Which MBA Specialization is Best for You?
Earning an MBA can enhance your skills, open exciting new doors, and help you remain competitive in an evolving business environment. But it’s not a commitment to be taken lightly. An MBA degree typically takes two years to complete if studied full time, while a part-time MBA can take up to four years. During those years, you can expect to cover a range of challenging business-related subjects, including quantitative analysis, accounting, economics, statistics, management, and entrepreneurship.1 Unless you wish to study a general MBA, you’ll need to choose an area of specialization during the latter part of the degree.
When deciding on an MBA specialization, there are various factors to consider. Start by looking at your interests and passions, and how these can feed into your future career goals.2 It’s also important to assess your existing skills and how these align with those goals. The right MBA can deepen your existing skills and help you improve in areas you’re lacking. Also, take into account your work experience and how it might prepare you for a particular specialization. Alternatively, if you feel you have enough knowledge of an area, you may wish to specialize in another to broaden your scope.3
Not sure which MBA specialization is best for you? Let’s take a look at some of the most in-demand MBA specializations:4
MBA General Management
If you consider that an MBA covers general topics related to business management, an MBA in General Management could be seen as the broadest of specializations. You can expect to enhance your management skills further through electives such as people management, digitalization, and operations.5 To prepare professionals for management roles in various potential industries, this specialization also explores leadership techniques, problem-solving, team motivation, organizational behavior, and strategic management.6
Future positions could include:7
- Management consultant
- General manager
- Management analyst
An MBA specializing in entrepreneurship is a wise choice for those who wish to start a business or grow an existing one. This specialization focuses on identifying opportunities for innovation. During the program, you’ll discover how to design business plans, build leadership skills, find venture capital, market your products, sustain a business, and understand the legal structures that underpin a business.8
Aside from running your own business, potential careers include:9
- Development manager
- Venture capital partner
It’s worth considering the MBA Finance specialization if you’re already working in or keen to pursue a career in the finance industry. These programs explore topics such as investment management, corporate finance, fintech, asset management, markets, strategic and financial risk, mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital. Practical learning experiences typically involve students managing a virtual fund focusing on sustainable investments, for example.10
A Finance MBA can open up new opportunities in:
- Investment banking
- Corporate finance
- Equity research
With the advent of social media and data analytics, marketing has become increasingly complex. This MBA specialization will help you stay abreast of the latest developments in the field while improving your knowledge of how to develop powerful marketing campaigns. You’ll explore topics like branding, advertising, market research, marketing channels, and communication, and learn to manage operations and sales forces.11
Career possibilities include:12
- Advertising manager
- Marketing manager
- Marketing director
MBA Business Analytics
Business analytics has soared in importance and popularity over the past decade. Big data now drives decision-making processes at all levels of business operations, making those who can collect and translate the data, and implement the appropriate solutions, highly sought after. This specialization is designed for those who bridge the worlds of executive problem-solving and data science. During this type of MBA program, you’ll learn how to apply algorithms and artificial intelligence to various industries, while improving your knowledge of organizational behavior, business ethics, and consumer psychology.13
Those who complete such a program could explore a career in:14
- Business consulting
- Product management
- Marketing analytics
Beyond hard skills
Interestingly, the top skills employers look for in MBA graduates aren’t necessarily expertise in these core MBA subjects. Instead soft skills such as communication, strategic thinking, management, leadership, and interpersonal skills are becoming increasingly important.15
To determine the program that’s best suited to your career path involves research and, potentially, participation in a preparatory course. Many students choose to study MBA preparatory or bridging courses before enrolling in the full course to boost their theoretical and practical business knowledge, or build their soft skills.
The following three courses could help you prepare for an MBA degree, regardless of the field of specialization you choose:
The University of Stellenbosch Business School – Executive Development (USB-ED) offers a 15-week MBA Essentials online short course that teaches technical business skills in economics, quantitative analysis, and managerial accounting. It helps students prepare for the full MBA program while also providing a cheaper and shorter alternative to the full MBA. Read more about what to expect here.
Similarly, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has developed the MBA Essentials online certificate course. This 10-week course equips participants with the necessary skills to succeed as leaders in the contemporary business environment. With a focus on the mechanics of leadership, influence, and strategy, you’ll gain the financial and strategic skills imperative to business management. Read more about the course here.
The Yale School of Management – Executive Education, in turn, offers the Accelerated Management Program to help learners develop core management skills for tackling complex business challenges. This eight-week online program uses case studies to explore topics like developing a competitive strategy, leveraging social networks, and making decisions using quantitative models.
Ultimately, the best MBA specialization and introductory course depends on your goals. Carefully considering your experience, interests, and skills will help you choose a program that will help drive your career forward.
Unsure which MBA specialization to choose? Learn about how these MBA Essentials courses can help make the decision easier
- 1 Hayes, A. (Jun, 2021). ‘When is an MBA worth it?’. Retrieved from Investopedia.
- 2 Payne, C. (Jul, 2021). ‘MBA concentrations: Types and how to choose’. Retrieved from Bankrate.
- 3 Johnson, T. (Oct, 2021). ‘What MBA should I get? Choosing your MBA concentration’. Retrieved from ZDNet.
- 4 Nugent, T. (Aug, 2021). ‘What are the most popular MBA specializations?’. Retrieved from MBA.com.
- 5 Nugent, T. (Aug, 2021). ‘What are the most popular MBA specializations?’. Retrieved from MBA.com.
- 6 Carlton, G. (Oct, 2021). ‘MBA concentrations: All of your options’. Retrieved from ZDNet.
- 7 Carlton, G. (Oct, 2021). ‘MBA concentrations: All of your options’. Retrieved from ZDNet.
- 8 (Nd). ‘MBA in entrepreneurship’. Retrieved from TopMBA. Accessed November 17, 2021.
- 9 Carlton, G. (Oct, 2021). ‘MBA concentrations: All of your options’. Retrieved from ZDNet.
- 10 Garner, B. (Aug, 2021). ‘Is an MBA in finance right for you?’. Retrieved from MBA.com.
- 11 (Jul, 2021). ‘What is a marketing MBA?’. Retrieved from Best College Reviews.
- 12 Carlton, G. (Oct, 2021). ‘MBA concentrations: All of your options’. Retrieved from ZDNet.
- 13 Fitzgerald, S. (May, 2021). ‘MBA in business analytics: Big data is a big deal’. Retrieved from Fortune.
- 14 Fitzgerald, S. (May, 2021). ‘MBA in business analytics: Big data is a big deal’. Retrieved from Fortune.
- 15 Chisholm, A. (Feb, 2021). ‘Employers name the skills they seek in MBA graduates’. Retrieved from QS Quacquarelli Symonds.