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What Are the Most Popular MBA Specializations?

Thomas Nugent

Thomas Nugent - BusinessBecause

Thomas Nugent is the Deputy Editor for BusinessBecause.

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The MBA degree is known for giving you a holistic overview of business. Core MBA modules cover marketing, finance, strategy, accounting, and more vital management topics.

But what if you want to dive further into a specific topic? MBA specializations offer you the chance complement your generalist management training by becoming an expert in a chosen field.

What is an MBA specialization?

MBA specializations, also known as MBA concentrations, allow you to build expertise in a particular industry or function during your MBA.

In a traditional two-year MBA, you may spend your first year focusing on your core modules before specializing in your second year through electives concentrated on a specific topic area.

MBA specializations cover everything from general management and finance to marketing and entrepreneurship.

They typically come in two forms, either as dedicated specialized MBA programs or a traditional MBA with a specialization track.

Popular MBA specializations

MBA General Management

As the name suggests, a general management specialization covers everything you need to be the ideal generalist in the workplace.

An MBA is already a generalist management degree, so an MBA general management concentration gives you the option to build out your general management skills even further, offering a wide array of electives covering topics like people management, operations, and digitalization.

The variety of roles that you could move into after graduating means the MBA General Management specialization is a good choice if you’re looking to keep your career options open.

MBA Finance

Have you set your heart on a role with Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan? If that’s the case, then an MBA finance specialization could be your ticket to launching a coveted career after your MBA.

An MBA finance specialization may deep dive into asset management, fintech, how to control strategic and financial risks, and how to value your own or another company.

Typical MBA finance courses cover:

  • Private equity and venture capital
  • Valuation and M&A
  • International financial management
  • Fintech and digital finance

After graduating from a finance-focused MBA, you might find yourself moving into any of the following careers:

  • Financial manager
  • Investment banker
  • Financial analyst
  • Auditor

MBA Marketing

If working in marketing sounds like an appealing career move for you, then an MBA marketing specialization is a logical path.

A typical marketing specialization will give you a grounding in core topics including:

  • Big data
  • Consumer behavior
  • Marketing analytics
  • Pricing strategy
  • Brand management
  • New product development

The benefit of a marketing specialization is that it can be applied across all industries, so you’re not restricted in industry choice when you graduate.

If you have a target industry in mind though, your MBA marketing specialization may also allow you to further concentrate your education and focus on a specific industry like luxury or healthcare.

MBA in Business Analytics

If you’re looking to enter a fast-growing field and build your level of expertise when it comes to all things analytics, then you should look for a program that offers a strong business analytics track.

After focusing on your core business modules, you might dive into how to use data and models to support decision making in business; how to build links between the impact of advertising on sales; how historical data predict stock returns; and how to analyze business performance across a number of key performance indicators.

MBA in Business Analytics modules typically cover:

  • Data mining
  • Data visualization
  • Risk management systems
  • Trading strategies
  • Customer insights research

Career paths for MBA in Business Analytics grads might include marketing, consulting, or finance, in roles to do with brand management, management consulting, operations, and strategic planning.

MBA Consulting

An MBA prepares you well for a career in consulting. By learning to work and lead diverse teams, develop your communication and presentation abilities, and gain an understanding of how a business works from top to bottom, you’re tailor-made for the industry by the time you graduate.

A typical MBA consulting specialization will develop your people skills, business case cracking ability, and knowledge on how to overcome a variety of business challenges. There will also be ample opportunities to deliver presentations and practice public speaking.

All MBA programs prepare you well for a career in consulting. However, some schools do offer specialized consulting tracks. The University of Rochester’s Simon Business School offers a STEM-designated MBA with a specialized consulting track, and the University of Alberta’s Alberta Business School offers a Strategy & Consulting Career Track.

HEC Paris also offers an MBA specialization in Strategy, designed for students who want to become top strategy consultants.

MBA in Entrepreneurship

Getting a startup off the ground can be tough. An MBA in Entrepreneurship can help you to develop the skills necessary to take your startup idea from conception to launch.

You’ll focus on developing both the hard and soft skills needed to create a successful startup, and you may have the chance to finish your degree by pitching your startup to an expert panel of venture capitalists, accelerators, and entrepreneurial experts.

An MBA in Entrepreneurship will teach you about the key aspects of the entrepreneurial journey, and the frameworks you need to manage uncertainty.

Among other things you’ll learn about:

  • Creating a value-driven business model
  • Engaging and communicating with stakeholders
  • Building a successful team
  • Venture creation
  • Platform disruption
  • Scaling up and business growth

MBA in HR

Human Resources isn’t just about fixing internal employee issues; it’s an important strategic function for any business looking to attract and retain the best talent.

An MBA specialization focusing on HR will cover human resources analytics, consulting, operational management, and employment law. One caveat is you need to be sure that a career in the HR field is for you, as the specialization equips you with specific, focused knowledge in one area.

You’ll acquire the ability to manage employees and deploy training and development initiatives, as well as design jobs, ensure health and safety measures are up to date, and manage exits from your company.

MBA in International Business

An MBA in international business, or MBA in international management, will prepare you for a career across geographies.

You’ll focus on how other countries conduct business from a legal and cultural standpoint, as well as learning how to manage and lead diverse teams. Your specialization will likely also include study trips abroad.

Quiz: Test Your International Business Etiquette Skills

How does your international business etiquette stack up? See whether you're ready for an international career, or whether you need to hit the books.

 

An international business specialization can prepare you to enter an array of roles with multinational companies who operate around the world. It can also prepare you to work in a family business, or a smaller, more local organization that has international aspirations.

How to choose an MBA specialization

These aren’t an exhaustive list of MBA specializations. As new industries and trends emerge, schools will adapt and launch new concentrations to meet demand.

There are business schools that offer MBA specializations in digitalization or governance and sustainability. There are also schools with a tight focus on fintech and cryptocurrencies, as well as those that focus on healthcare and supply chain management. 

Studying for an MBA gives you the skills you need to enter a variety of jobs and functions, and to accelerate your career progression. You’ll gain a core base of business knowledge that covers a business from top to bottom.

However, if you want to build your expertise and carve out a career in one specific field, then consider an MBA specialization.

Whether or not an MBA program offers the MBA specialization you’re interested in is a key factor in finding your best fit program. Our free guide, Finding Your Best Fit Full-Time MBA Program, gives you the expert tips and guidance you need to confidently narrow your options and identify the programs that make the most sense for your needs, preferences, and career goals.

FREE GUIDE

Thomas Nugent

Thomas Nugent - BusinessBecause

Thomas Nugent is the Deputy Editor for BusinessBecause, with responsibilities supporting the Editor with content and SEO strategy, alongside editorial team development.

Thomas is an experienced writer who has written articles covering business education, management, careers, and the future of work.

He launched and edits the BusinessBecause Insights series, which explores the latest research and trends from the business school classroom, drawing on the expertise of world-leading professors to inspire and inform current and future leaders. The Insights series has covered things like the sharing economy, working from home during COVID-19, the future of the office, NFTs, and ESG investing.

Thomas earned an MA in English from the University of Aberdeen before completing an MSc in Journalism at Robert Gordon University. He joined BusinessBecause in October 2017.

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