When Melanie Eberhardt graduated from Pennsylvania’s Geneva College, she considered pursuing an MBA. But few programs focused on her specific interests: human resources and business ethics. So she opted for the Master of Science in Leadership program at Duquesne University.
“Initially I thought the MBA was the way to go, because it sells itself,” says Eberhardt. “But so many people have MBAs now, so I don’t think it stands out as much anymore. If you’re not focused primarily on business or accounting, an MBA may not be the best fit.”
In past decades, the Master of Science in Leadership was offered, almost exclusively, in Europe. But over the last five years, the number of MSL programs in the U.S. has grown significantly as more professionals seek alternatives to the traditional route. Typically, MSL programs provide a focus on psychology — and even anthropology — to prepare students for effective leadership. They’re less devoted to marketing, finance and accounting. “It’s an interdisciplinary degree. The focus is leadership, not necessarily business leadership,” says Dr. William Schulz, associate dean of Walden University School of Management. “In an MSL program, you’ll find school administrators, teachers, university leaders [and] nonprofit leaders. It’s a more diverse group.”
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MSL vs. MBA
An MBA speaks for itself, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for everyone. “The MSL is still somewhat new in the United States, so it doesn’t have the brand value of an MBA,” says Schulz. “But if a student really wants the MSL curriculum, then they shouldn’t have trouble describing the benefit of that program to an employer.”