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21 Best MBA Specializations & Concentrations

May 26, 2014 3:16 pm0 commentsViews: 39343

When choosing an MBA specialization, or concentration, students aren’t always aware of all the fields they can specialize in, or the positions they can pursue in that specialization. Many students go for what they believe to be the safe route and stick with the tried-and-true fields such as accounting, management, finance, and marketing. While these fields are certainly noble callings, they’re others that can also offer excitement, fulfillment, and upward career mobility for the MBA student and graduate. *Note: the following page may include schools which are considered featured partners.

1) Innovation Management / Entrepreneurship

U.S. News and World Report noted a recent shift in focus among MBA students to a more entrepreneurial concentration than in years past. Part of the reason, the article offers, is the result of the recent economic crisis. In fact, entrepreneurship is one of the top five most requested courses among MBA students looking for ways to improve career prospects. When high quality entrepreneurs tackle social problems, amazing progress can be made. See how social entrepreneurship defines meaning in an MBA.

2) Agri-Business Management

Agriculture is big business. The bigger the business, the more management it needs. From seed supply and agrichemicals to crop production, food distribution, farm machinery, and even marketing and sales, there are many ways for MBAs to make their mark in agri-business management. Big name colleges like Penn State and Michigan State offer degree programs specifically focused in this rapidly growing field.

3) Supply Chain Management/Operations

Another field with growing demand, thanks to a few high-profile supply chain gaffes, is the field of supply chain management. Businesses today are scrambling to find, and hire, talent with existing supply chain experience – and coming up short, reports The Wall Street Journal,

Due to the rapid increase in demand, the article notes, many universities are beginning to introduce undergraduate degree programs, MBA concentrations, and undergrad majors focusing on inventory and supply chain procurement, management, and strategy. Find out why this field is so hot with opportunity.

4) Energy and Clean Tech

Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley offers an energy and clean tech area of emphasis that is dedicated to not only finding energy sources that are both renewable and sustainable, but also about bringing those sources to the marketplace. MBA candidates interested in alternative energy or saving the planet, might be interested in this or similar programs.

5) Environmental Management

Students who specialize in environmental management for their MBAs are prepared for a wide range of career options, including environmental finance advisors, corporate green policy experts, entrepreneurship in green businesses, conservation investment fund managers, and more. The USF School of Management, for example, offers a M.S. in Environmental Management/MBA program.

6) Media Management

With the explosion of social media, managing media is more critical for businesses than ever before. The relative newness of the field though, has them scrambling to find qualified talent. Metropolitan College of New York offers an MBA in media management as a choice for students interested in this field. This program combines traditional MBA experience with an added focus on social and mobile media.

7) Healthcare Management

Graduates with MBAs in health care management can pursue careers as health care executives in hospitals, insurance companies, nursing homes, government agencies, biotech, consulting firms, and more. Many universities offer health care management MBA degrees in this program, including Wharton University of Pennsylvania.  Those within the pharmaceutical industry could end up greatly expanding the opportunities that are available to them simply by opting for a qualification such as an MBA because it diversifies their skill sets. Some of the better known Healthcare MBA Management programs without the GMAT include University of Maryland at College Park (some work experience), Washington State University (7+ years work experience) and Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University (5+ years work experience).

8) Cybersecurity/Information Security

Cybersecurity and information security are critically important to business in today’s business climate, considering the threat of data breaches and identity theft. Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that many businesses are struggling to keep up with the security issues it represents. U.S. News and World Report reveals that these cybersecurity MBA specialties teach students about protecting customer data and handling security breaches.

9) Information Technology

Information technology is a different field from that of cybersecurity, while still hugely relevant today. This field focuses on the business side of technology and how technology can be implemented and utilized to make businesses function more efficiently, effectively, and competitively. Their are opportunities abound in big data and business analytics. There are also Online MBA opportunities available at such schools as Western Governors University.

10) Strategic Human Resources

Many schools are addressing the growing demand of businesses for students who are prepared to take leadership roles within human resources departments. The role of HR personnel within an organization is instrumental in creating a successful business organization. Grand Canyon UniversityGeorge Fox University, and Wisconsin School of Business are a few of the colleges and universities offering this valuable concentration for MBA students.

11) Executive MBA

Executive MBA programs, or EMBA, enables people working in executive and management positions to earn their MBA in two years or less while maintaining full time employment. Formed in 1981, the Executive MBA Council, was set up to help advance the education of executives. Liberty University for example offers a Online Master’s in Executive Leadership and Washington State University (7+ Years work experience) also offers a Online Executive MBA and can be completed in as few as 18 months and is delivered in a flexible, 100% online format.

