Does My Online MBA Specialization Matter?

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You have finished your bachelor’s degree, and now you are looking at grad school and perhaps an online MBA. Should students go with a general specialization, or find a focus area and go with it? You can ask this question to many MBA educators or graduates, and we are sure you will get different answers. So, let’s dig into this together.

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The Degree

Pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration is one of the most tried-and-true paths to achieving your career goals for mid-career business professionals, executives, and entrepreneurs. An MBA is one of the oldest programs in the United States, and it has long been regarded as a good investment. 

In the past decade, business schools have been utilizing novel technology to deliver the MBA experience online. Top Online MBA programs are similar to traditional MBA programs. Still, they provide more flexibility and accessibility for working professionals who want to continue working while obtaining postgraduate degrees.

Online MBA students come from various fields, including business and engineering, as well as hospitality and the humanities. With such a diverse spectrum of occupations, it begs the question for aspiring online MBA students:

Is it necessary to pursue MBA concentrations or specializations?

There are some pros and cons of having an MBA Specialization.

MBA Specialization Pros

  1. Students pursuing a specialized MBA journey through their business education with a focus in a particular sector or field (e.g., sports management, accounting, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, etc.). Some programs might focus even the core courses within the framework of the specialization, or have a few specific courses fully emerged in the focused topic. A specialized MBA can provide students with more targeted management experience and topics for those professionals solely interested in a specific sector or profession.
  2. While the number of Online MBA programs and on-campus programs keep growing, so do the number of graduates with this advanced degree on their resume. A specialization can be used to differentiate professionals from the masses.
  3. If students have a clear picture of their future professional path, a specialized MBA can give you an advantage by providing applicable experience in their chosen field.

MBA Specialization Cons 

  1. While the core business practices will be universal, the specialized information will be focused and possibly limited to a single field. Students either need to be sure about your professional goals before enrolling in a focused MBA program, or be well versed in how their specialization could be applicable to other fields that might present themselves. If the possibilities aren’t through through, it could be more challenging to shift careers later on—for example, a specialized MBA in nonprofit management may make it more challenging to transition to a marketing firm than a general MBA.
  2. If you’re just getting started professionally, you may have difficulty getting into specialized MBA programs because some may expect students to have relevant experience in their industry before enrolling.
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If you have chosen your specialization, you need to be very sure of this decision. We always say that you make decisions based on passion. So if you are genuinely passionate about a particular area of study, go for it. You have to remember that you are the one that has to be in those lectures and spend time and energy in research. Do not be motivated by your peer’s success. You must be the author of your narrative and do what makes you happy. 

Some students aren’t sold on what they want to study, and they go for a general MBA. As with the specialization, there are pros and cons to this decision. 

General MBA Pros 

  1. Students in a general MBA gain a comprehensive understanding of business and management that is applicable in any industry, role, and organization.
  2. Almost every Online MBA offers a general curriculum, and many times it is offered with fewer cumulative hours to graduate. This saves students time and money.
  3. Most general MBA programs does not require a specific professional background, and in fact, some offer admission straight from an undergraduate degree.

General MBA Cons

  1. The coursework in a general MBA will not inherently direct students into a specific profession or industry, students must be proactive in exploring options before graduation. Although, most Online MBA students are already employed, so this will not be as detrimental for those with an established career.
  2. Because the number of MBA graduates continue to increase, General MBA graduates will need to find a way to differentiate themselves without a specialization. When obtaining a General MBA status quo isn’t an option. It is beneficial to think about the future and where you see yourself in the landscape of business, leadership, and entrepreneurship. The job market becomes more competitive every year, and you always need something extra to stand out amongst the crowd.

The Questrom School of Business Online MBA program at Boston University (BU) equips students with the core knowledge and skills employers seek. BU teaches strategic management, organizational behavior, financial management, and cutting-edge topics like big data, digital transformation, and innovation. Alifia Waliji-Banglawala, a pharmacy director in charge of hospice care in multiple facilities in Massachusetts, wasn’t looking for discipline-specific programs while assessing choices. She was drawn to Questrom’s program because she wanted to learn about the interwoven nature of business.

Salary Potential

An MBA degree is widely regarded as a strategy to boost your earning potential. According to MBA news site Poets & Quants, business professionals with MBAs report earning an average income increase by $36,742 compared to their income previous to business school.

Do concentrations make a difference in salary potential?

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This can be a tricky question to answer because it relies on the difference in pay in sectors, for example nonprofit vs. IT, it relies upon where you live and work, and depends on your work experience. For instance, if you peruse Payscale and research different MBA specializations, you will find a range of salaries associated with different degrees. An MBA in Entrepreneurship has an average base salary of $103,000, an MBA in Supply Chain Management has an average base salary of $88,000, and an MBA in Accounting has an average base salary of $77,000. There is an obvious difference between specializations, but it doesn’t necessarily depend on the actual curriculum within the degree.

Action Plans

Now, you have to start deciding what you want to do. There are many options on this matter, but you have to choose one that best fits your career goals. Do you have a clear plan and have mastery in a specific field of business or business sector? If you can say yes, go for your specialization and don’t look back. You are passionate and know your purpose! If you are prepared to elevate your career with a possible promotion and salary change but don’t know precisely where you want to go, then a General MBA is where the gold is for you. Either decision is a winning decision. 

Suppose you have no idea what you want to do. Do not fret! Career services at many universities may often advise which emphasis or specialization will lead to a specific job or even widen your scope for possibilities. Most business school professors and administrators are happy to clarify how their Online MBA courses differ from those at other similar institutions.

Remember that you are the author of this story! Now write a masterpiece.

Related Resources

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