How B-School Students Can Choose a Concentration
“They’re all alike.”
Bet you’ve heard that complaint about business schools. And let’s concede a point: Most programs cover much of the same foundational content. That said, schools differentiate themselves when it comes to students, networks, teachers, clubs and activities, partnerships (with employers and other disciplines), and facilities. Even more, they distinguish themselves by their concentrations.
According to Stacy Blackman, an admissions consultant and author of The MBA Application Roadmap, recruiters covet candidates who’ve received specialized training in specific disciplines or industries to go along with their general business education. In a new column with U.S. News and World Report, Blackman argues that “listing a concentration on your resume helps you stand out from the crowd and shows a keen interest in that specialization.” She adds that students can strengthen their concentration’s value through an “internship or other extracurricular activities.”
While scores of concentrations are available, Blackman recommends that students look into these programs for the following popular specialties:
- Entrepreneurship: Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Wharton School of Business, Babson College’s Olin School of Business, and the MIT Sloan School of Management
- Finance: The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, New York University’s Stern School of Business, and the Wharton School of Business
- Information Technology: Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Cornell University’s Johnson School of Business
- Energy: Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business
Of course, the quality of the curriculum is only part of a school specialty’s appeal. Location is another factor to consider. For example, graduates from NYU Stern and Columbia Business School have an advantage with Wall Street due to their close proximity to these firms. Even particular regions give graduates a leg up. For example, five of the top 10 supply chain MBA programs are based in the Midwest (along with several leading third-party transportation firms including C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Unyson Logistic and Exel). This cause-and-effect probably explains why Michigan State’s Broad College of Business offers three MBA concentrations and two doctoral programs in logistics-related specialties.
Alumni networks can also impact the choice of a specialty. Although consulting firms draw heavily from Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, and Booth, some schools maintain robust alumni footprints in companies like PwC (Michigan Ross and Indiana Kelley) and Booz (Georgetown McDonough). As a result, picking specific concentrations can open employment doors down the line.
In addition, industry trends can also direct students’ choices for concentrations. While financial and global-related concentrations provide flexibility and appeal, specialties like sustainability and analytics are gaining greater traction among employers. Plus, focusing on growth industries, such as life sciences and health care can also help you better market yourself and gain a faster return on your MBA.
Source: U.S. News and World Report