – programs. The most common M.S. programs now are in data analytics, applied finance, global business and supply chain management.

The M.S. programs tend to be shorter – one year versus two years for the typical M.B.A. – and, as a result, less expensive. They also appear to be in high demand at companies that now put a premium on data analytics and other specific skill sets.

A recent survey by the Reston, Va.-based nonprofit Graduate Management Admission Council, which oversees the GMAT test that’s widely used by graduate business programs as a key measure of applicants, found that 52 percent of companies planned to hire Master of Data Analytics graduates this year.

That’s up from 35 percent last year, and local business schools have rushed to capitalize on the trend.

Twelve business schools made it onto this week’s inaugural list of Master of Science degree programs, which is ranked by number of graduates this year.

The list is led by the USC Marshall School of Business, which has 1,075 full-time students enrolled in seven Master of Science degree programs, which combined for 664 graduates this past spring.

The Marshall School started offering M.S. programs in accounting and business taxation 10 years ago, but they remained a minor focus for several years, according to Rex Kovacevich, assistant vice dean for graduate programs.

But rising demand from students, companies and even faculty members writing letters of recommendation for students to attend M.S. programs at other schools prompted the Marshall School to ramp up its offerings, Kovacevich said. First came global supply management in 2013, then four more in 2014 on the way to the current total of seven.

“One thing we’ve noticed is that M.S. graduates tend to move into more junior but technical areas of a company,” Kovacevich said. “These companies have a growing need for people who are bright and also have a detailed understanding of a particular area or skill.”

Coming in at No. 2 was Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, with a total of 362 students spread over seven programs for the current academic year.

Amanda Karr, executive director of student enrollment services at the Graziadio School, said the school started M.S. programs seven years ago in applied finance and global business.

“These were not the realm of the traditional M.B.A., but we saw a need in the workplace for more specialized accounting skills and for people who understand a more integrated global economy,” Karr said.

Since then, she said, the need for companies to apply “big data” to their own operations has led the demand for more M.S. programs, especially data analytics.

Karr said the Graziadio School plans to add two more M.S. programs in the next couple years: one in entrepreneurship and the other in media, entertainment and sports management. (See related story, Page 3.)

No. 3 University of La Verne, with 240 students enrolled in three M.S. programs, will be adding a data analytics M.S. program next year.

“The rise of big data and the demand for data analytics in recent years has been phenomenal,” said Abe Helou, dean of the College of Business and Public Management.

He also cited a larger national trend of stagnant or declining M.B.A. enrollment as a major reason behind the increase in M.S. programs at the school.

One major local business school that didn’t place high on the Business Journal list of M.S. programs was the UCLA Anderson School of Management. The Anderson School launched its first M.S. program in business analytics last year, which counts 41 students.

(The school has offered a Master of Financial Engineering program for 10 years, but as that program does not grant M.S. degrees, it was not included in the data for the list).

Paul Brandano, executive director of the Master of Science in business analytics program, said that once Anderson School faculty and executives saw how successful USC’s Marshall School was in building its M.S. degree programs, they decided to step up their own offerings. It took more than a year to get approval for the business analytics program from the University of California Presidents’s office and the UC Board of Regents.

“Now that we are offering the program, the increase in applications has grown 10-fold in just one year, showing just how much latent demand there was,” Brandano said.

M.B.A. programs

The traditional M.B.A. is by no means dead even as M.S. programs grow. Seven of the top 10 programs on the Business Journal’s list registered increases in the number of graduates this year compared to last year, reflecting broader national and international trends.

The Graduate Management Admission Council global survey of graduate business programs found that 73 percent of programs with more than 200 students reported higher application volumes.

The same survey found 39 percent of programs with fewer than 200 students reported higher numbers of applications.

The survey attributed this divergence to the tendency of applicants to gravitate to larger, more well-known programs.

That appears to be borne out on the Business Journal’s list as seven of the 12 smallest programs reported drops in the number of graduates.

UCLA’s Anderson School topped the list, awarding 917 M.B.A. degrees this past June, followed by USC’s Marshall School with 602 degrees and Pepperdine’s Graziadio School with 563 degrees.

Colleges and universities

The Business Journal’s annual colleges and universities list saw change at the top, as USC displaced UCLA to become the new No. 1 campus, with 45,687 total enrollment as of fall 2017. The two schools have been duking it out for years for the top slot, with USC coming in a very close second several times.

USC actually edged out UCLA this year by a margin of 260 students, or 0.6 percent, thanks to its enrollment growth of nearly 1,700 between fall 2016 and fall 2017.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.