12) Executive MBA in Asset and Wealth Management

With so many Baby Boomers approaching or reaching retirement age, the demand now for qualified asset and wealth management professionals is higher than ever. An EMBA in Asset and Wealth Management prepares participants for advancement into careers such as investment banking, high net worth financial planning, and even investment fund management. Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business is a notable contender in this space.

13) Strategic Operations Management

This concentration is all about organization efficiency. It trains students to become more effective leaders in business by improving organizational performance. Potential careers include general operations managers, Chief Operating Officers (COOs), manufacturing directors, plant managers, and more.

14) Homeland Security

Wilmington University offers an MBA with a Concentration in Homeland Security. This degree program not only prepares students for careers in Homeland Security, but also many corporate security roles and positions as well. Northcentral University is a for-profit institution which offers a 100% Online MBA in Homeland Security focusing on the preparation of senior managers of law enforcement, public safety, and emergency medical care and disaster preparedness agencies for positions of executive leadership in the field of homeland security.

15) Social Entrepreneurship / Non Profit

Believing in the principle that “social problems can be tackled in similar ways to business problems,” Stephen Hodges, president of the Hult International Business School, announced the launch of its Social Entrepreneurship program in 2011 along with plans to roll out similar plans at other worldwide campuses in the near future. University of Maryland at College Park is ranked among the Top 50 Schools for Entrepreneurship Programs for 2014 by The Princeton Review and offers a Online MBA AACSB accredited which can be completed in just 21 months.

16) International Business

The world is getting smaller by the day. Whether it’s the result of the Internet, an interconnected global economy, or an interest in traveling the world to conduct business, students are flocking to universities that offer outstanding IMBA programs like these mentioned in U.S. News and World Report.

17) Management Consulting

Careers in management and consulting are ideal for students who have confidence, poise, and love a good challenge. The risks are big in this industry, but so are the rewards with many people entering six-figure careers straight out of their caps and gowns.

Business Insider warns, though, that there are drawbacks to this field, despite its many rewards. These drawbacks include long hours, little room for advancement, and lower bonuses than other financial industries. An additional risk is that of being labeled a generalist. However, for those who are interested, the rewards are quite respectable.

18) Finance

Careers in finance remain a mainstay for MBA graduates with many of them pursuing careers in portfolio management, financial research analysis, personal financial advisors, credit risk management analysis, and financial, securities, and investments analysis. Students willing to think outside the box and seek careers in healthcare and energy industries with their MBAs in finance may find they fare better than those hoping for entry into the hallowed halls of Wall Street. The University of Maryland College Park offers a MBA in Finance 100% online. Their MBA program is consistently ranked in the Top 25 by U.S. News & World Report, BusinessWeek and Financial Times.

19) Accounting

Accounting is a familiar MBA field that offers a great deal of stability as well as an excellent future for graduates. There is a wide amount of job availability to students graduating with this degree. Common careers for those who obtain an MBA in Accounting include Chief Financial Officer (CFO), treasurer, controller, and purchasing manager, whether it’s in a bank, accounting firm, government agency, investment firm, large corporation, or small business. Find out why an accounting mba is not just for CPA’s. The University of Maryland at College Park offers a Online MBA in Accounting where you’ll learn to analyze, track and communicate the financial information vital for planning business strategy and managing financial assets.

20) Marketing

Marketing is another tried-and-true specialization within the MBA field of study. Some universities, like Stern, offer further MBA marketing specializations such as luxury marketing, product management marketing, and entertainment, media, and technology marketing.

21) Business Management

Last, but not least, an MBA in business management is the cornerstone of many lucrative and fulfilling business careers. While there are many specialty and niche fields in the business world of today, this degree gives students the tools they need to succeed and excel in a variety of business environments.

Begin your journey within the MBA world by exploring your options in order to choose the specialization that best meets your personal and career goals. Remember when choosing your study courses, hiring managers are interested in so much more than an MBA degree. Choosing the right specialization can significantly alter the trajectory of your future.

List of Top 21 MBA Concentrations/Specializations

Overall Rank MBA Specialization/Concentration Popularity Rank (1-5)
1 Innovation Management / Entrepreneurship 5
2 Agri-Business Management 2
3 Supply Chain Management/Operations 5
4 Business Management 4
5 Energy and Clean Tech 5
6 Environmental Management 5
7 Media Management 3
8 Healthcare Management 4
9 Information Security Management / Cybersecurity 4
10 Information Technology 3
11 Strategic Human Resources 3
12 Executive MBA 5
13 Executive MBA in Asset and Wealth Management 5
14 Strategic Operations Management 4
15 Homeland Security 3
16 Social Entrepreneurship / Non Profit 4
17 International Business 3
18 Management Consulting 3
19 Finance 5
20 Accounting 5
21 Marketing 5

You may reference this list.