10 MBA specializations and why you should consider pursuing one
If you’re considering going back to school for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) you have more options than ever to choose from. Programs have evolved and diversified over time and today’s business professionals must decide between a general MBA versus specialized MBA.
While a general MBA will offer students a broad knowledge base in business and management, a specialized MBA program allows students to focus on a particular industry or career path. There can be pros and cons to both options. Finding the right fit depends on your personal and professional goals.
To help guide you on your education journey, we outlined everything you need to know about specialized MBA programs and briefly introduce 10 different options that may intrigue you.
Why pursue a specialized MBA?
The MBA remains the gold standard for professionals interested in leadership and management positions in the business world, and there is a plethora of specializations to choose from. Even so, one in three employers surveyed by the Financial Times indicated they struggle to find business school graduates who are equipped with the requisite skill sets.
Earning an MBA can help you expand your network and increase your earning potential. It’s also important to note that one quarter of surveyed employers report candidates with a specialized MBA are more likely to earn higher starting salaries than generalized MBA graduates. These professionals are often able to use their in-depth industry knowledge to add immediate value to a new or enhanced role.
Dr. Helen Eckmann, associate professor of business and professional studies at University of Massachusetts Global (UMass Global), gives the following advice for prospective students.
For anyone considering an MBA, it’s helpful to evaluate your goals for pursuing a graduate degree in the first place.
You could start by asking yourself questions like:
- Why do I want an MBA?
- What is my ideal job or career?
- Am I interested in a wide range of industries or a few specific ones?
Dr. Eckmann notes that students with clearly identified goals that pertain to a precise job or industry may benefit most from a specialized program. It’s much easier to be strategic and choose an MBA that will help you develop relevant expertise if you already have a particular role in mind.
10 MBA areas of specialization to consider
As employers report amplified interest in hiring specialized MBA graduates, an increasing number of graduate schools are beginning to offer a range of emphases. UMass Global, for example, currently has 10 different MBA emphasis areas.
In addition to having a core business curriculum, an MBA in finance is designed to help you broaden your expertise in areas like investment banking, stock market analysis, global economic trends and corporate finance. If you have your sights set on job titles like senior financial analyst, financial manager, investment banker or chief financial officer, an emphasis in finance could be a great fit.
The primary goal of an MBA in business intelligence and data analytics is to help graduates develop the skills needed to synthesize current business trends. In this type of program, students explore and apply the foundations of data analysis, visualization and modeling, using geographic information system (GIS) software like Esri.
This MBA emphasis helps you build the skills needed to work with complex data. It could lead you to a role as a business analyst, statistician or risk solutions architect.
An MBA that specializes in entrepreneurship can be a real game-changer for business owners. This degree program prepares you with the ethical decision-making and leadership skills needed to advance organizations of all types and sizes, regardless of if it’s a well-established company or a start-up. Students also learn foundational professional skills, such as lead generation, financing, assessment, resource procurement and exit strategies.
If you aspire to build your own business one day, this degree could be the perfect fit. You might also consider an entrepreneurship emphasis if you hope to one day work as a consultant.
An MBA in international business is distinct from a generalized MBA, though they both cover topics like accounting, finance and human resources. The international business program expands students’ understanding and awareness of complex international dynamics and the cultural dimensions of global leadership.
This track allows you the opportunity to learn about basic U.S. accounting rules alongside financial practices of other countries, multinational consolidations, currency translation and international taxation. With an MBA in international business, you could be well prepared for a job as a marketing director, a multinational manager, a trade and customs manager, or a foreign policy advisor.
If you hope to work as a marketing manager or a marketing research director, an MBA with a marketing emphasis could help you build the skills employers are looking for. This graduate degree path introduces students to principles of consumer behavior, research, international marketing, promotion strategy and new product development. An MBA in marketing allows them to explore the technological and psychological aspects of marketing.
An MBA in health administration enables you to take a deep dive into the business side of healthcare, exploring things like increased market competition, major organizational restructuring and the impact increased government regulations have on the industry. This concentration could prepare you for a high-level position as a hospital administrator, healthcare policy analyst, pharmaceutical project manager or health services manager.
By choosing a program with an emphasis in organizational leadership, you’ll learn the role of values in ethical decision-making as you prepare to become an influential leader. If you hope to create positive and sustainable change, this MBA emphasis could equip you to work as a training and development manager, an organizational development manager, or a performance development manager.
The coursework will introduce you to contemporary issues and views on organizational leadership, with both multidisciplinary perspectives and classic theories. It’s also true that many retired military leaders pursue the organizational leadership emphasis within University of Massachusetts Global’s MBA program. Alternatively, UMass Global offers a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership option, in which military leaders can earn their postgraduate degree after only seven classes.
Do you have hopes of working as a manager of human resources operations, a senior human resources consultant or even a vice president of human resources? An MBA in human resources can prepare you for roles like these by teaching you about compensation theories, wage and salary administration practices, evaluations systems, performance appraisals, incentives, and more. You’ll learn how to effectively plan, direct and lead administrative operations within your organization.
An MBA in an e-business strategic management program can help prepare you for today’s complex business environment, which incorporates new and evolving technologies, cloud-based communities and omni-channel communications. If you’re intrigued by e-commerce and its related practices and strategies, this program could be very beneficial. You’ll explore the latest developments in information technologies that are critical to database management, enterprise internetworking and web-based enabling.
This specialized MBA path may qualify you for high-ranking positions in the finance and business sectors, while also paving the way for executive level positions in other areas.
If you’re aiming for a successful career in accounting, this MBA has a lot to offer. The rigorous curriculum covers a full spectrum of core competencies, including things like financial reporting, data analysis for decision-making, business process, human resources and marketing management. With this graduate degree, you could land a job as a certified public accountant, a financial analyst or an auditor.
Which MBA path is right for you?
Now that you’re up to speed on 10 valuable MBA specializations, you are better equipped to choose the path that’s right for you. Before you enroll in a program, take time to research your options. Start by browsing the degrees offered at University of Massachusetts Global's School of Business and Professional Studies.
Not sure what to look for in an MBA programs? You may find this article helpful: “How to choose the accredited online MBA program that’s right for you.”
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