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  • Writer's pictureTrudy Horsting

How to Choose the Right MBA Concentration for Your Career Goals

MBAs teach you business fundamentals, financial skills, and provide a fantastic foundation of knowledge to grow in the business field. However, many MBA programs also offer the option to specialize or concentrate in a specific area.

Concentrations allow MBA students to gain specialized knowledge and skills in a specific field. This knowledge can make graduates more attractive to companies and improve their chances of being hired and acquiring leadership roles within a company. Concentrations provide mastery in unique aspects of business that general MBA courses may not offer.

In many ways, MBA concentrations are like undergraduate majors. Every student must still complete a generalized curriculum to ensure they are prepared for a career in business. However, the option to specialize provides a unique opportunity for students to customize their degree to suit their passions and career aspirations. For each concentration (as at some schools, students may complete two), students must take a designated number of courses and earn a certain number of credits.

Since the whole purpose of concentrations means that you are specializing, and students only have a certain amount of time to complete a degree, it is impossible to complete a large number of concentrations. Therefore, students must make strategic decisions about their future.

The best concentration option for any student is one which will aid them in their desired career. For instance, if you want to be a healthcare administrator, you should choose a healthcare administration concentration. However, that may not be the only factor to think about as you consider where you want your specialized expertise to lie. Here are six things to consider as you decide.

How to Decide on the Right MBA Concentration

1. Your interests

First, it’s important to think about your interests. This may seem obvious, but often it's not the first priority students consider. Take some time to think about what it is that you’re really passionate about. What internships have you had that you loved? What about past jobs? What aspects of them did you like or not like? Which courses did you take during your undergraduate degree that you really enjoyed?

2. Career goals

Next, think about your career goals. Do you have a dream industry or a dream company? Research that industry/company and uncover what skillsets are most valuable. Do your due diligence.

You can also utilize your network to better understand the specific industry you’re interested in and which concentrations may be the most valuable.

If you don’t have a network yet, reach out to representatives from different companies that you are intrigued by. Inquire about what skills are needed to be successful in their company and what skills they value when interviewing prospective employees.

3. Think about what you’re not interested in

Additionally, one should consider what they are not interested in. Have you ever taken a course you despised? It’s likely best not to choose this as your specialization even if it has a higher earning potential. Have you had a job you didn’t love? What aspects of it were you most frustrated by? Think about what concentrations might align with something you’ve already experienced which you didn’t find enjoyable, and steer clear.

4. Career potential

Earnings isn't everything but it is something important to consider. Many people enroll in an MBA program with the goal of earning a higher salary when they finish. As some concentrations are bound to lead to higher salaries, it's important to consider this variable.

According to Monster, the concentrations with the highest earning potential are Strategy, Technology Management, Entrepreneurship, Finance, General Business, Economics, and Marketing. According to PayScale, the highest-earning concentration is Information Technology with an average salary of around $111,000 closely followed by Real Estate with an average salary of around $104,000. Others with high earning potential according to Payscale include Entrepreneurship and Finance.

However, it’s also important to think about supply and demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health service manager occupation is likely to have an employment growth rate of 32% in the next ten years. For prospective, most careers have a 4% growth rate. This may indicate that concentrations in the health industry are more advantageous for prospective MBA students.

5. Look at the courses

Once you’ve started to narrow down your list of concentrations, start examining the courses required for each concentration at various schools. Do you find the courses interesting? Would you enjoy taking them? Do the courses for one concentration seem more enjoyable than the courses for another? Does one concentration stand out above the rest?

Take your time reading the course descriptions and work to understand what you could gain from the concentration. Does the concentration you’re considering look like it will equip you with the hard and soft skills you’re searching to obtain? This may differ largely program to program so keep this in mind both as you are applying to schools and as you are deciding between them.

If you can clearly see how the skills of a concentration may serve you in the career you aspire to hold, you are likely looking at the right concentration.

6. What is the school you’re interested in attending known for?

Each MBA program has a specialty it is known for. Some programs have unique concentrations not offered elsewhere. Do careful research on various programs. You may find a concentration at a school that you are perfectly suited for that you didn’t even previously know existed.

Uncover the reputation of different business schools and in what areas they are best equipped. Are there faculty who hold particularly strong strengths in a particular concentration? Perhaps the location of the school influences its reputation in certain specialties. Examine as many aspects of a program as you can.

In Sum

An MBA concentration is not a sentence which locks you into a certain industry or career for life. But it can be an extremely advantageous tool to utilize while completing your degree.

Think about what you are passionate about (and what you are not), what your career goals are, the career potential which comes with various concentrations, the courses required for different concentrations, and what the schools you are interested in are known for.

Concentrations can help students tailor their MBA so that they can develop the skills necessary for their dream career. It’s important to do thorough research, discuss with your network, and not take the decision lightly. But, if you’ve done your due diligence and you’re passionate about the topic, you’re likely making the right decision.


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