MBA Specializations & How to Choose One |
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The Different Types of MBA Specializations

An MBA is typically a two-year program that aims to make the student proficient in various subjects of management and an expert for one. In the first year of an MBA the main focus is on giving students a brief idea about various subjects of management. Towards the end of the first year students are introduced to the specialized areas.

In the second year of an MBA, students have to choose one specialization from the variety of specializations available. This is not applicable if students have gained admission to a specialized course. Choosing a specialization can be a difficult process for students. It is very important for student to consider their career goals and professional development before choosing a specialization.

Students have the opportunity to either pursue a general management program or complete a specialization as part of the MBA program. Specializations are a matter of choice, not a prerequisite, and all students receive the same MBA education regardless of whether or not they complete a specialization. Students should consider their career goals and professional development in settling on a specialization.

Listed below are the most common MBA specializations:

An MBA in finance is the oldest form of MBA specialization and probably one of the most popular. In the US, the finance department has become a battleground for business school supremacy. With the high profile of Wall Street amongst MBA recruiters, finance is one of the most eminent disciplines. An MBA in finance prepares you in various subjects, such as costing, management accounting and control, budgeting, international finance, banking, privatization, capital management, etc. The course will emphasize various aspects of financial theories, identification of best managerial practices in the area. After studying these subjects, the graduate becomes specialized in financial management, enabling him or her to work in the finance department of any organization. One becomes eligible for exciting careers in banks, financial consulting firms and financial institutions. One can get involved in consumer and investment banking, institutional finance, merchant banking, corporate finance and international finance.
General Management MBA programs are considered the standard and traditional MBA programs, and are usually the most popular. General Management MBA programs concentrate on providing individuals with general business administration knowledge and comprehensive insight into the core elements of business, preparing the student for a managerial position in many fields and industries. Such programs are designed for individuals wanting a broad, yet in-depth overview of business topics, enabling them to enter into any number of management roles. Unlike a specialized MBA program, traditional MBA programs include courses the focus on both the internal functional operations of an organization and on the external relationships affecting business operations. Courses may vary from program to program, but one can expect to learn about finance, leadership, marketing, operations & strategic management, accounting, and business ethics. This path may also be suitable for business majors unsure of what specialization to pursue.

A very important focus of the general management MBA degree is leadership. This MBA involves rigorous training, a variety of assignments, reports, presentations, and group projects, all of which are geared to equip the future manager with the necessary abilities to deal with real-life business situations.

An MBA in marketing is very dynamic and competitive. An MBA in marketing will help enhance one’s skills & knowledge in the field of marketing, advertising, public relations, etc. One needs to have excellent communication skills and resource mobilization skills, and an undying zeal to excel in marketing. This specialization can help accelerate entry and progress in some of the most competitive fields: marketing, advertising and public relations.
This is a controversial one because many claim that entrepreneurship is not something that can be taught. These criticisms miss the point that this MBA is really about business administration strategies that engender the same innovation that makes entrepreneurs so successful.
With the relentless pace of globalization, organizations need professionals who know how to conduct business around the globe. That need has increased the demand – even at US-based companies – for graduates with degrees in international business. This MBA specialization provides an in-depth understanding of the organizational capabilities required for international operations, including specialized functions such as international marketing, finance etc. The degree may be thought of as an MBA with a particular focus on multinational corporations.
Operations management is the corporate area in charge of designing, managing and tracking different processes. These processes are made up of interrelated, sequential activities through which the components and actors required (raw materials, labor, capital, information, the client, etc.) are transformed into products. The key is the value added through the process as perceived by the customer, i.e. the end product has a greater value than the elements pre-process. Companies now need a new kind of supply chain/logistics/operations manager and this need has led to the creation of an MBA in supply chain management or logistics & operations. An MBA in operations teaches the student how to deal with production management or shop floor management. One learns how to maintain process flows and to develop vendor and inter-departmental relationships. Most candidates with engineering backgrounds go for an MBA in operations, as it gives them an edge over their peers in product development and designing and in process optimization.
The MBA nonprofit management program is designed for students to meet their professional goals and develop careers that are rewarding, challenging and enhancing their ability to earn executive level compensation. A growing number of business students are looking to create change by working in nonprofits, non-governmental organizations, and social enterprises. The nonprofit MBA program can help students apply core business principles (like strategy, finance, and marketing) to these organizations, so they can effectively drive social impact. The Nonprofit MBA’s core focus is based on a understanding in the theories and practice of business management while emphasizing the specific needs of the nonprofit organization sector.
In this technologically advanced world, no business can run without solid IT support. An MBA in IT is designed to educate & develop managers who can effectively manage the planning, design, selection, implementation, usage and administration of emerging and converging information and communications technologies.

IT graduates play essential roles on the business team, typically designing and implementing hardware and software solutions to business problems. They hold professional positions in areas such as client/server or web applications development, systems analysis and network administration.

The pharmaceuticals industry is a key player in the worldwide economy as more and more MBA graduates are opting for this trendy field. An MBA in healthcare covers core business skills and practices. However, it focuses on the specific issues managers may encounter in roles such as hospital administrators, medical practice managers, insurance-company executives and a wide variety of other roles. This is a specialization that can prepare graduates for management positions in health care facilities, pharmaceutical companies, insurance agencies, facilities for elderly care, and public health agencies. It’s a growing industry, and thus is becoming an increasingly popular MBA.

