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.

You can read more about the different MBA specializations on these dedicated pages:

Finance

General Management/Strategy

Entrepreneurship

Nonprofit/Ethics

International Management

Industry/Operations

Marketing

Media/Communications/Entertainment

Corporate strategy/Consulting

Supply chain management

Human resources

Accounting

Health Care Management

Information Systems/IT/Technology

Economics

Law

Organisational Behavior

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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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