MBA concentrations: Types and how to choose

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While an MBA degree overall helps students enter a career in business, MBA concentrations allow students to specialize, preparing them to take leadership roles and more demanding projects. When you enter your program, you may be able to choose an MBA concentration that interests you — like management, finance or information technology.

What is an MBA concentration?

MBA concentrations function like undergraduate majors. Students enrolled in an MBA program take the same general classes but may fill additional class slots with courses that have specific information about a particular business area, such as marketing or finance. Concentrations allow MBA students to bring specialized knowledge back to the workforce.

Popular MBA concentrations

The best MBA concentration for you ultimately depends on the type of career you’d like to pursue after graduation. Below are a few of the most popular MBA concentrations, although colleges may offer additional options.

Management

Students seeking leadership positions should consider a management specialization. This degree focuses on skills that can help you marshal the resources of coworkers and teammates efficiently and effectively to maximize productivity within an organization. Students gain competencies in communication, decision making, delegation and problem-solving.

The average annual salary for a professional with an MBA in management is $87,935, with graduates finding careers in project management and marketing management.

Entrepreneurship

An MBA in entrepreneurship builds concrete skills in business planning and management. With this degree, you’ll learn to navigate global markets and position companies for financial success by building strong teams. Graduates may work for large corporations or find leadership roles at nonprofits and government organizations.

MBA graduates in entrepreneurship earn an average of $101,747, with graduates in careers as senior project managers, executive directors and chief executive officers.

Finance

An MBA in finance allows you to specialize in areas such as investment banking and corporate budgeting. This degree program also offers courses in corporate restructuring and international markets, giving students the skills they need to make financial decisions for a department or company as a whole.

An MBA in finance gives students an average annual salary of $100,747. These professionals can pursue careers as senior financial analysts, chief financial officers and finance directors.

Marketing

One of the most popular MBA focus areas, an MBA in marketing teaches courses in advertising and marketing research. With this degree, you’ll learn how to build effective marketing campaigns on a local and global scale. You’ll also gain leadership skills to build marketing teams and lead marketing departments within a corporation.

The average annual salary for an MBA in marketing is $94,009. Graduates can find careers as marketing directors and managers, vice presidents of marketing and marketing specialists.

Information technology

An MBA in information technology combines courses in computer science with management skills. Students learn how to manage teams working on simultaneous projects and develop best practices for data analytics and business intelligence. Important skills include communication, data management and project management.

The information technology concentration has one of the greatest earning potentials of the MBA degrees, with graduates earning an average of $111,682 a year. Students can pursue careers as IT managers and directors, chief information officers and senior analysts.

Information security

Students enrolled in an MBA in information security learn how to manage information technology teams or departments. Information security specialists become responsible for securing a company’s proprietary information and data.

Graduates can find jobs as cybersecurity analysts, information security managers or compliance specialists, with the annual salary for this degree averaging around $97,069.

Human resources

An MBA in human resources allows you to gain competencies in common business practices, such as problem-solving and decision making, while preparing you to lead human resource departments. Students learn to solve company disputes for workers while maintaining the policies put in place by management.

The average annual salary for an MBA in human resources is $69,291. Graduates of this program can find careers as human resource managers, human resource directors and vice presidents of human resources.

Health care management

Most professionals need an MBA in health care management to access administrative roles in the health care industry. In this program you’ll learn how to coordinate health care services for patients at hospitals and clinics, manage health care professionals across disciplines and interact with patients from time to time.

An MBA in health care management comes with an average annual salary of $81,389, with jobs such as business operation manager, chief strategy officer and practice administrator.

Real estate

In this program, students take courses in property law and market analysis. You’ll learn where and when to develop property, along with the key tenets of property management and resale and how to invest in real estate.

An MBA degree with a concentration in real estate is lucrative. Graduates earn an average of $104,730 annually with careers as real estate development managers, real estate analysts, vice presidents of real estate acquisitions and asset managers.

International business

Students enrolled in an MBA in international business learn the ins and outs of foreign markets and foreign consumers. If you pursue this concentration, you’ll earn skills in market analysis and global economics in order to direct the global aspirations of corporations and nonprofits.

The average annual salary for an MBA in international business is $97,007, with graduates finding careers as project managers, chief executive officers, business development directors and directors of operation.

Is it better to get a specialized MBA or general MBA?

General MBAs offer a broad spectrum of knowledge, allowing graduates to pursue careers in many different business fields. Students learn the general principles of leadership and communication, allowing them to find management positions in the private and public sectors.

However, general MBAs do not offer in-depth, practical knowledge for specific areas in business. If you’re seeking a specific career, such as chief financial officer or health care administrator, you should pursue a specialized MBA in finance or health care administration. A specialized MBA will give you concrete skills in your area of interest, providing higher levels of expertise and more practical knowledge of your field.

How to choose the right MBA concentration

When deciding where you’d like to specialize, think through the following considerations:

  • Consider your interests and passions. MBA specializations focus studies in one area and most often lead to careers in the same area of expertise. Choose a concentration that aligns with your passions and interests.
  • Determine your career goals. If it helps, start by focusing on the end of your journey — the career you’d like to hold down the line. Choosing the right degree program can set you on the path for career success.
  • Research business schools. While many colleges offer MBA programs, the strength of specialized programs will differ. Always research prospective MBA programs for the courses offered, the experience of the professors and the networking opportunities. You might also discover new concentrations offered at only a handful of schools.

Frequently asked questions about MBA concentrations

Which MBA is in high demand?

MBAs in health care management, information technology and financial management are likely to be in high demand over the next several years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the health service manager occupation will see an employment growth rate of 32 percent between 2019 and 2029, compared to an average of 4 percent across all careers. The job outlooks of financial managers and information systems managers are expected to grow by 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

What is the most useful MBA?

The usefulness of an MBA concentration depends on the student’s career goals. Each specialization helps students develop skills in a different area, preparing them for success in their chosen field. However, the MBAs that typically lead to the largest average annual salaries are information technology, real estate, entrepreneurship and finance.

Which MBA concentration has the highest salary?

According to PayScale, an MBA in information technology offers the highest average annual salary at $111,682. The next-highest average annual salary goes to MBA graduates in real estate, who earn $104,730. Other high-earners include graduates with an MBA in entrepreneurship and an MBA in finance.

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