Columbia University to launch dual MBA, executive master’s degree in engineering

BY Sydney LakeJuly 20, 2022, 4:23 PM
The esplanade of the Columbia University campus, as seen in August 2021. (Photo by: Sergi Reboredo—VW Pics/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Many tech jobs today require more than the technical know-how to get the work done. Increasingly so, tech firms and other large companies expect and seek out candidates who have not only the technical chops, but also strong business acumen. 

That’s why Columbia University, a top-ranked school for both its business and STEM degree programs, is launching a dual MBA/executive master’s degree in engineering and applied science program in fall 2023.

“The main driver for us to think about this program was that increasingly we are finding that new businesses are being created at the intersection of societal needs, tech breakthroughs, and human-centered design,” Garud N. Iyengar, senior vice dean of research and academic programs at Columbia’s School of Engineering, tells Fortune. “We wanted to bring these elements from the School of Engineering together with strategy marketing and leadership skills that the business school is able to provide and create a new program that combines the strengths of both of these schools.”

At the end of the 20-month program (the same length as a typical standalone full-time MBA program), students will receive two degrees: an MBA and an executive master’s of science in engineering and applied sciences. Students will take courses both in the Columbia Business School, which Fortune ranks as having the No. 6 full-time MBA program in the U.S., as well as the School of Engineering

“In this competitive marketplace, Columbia’s new MBAxMS: Engineering & Applied Science program equips students with both the management skills and the science and technology core that enables them to move seamlessly from the classroom to product development to large-scale innovation—and ultimately help create and grow companies and drive change,” Costis Maglaras, dean of Columbia Business School, said in a statement announcing the launch of the program.

Dual program targets people ‘excited about creating new products and services’

This dual program focused on both technology and business is designed for students looking to pursue a leadership position at a technology firm or other cross-functional jobs including product management and entrepreneurship, Columbia officials say.

“The person who would be ideally suited for this program would be somebody who’s excited about creating new products and services towards addressing some kind of pressing issue—either business or societal,” Iyengar says. 

Students applying to the program should come from a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) background, and should have earned a bachelor’s degree in an adjacent field, like computer science or engineering, Jonah Rockoff, CBS senior vice dean for curriculum and programs, tells Fortune

“We are expecting students to have a technical background before they come in, but we also want them to have some work experience because we value that in the MBA program,” he adds. “It’s extremely important for students who come into an MBA to have had real-world experience.”

Applications are now open. Candidates are required to submit the joint online application, a resume, essays, two letters of recommendation, transcripts, and standardized test scores. There are two application rounds, with deadlines on Sept. 28, 2022, and Jan. 11, 2023.

The curriculum

Core curriculum of the program will include digital disruption and tech transfer; business analytics; and human-centered design and innovation—plus typical MBA core courses like statistics and analytics, as well as core engineering courses like tech user interface and user experience. During the first year of the program, students will take these core courses in both business and engineering. 

“We designed a curriculum together with the School of Engineering from the very beginning with the thought of how do we maximize the use of these students’ time here and give them the skills they need in terms of both the breadth and the depth,” Rockoff says. 

One of the key elements to the program, though, is entrepreneurship; they’ll also take this course during their first year. During the summer between the students’ first and second year of the program, they’ll pursue either an internship or start an entrepreneurial venture in the field.

“This program is trying to push that envelope a bit further and create business leaders and entrepreneurs who have the business chops, but have a much deeper set of technical skills so that they’ll also be working hands on in product development in idea generation in creating solutions to problems, creating new products, and imagining new services,” Rockoff says. Columbia offers 10 other dual degree MBA programs in addition to the new engineering program, including medical, law, and other arts and sciences degrees.

After graduation

Rockoff says he anticipates that many students will go on to launch an entrepreneurial venture after graduation, but for those who don’t, he sees students taking on roles including technical product manager, chief technical officer, senior product manager, or vice president of engineering.

“If you are somebody who wants to go into investment banking, this is not something that’s going to be too much more value enhancing,” Iyengar says. “If you want to go into venture, maybe yes—because even though you may yourself not be interested in creating those kinds of solutions, you may want to go into a venture company that wants to further invest in those particular areas.”

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