At Southern New Hampshire University, students in the social media M.B.A. program need to take foundation courses before they can take the three specialized courses: "Social Media," "Social Media Marketing Strategy," and "Social Media Marketing Campaigns." That's one thing that caught Julie Zahn, a student in the program, off guard.
[Check out a survey that says M.B.A.'s need social media skills.]
Zahn, who enrolled in the program hoping to develop social media communications skills she could use as director of alumni relations at a private, all-boys high school in Salisbury, Conn., says she was required to take 14 classes before she could take a social media course. She was also disappointed to learn there were only three courses in social media in the program.
"A year ago, social media—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter—was more exciting than it is today. I have started to feel like it is a fad and that next year there will be something else new and exciting to help people communicate. I really wish that I had gotten a global M.B.A. and then just shadowed or interned with someone in the [social media] field," she says. "I would not recommend [the social media M.B.A.]—at least at SNHU."
Other business school administrators say the value of social media programs isn't so clear cut. "This is an interesting area, and one that is in so much flux that it must be difficult for prospective students to know what to do," says James Dean, dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill.
Students aspiring to work in management—even if they want to manage social media—should get a traditional M.B.A., but future marketing consultants or agency employees can specialize more, Dean says.
[Read about how proliferating online M.B.A. programs are controversial.]
Because social media is so new, it can be difficult to identify the more credible programs, according to Dean. "While I am biased toward established and well-known institutions like UNC, it is possible that this turf will be successfully claimed by an institution outside the kinds of schools that U.S. News generally profiles," he says.
What is clear is that executives in training cannot ignore social media, says Jane LeClair, the dean of Excelsior's School of Business and Technology, which recently announced the social media M.B.A. concentration.
"Business leaders today who avoid social networks [and] stick their heads in the sand do so at their own risk," she says. "Individual conversations are happening on social media about individual companies, products, and services regardless of whether or not the company enters the space."
Searching for a business school? Get our complete rankings of Best Business Schools.