Is a Master’s in Innovation Worth It?

Masters in Innovation

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There are trillions of dollars to be made through innovation. New revenues through product and service innovation. New opportunities for savings through process innovation. New market segments to be identified through organizational innovation. New customers to be found through marketing innovation.

But how do you take innovation from raw ideas to marketplace success stories?

For many, the foundation for a successful career built on innovation comes through graduate school education such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science in Innovation.

Master’s Degree in Innovation vs. MBA

In addition to the traditional MBA – the master’s degree pathway followed by generations of successful business men and women – today there are an increasing number of advanced degree programs focused more directly on the principles and processes behind innovation.

A typical MBA program will likely include courses in finance, economics, marketing, organizational behavior, management, accounting, business ethics and related topics.

Master’s in Innovation degree programs are more likely to include specialized coursework focusing on product and service development, go-to-market strategies, lean innovation, financing business growth, building high-performance teams and more

An important consideration for business innovators who are choosing between an MBA and a master’s degree in innovation is whether or not they envision themselves working in a traditional business environment or immersing themselves in technology-driven business settings that often involve entrepreneurship (as in, tech startup companies) or so-called intrapreneurship (essentially, practicing the principles of innovation and entrepreneurship within mature companies). 

What Does a Master’s Degree in Innovation Cover?

Since so much of the innovation economy is built on new and evolving technology, some of the most exciting innovation master’s degree programs have a distinctly high-tech focus.

This is true of the new innovation-focused master’s degree program at the University of San Diego, where a great deal of research, tech thought leadership and (yes!) innovation has gone into creating the school’s online Master of Science Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (MITE) program.

Courses in USD’s MITE program include:

Students receive hands-on instruction in developing cross-functional leadership skills needed to nurture big ideas into marketable products. Notably, the USD program also includes ongoing, hands-on project work that is focused on key aspects of innovating a product offering and successfully bringing it to market, including:

  • Customer and Market Discovery
  • Customer Validation and Product Strategy
  • Business Modeling and Venture Launch

What Is the Value of a Master’s Degree in Innovation? 

Whether charting your next step after earning a bachelor’s degree or looking to take a deeper dive into innovation mid-career, a master’s degree focused on innovation can be the ideal pathway to pursuing career aspirations connected to entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship.

The value of a master’s degree in innovation includes the opportunity for graduate students to learn from faculty experts who have lived and breathed the entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship and venture capital experience, and to engage with curriculum designed to help them:

  • Hone their ability to recognize innovation opportunities, and act on them
  • Sharpen their understanding of how to launch a startup or a new line of business within an existing firm
  • Develop essential cross-functional leaderships skills
  • Gain insight into how to assemble high-performing innovation teams  
  • Build an online portfolio showcasing their innovation-focused project work

What Are My Options for an Innovation Master’s Degree?

For all of the reasons discussed above and more, master’s in innovation programs are increasingly popular — across the country and around the world. This includes both on-campus and online options, the latter often chosen by busy working professionals who need to balance their career-building studies with a full-time job.   

Many innovation master’s degree programs have titles that indicate they drill down into specific skill sets (Leadership, Management) or specific sectors (Product Development, Logistics, Sustainability).

A few programs not only do both of the above, they also help students develop skills, knowledge and insights beyond a specific skillset, allowing them to apply their innovation across a more comprehensive vertical.  Such programs can be great options for aspiring entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. 

How to Choose the Right Innovation Master’s Degree Program

The process of selecting your ideal master’s in innovation degree program is, of course, guided by your own sense of how you intend to use your degree and what you hope to get out of the experience. 

For example, students who enroll in the University of San Diego’s online Master of Science Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship program are most often motivated by a desire to make a difference in the tech world.

The program is designed specifically for students who are excited by the work of developing and scaling new ideas for tech products and services. This includes aspiring startup CEOs, tech innovators advancing into leadership roles, a wide range of intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs, and tech execs looking to hone their ability to develop a specific idea or to discover new opportunities.

