By Barbara Black

A Master’s degree in the science of business

The Master’s of Science in Administration, which Concordia’s business school pioneered 17 years ago, has been widely imitated by other universities.

Brian Rowland, Director of Call Centre and Member Experience Technology at Aeroplan, knows why.

Rowland had a BComm in management information systems (MIS). He didn’t want to be a programmer, so he started an MBA at McGill, but abandoned it because he felt he had been there before. “With my business experience, I already knew what studying cases would give me.”

He found the MSc in Administration at Concordia, and never looked back, becoming a consultant, moving up the career ladder, and loving what he does.

“The program was really exciting,” he recalled. “I had never done a research-based degree. For the first time, I could look at specific subjects in depth.” And there were other benefits: “My statistics got way better, because I finally understood them.”

Rowland had a hypothesis that MIS projects succeed and fail depending on human relationships, and he wanted to know more, in depth. His intellectual curiosity even led to a job. He was so interested in a research paper he read that he called the author, who worked for a Nortel subsidiary, and asked for an informational interview. Although no job had been advertised, he was offered a job as a result of their discussion.

Professor Ulrike de Brentani, who is the director of PhD and Master’s programs in the John Molson School of Business, speculates that it’s the “science” in the name that scares some students off. Yet it’s the science — specifically, the rigorous approach to research — that makes the MSc in Administration so valuable for the ambitious student.

De Brentani explained. “The Master’s in Business Administration is fine, but it’s like an intensified Bachelor of Commerce for people with an undergraduate degree in something else. It’s a practical degree, approached through business cases and texts.

“The MSc, on the other hand, is more specialized. The students specialize in finance, management, marketing or MIS. They read scholarly articles and up-to-date literature in the field, and learn to question things.

“They have to write a Master’s thesis, so they learn to do academic work on their own. Also, the thesis allows them to focus on a topic that really interests them. They learn how to do quality research that they can apply to job assignments in the future.”

De Brentani remembers her own first encounter with academic literature. She admits frankly that she was baffled. “But learning how to read these articles opens a whole new dimension on business and administration. It means you can keep up with the latest developments in the field throughout your career.”

Applicants need not have a business background to take the program. According to de Brentani, “combining a non-business undergraduate background with developing conceptual and analytical skills related to business provides the breadth of knowledge and skills required by today’s job market.”

Nicole Robitaille Magnifying glass

Nicole Robitaille

Current MSc student Nicole Robitaille had an undergraduate degree in psychology. She was intrigued by the diversity of backgrounds and ages in the program, and pleased to see how close the students and teachers become in the small classes.

“The program prepares one to succeed. It is not about memorization, but more about learning how to learn, research, analyze, and especially how to question,” she said. “After graduation, I intend to pursue a PhD and do research in neuro-marketing and behavioral decision theory.”

For more about the program and upcoming information sessions go to


Concordia University