The Specializations Boom
MBA programs come in all shapes and sizes, but most prospective students play it safe and plump for one of the stalwarts of finance, marketing, or management. One of the main reasons for this is that they do not fully investigate the diversity of specializations out there, and that’s a great shame because only once a student knows the full range of MBA options can they select the one that best fits their career goals.
The standard specializations are: Marketing, Finance, Human Resources, IT/Systems, 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.
Are Specializations Credible?
All MBAs hold certain core attributes that are valued by employers seeking to hire the managers of the future, and general MBAs teach their students to think strategically and analytically. However, if you add to this a specialization that matches with future career goals then the combination can fast track a candidate to senior management.
Some people think that prospective employers are reluctant to hire people from such specialized programs because they lack credibility. After all does Taj Hotels really need to hire an MBA in Hotel Management rather than an MBA generalist from a top school? The answer is not a simple one, and it all comes down to the credibility of the course in question. Students should be wary of small universities that are just using marketing skills to promote “hot topic” courses without having the depth to deliver a high quality course.
The Two Most Important Factors in Selecting a Specialization
If you decide to take the specialization route then you need to make sure that the school is well ranked for that specialization
Different specializations will have different rankings, so do your research – prospective employers will certainly do theirs.
Another factor is the one-year versus two-year course selection. A two-year course allows the student to be 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 term time.
Example MBA Specializations
Marketing MBA Specialization
This specialization can help accelerate your entry and progress in some of the most competitive fields: marketing, advertising and public relations.
Hospitality & Tourism MBA Specialization
For those that want to work in management roles in hotels, restaurants and the tourism sector this MBA can equip you with the management techniques needed to rise to a senior position.
Human Resources MBA Specialization
This MBA can lead to a key role managing a company’s most important asset – its people. You will learn about best practices in hiring and training.
Health Care Management MBA Specialization
This is a specialization that could prepare you for management positions in health care facilities, pharmaceuticals, insurance, care facilities for the elderly, and public health agencies. It’s a growing industry, which is seeing this become an increasingly popular MBA.
Communication MBA Specialization
This is for students looking at jobs in media, advertising, journalism, and public relations. MBAs are not widespread in these fields in the same way that they are in finance, and they can give a real competitive edge in advancing to mid- to upper-level management positions.
Entrepreneurship MBA Specialization
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.
Specialized MBA programs are certainly spreading, from investment management, through to arts administration, real estate, and biosciences. But are these just branding exercises for smaller schools, rather than truly useful courses that benefit students
However, for students who take a specialized MBA not only are they accelerating their progress within that specialty, but also they are limiting their opportunity to work outside it. That can be problematic when your sector is hit by an economic downturn.
Another factor is that since these programs are new they often require a lower score, which means that you can possibly use them to enter a better school than would otherwise be possible.