Will Pursuing a Master’s Degree Advance Your C-suite Goals?

By the SMU Digital Marketing Team

C-level positions are often considered the pinnacle of a corporate career. Referring to the highest leadership roles in an organisation, C-suite executives are responsible for an entire business organisation or its key departments. Such “chiefs” are the go-to folks for making high-stakes decisions and possess the unique competencies, drive and perseverance for thriving at the top.

While the journey leading to the coveted C-level differs from one individual to the next, developing domain expertise while building credibility is a must for accelerating one’s climb up the corporate ladder.

A rigorous master’s degree programme equips graduates with fundamentals to deepen one’s grasp of essential capabilities and offers numerous opportunities to apply approaches in management practice. Here are top programmes you can consider, hand-picked to fast-track your way to a C-suite role.


For CMOs: Master of Science in Communication Management

The corporate leader tasked with facilitating growth through communication and marketing strategies, a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is vital in helping an organisation elevate and shape its brand recognition and public profile.

A CMO is poised to propel a company’s competitive advantage by developing its corporate branding and advertising roadmap and boasts robust leadership skills to reinforce a consistent brand voice across an entire organisation. Furthermore, a future-ready CMO needs to possess a deep understanding of a digital-first marketplace, to remain relevant in a digitally driven landscape and spearhead messaging that resonates with the informed, highly connected consumer.

The SMU Master of Science in Communication Management (MCM), first of its kind in Southeast Asia, is designed to develop leaders in strategic communication. The programme focuses on understanding the business functions of finance, strategy, marketing, and accounting to maximise communication initiatives and promote revenue growth. It also plays a pivotal role in helping graduates nurture business acumen to strategically advance their organisation’s objectives.

With modern-day consumer engagement no longer a one-way channel of engagement, there lies a need to better understand consumer behaviour and finetune the efficacy of campaigns. MCM graduates are equipped to grow a customer-centric business as CMOs of tomorrow, armed with the ability to make data-based decisions by leveraging data analytics and the latest scientific evidence.


For corporate CEOs: Executive EMBA

Also often known as the head honcho or main leader of an organisation, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the top-ranking executive in a company, responsible for managing the overall resources, operations, and activities of the business. In recent years, the role of the CEO has also evolved, especially amidst major technological breakthroughs that have impacted the way we do business, and the need to navigate changes arising from the pandemic.

CEOs are expected to steer their organisations through such massive transformations and need to recalibrate the way they lead to adapt and create impact in a new business climate. Only the most agile of leaders, with a true passion for lifelong learning, can reimagine the potential of their organisations when faced with such challenges.

The SMU Executive MBA programme is uniquely engineered to sharpen the competencies of top organisational leaders, with more than 60 per cent of its participants hailing from directorial or C-Suite level positions, and an average corporate experience of 20 years. Its curriculum is meticulously co-designed by 100 senior executive and business leaders in Asia, to ensure that its graduates have the competencies to sustain business growth, manage associates and inspire passion in the face of adversity.


For CEOs of startups: Master of Science in Innovation

While running a startup from one’s dorm room is certainly a PR-friendly origin story, sustaining a successful company takes a bit more than a great idea and lots of passion. Unfortunately, only 80 per cent of new businesses make it to a second year. For serious founders-to-be, a specialised business master’s programme such as the SMU Master of Science in Innovation (MI) programme helps budding entrepreneurs gain insights in all areas of the business to ensure they are primed for the day-to-day challenges — and long-term strategic management tasks — of being your own boss.

Not only a game-changing degree for entrepreneurs — the MI programme is also suited for corporate managers, creative art professionals, technologists and practitioners keen on advancing innovation in their field — the curriculum prepares graduates for an increasingly complex business environment that demands new knowledge, skills and expertise.

With a highly relevant and innovative cross-disciplinary syllabus, and modules that regularly engage with thought-leaders, schools, and practical projects, entrepreneurs stand to gain unparalleled networking opportunities and insider perspectives on building a successful business.


For COOs: Master of Science in Management

Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg probably need no introduction: The former is CEO of the multinational tech behemoth, while the latter is a billionaire, bestselling author and right-hand woman of the social media company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Tim Cook also happens to have been the Chief Operating Officer (COO) to Steve Job’s CEO, as is Sheryl Sandberg — who has been COO of Facebook since 2008.

The COO is an organisation’s lifeblood, the force that drives a company’s mission, who effectively implements strategic decisions and is responsible for the growth and changing needs of the business. While a CEO determines the direction and strategy of the company, the COO is essential for ensuring that an organisational structure and relevant assets are in place to realise the objectives.

For aspiring COOs based in Asia, the SMU Master of Science in Management (MiM) programme is especially pertinent with a programme focused on Global Asia — case studies that are crafted by SMU based on Asian companies and other companies operating in Asia, and the business challenges they face. The valuable insights provided by the cases about what’s going on in Asia right now provide a solid foundation for advancement in the business world, and can be applied in work placement opportunities that are part of the programme.

To provide greater context into the current business landscape, the MiM modules are presented through the lens of sustainability and ethical leadership, reflecting trends in good management practice to position graduates ahead of the competition.