Some of the attributes of this program apply more broadly to the search for one’s ideal master’s in innovation degree experience. Qualities to look for in your ideal program may include:

Expert Faculty: For example, the MITE program at USD connects you with world-class faculty possessing a deep experience as startup entrepreneurs, high-achieving tech CEOs, patent-holding Ph.D. engineers, sought-after industry advisors and award-winning academics.

Personalized Instruction: Look for a program that also emphasizes faculty engagement, specifically in terms of working closely with students to make the learning experience one that helps you transform your career and achieve your most important goals.

Capstone Work: This refers to a curriculum feature in which students are placed on project teams for in-depth work on developing a specific idea or product. The USD version of this rolls out over multiple semesters, with each segment connected to one of the phases of starting and running a business or business unit.

Online Option: For hard-working tech or business professionals, the opportunity to grow their ability to innovate and lead by earning their master’s degree online rather than on campus can mean the difference between just keeping your nose to the grindstone or treating yourself to career-transforming professional growth experience. 

Non-Degree Continuing Education Options for Innovation

A number of colleges and universities now offer non-degree courses and certificate programs for those who are interested in innovation, but are not necessarily ready to commit to the work involved in completing a master’s degree.

Education providers like Coursera (“Value Creation Through Innovation”) and Udemy (“Innovative Growth Strategy: A Beginner’s Guide,” “Innovation Master Class”) also have multiple course offerings in the innovation subject area.

What Careers Can I Get With a Degree in Innovation?

Startup entrepreneur is the dream career for many innovation-minded technology and business professionals. For this group, a master’s degree that connects innovation, technology and entrepreneurship can play a key role in achieving that goal. 

Such a degree can also be extraordinarily valuable when pursuing:

  • Director-level (director of technology, engineering, sales) at enterprises that operate at the intersection of business and technology 
  • C-level roles at organizations like those mentioned above
  • Traditional business executive roles that benefit from a deeper understanding of the technology innovation landscape
  • A wide range of high-paying business and technology consultant opportunities
  • Potentially infinite additional opportunities that require tech chops, business acumen, a curious mind and a lively imagination

Innovation Resources

People inspired by the process, and the exhilaration, of innovation are typically curious-minded souls. Thirsty for new knowledge that expands their understanding of what they know, and what they don’t know. Eager to absorb insights that will help them, in some cases, change how the world works. Below is a quick sampling of notable information resources of interest to innovators and entrepreneurs.

Websites:

StartEngine is an equity crowdfunding platform whose mission is “to help other entrepreneurs and founders just like us raise the funds they need to grow and achieve their dreams.” In March 2020 it announced a strategic advisor partnership with renowned businessman and investor Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful).

AngelList, considered a must-read by many in the tech innovation space, is a venture investing platform and employment resource that connects angel investors with startup opportunities, and tech/startup job seekers with employment opportunities.

MIT Technology Review, founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1899, describes itself as an independent media company “whose insight, analysis, reviews, interviews and live events explain the newest technologies and their commercial, social and political impacts.”

Books:

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries offers “a scientific approach to creating and managing startups.” Its homepage describes it as “the movement that is transforming how new products are built and launched.

Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet of MIT breaks down a systematic and rigorous 24-step path to building new innovation-based ventures. A summary of its teachings can also be found at HowDo.com.

Innovation Master’s Degree FAQs

How long does a Master of Science in Innovation degree program take to complete?

Most programs take 24 months, but some are designed to be completed in 20 months.

Do I need an undergraduate degree in science or engineering to apply to a master’s in innovation program?

Most applicants for a master’s in innovation degree program will have an undergraduate degree in science, mathematics, engineering, information technology, computer science or a STEM field. Many programs also welcome applicants with degrees in business and business-related disciplines. AT USD MITE, applicants are considered from an even wider variety of backgrounds.

How much does an innovation master’s degree cost? 

With some programs it is not always easy to determine the tuition cost. However, at an average tuition cost of $30,525 (33 credits x $925 per credit), the online Master of Science Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (MITE) program here at USD is built to be an investment in your future that pays for itself.

What makes someone an innovator?

Are you insatiably curious about the way things work? Like to think of ideas for disrupting existing markets and processes, or trail-blazing entirely new ones? Then you may be an innovator.

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