As is the case in many key industries, MBA graduates tend to be recruited by the pharmaceutical sector as much for their potential as for any specific previous experience, although academic training in the sciences or a background in such areas as sales or marketing can sometimes prove to be an advantage. There are huge opportunities for MBA graduates in the health care field, and most of them pay very well. With an MBA in healthcare, one can find a good, well-paying position in a biomedical startup, e-health, consulting or pharmaceutical and medical device R&D.

Getting into an MBA program in this field of specialization offers in-depth knowledge thatcan help one find a senior level or management positions in different sectors.

An accounting MBA readies students for the CPA exam and jobs in business accounting administration. Students gain skills to become accountants, financial managers, auditors, and more.

An MBA in HR management is for those wanting to develop a management career in HR and strategy. This includes labor markets, international leadership, recruiting, training, team building, performance updates, employee policy, salary, benefits and increments, employee health and safety as well as staff amenities. If one has good communication skills and a charismatic personality, and is dependable and confident, an MBA in HR can be just the thing. This MBA can lead to a key role managing a company’s most important asset – its people.
An MBA in supply chain management is a unique and exciting opportunity in the field of business management. It includes inventory management, warehousing and transportation of various materials as required by a client or a company. Supply chain management can be done by graduates of any stream.
This one-of–a kind MBA is geared to professionals already working in media or to students looking at jobs in media, advertising, journalism, and public relations. It was specifically designed to provide graduates with the foundation, skills, and competencies required to both understand and function within the complex legal, ethical, economic, and social dimensions of media management. Admission to this program usually requires entering students to have prior media, art or media related business expertise. MBA degrees in these fields are not as widespread as they are in finance, and they can give a real competitive edge in advancing to mid- to upper-level management positions.
An MBA in this particular field equips students with a global vision of the business convergence process currently taking place and poised to form one of the major industries of the 21st century. It is oriented to innovative professionals of any background who want to plan a career path in the digital economy, either as a key player in a leading multinational or as an entrepreneur.

Telecommunications have made huge leaps forward in the past two decades. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. The emphasis is on the value added services, such as e-mail, cellular phones, WAP etc in developed countries and in improving basic telephone availability in developing countries. This sector plays a key role in encouraging growth in the industrial and services sector.

How to Choose an MBA Specialization

MBA programs come in all shapes and sizes, but most prospective students play it safe and go for finance, marketing, or management. One of the main reasons for this is that they do not fully investigate the diversity of specializations out there. This is a great shame, because only once a student knows the full range of MBA options available, can they select the one that best fits their career goals.

As more and more universities offer MBA programs, it is becoming ever more difficult for candidates to decide on which business school offers the most suitable MBA program to meet their requirements. Many business schools are deviating from the ‘generalist’ system, which has been the typical MBA model for the last thirty years. Today one can choose from a wide range of MBA specializations, ranging from an MBA in financial studies, as well as insurance and risk management accountancy and finance, to an MBA in sports management, or even an MBA in technology.

The standard specializations are marketing, finance, human resources, IT/IS, operations and entrepreneurship; but these are rapidly being joined by more specific subjects, such as corporate social responsibility, wine management, football industries, luxury brand management, hotel management, etc.
How should students go about deciding which specialization is best for them? There are a number of ways that individuals can easily make that decision and get on the road to earning a specialized MBA that pays off in the long run. Here are some things to consider:

Make sure that the school is well ranked for that specialization (see above). Different specializations will have different rankings, so do the research – prospective employers will certainly do theirs.
Both one-year and two-year programs are available. A two-year course allows you to be a generalist in year one, and move to specialist in year two. On the other hand, a one-year specialist MBA is really a branding exercise as there is not enough time to cover both standard MBA topics and the specialization within the limited time available.
If you prefer working alone or consider yourself a leader, a specialization in entrepreneurship might help you in your quest to start your own business. Do you find health care intriguing? A specialization in health care management might be your best option. Take an honest inventory of your strengths and weaknesses.
Which classes interested you most in your undergraduate studies? If you shied away from math but loved international relations, you might want to consider an international program over finance. It may also be wise to look at your grades from those courses, to determine which fields stimulate you intellectually. The biggest tip any individual can get is more of a general education tip, but it still applies to MBA hopefuls looking into specializations: If you are considering going back to school for an MBA, then do it first for your own benefit, and select a specialization that interests you in addition to being useful towards achieving your goals.
Do you want to create your own business, or run part of an established franchise? Would you like to travel, or will you be happy settling down with a long-established corporation in a big city? Knowing where you want to be in five years will help you determine where you should begin looking now. Do you want to stay in your current industry or are you interested in a career change? Those working in the field of finance and looking to advance in their field would be well advised to choose a finance specialization to help open doors to upper level management. However, if you have reached a glass ceiling and see no potential for growth in that field, you should consider a career change. A new specialization might be necessary. The most important thing is to match up career experience and future potential in that field when considering a specialization.
After considering the above factors, start researching MBA programs and specializations. While new fields are arising, most schools have several standard specializations. Look at notable programs with lists of specializations that interest you. Most universities will include a list of their MBA specializations, or concentrations, on their websites. Ask for information from schools that interest you. In some cases, you may ask to meet with the professors who teach the specialization that interests you, which may help you in your decision to choose a certain field or university. Schedule an appointment with your university department or program advisor, if you are currently enrolled. Your advisor may be able to offer some insight on your options based on your strengths and weaknesses.

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