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The Implications of an MBA Concentration or Specialization

What is the most difficult decision for MBA students? For many, it is choosing an MBA concentration or specialization – a decision that heavily employment options.

In her new article, Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, discusses why concentrations are important and how prospective business students should choose their concentrations.

Concentration vs. No Concentration

Before discussing how prospective business students should choose their concentrations, it’s first important to distinguish what a concentration can offer students.

For MBA applicants who have a clear goal in mind, it may be more helpful to choose an MBA program that offers formal concentrations or specializations.

“For instance, MBA applicants who want to develop technical expertise in finance may prefer a school with a finance or accounting major or they might look for a school that offers numerous financially oriented elective courses,” Kowarski writes.

On the other hand, if an MBA applicant is unsure of what they want to pursue, it may be best to choose an MBA program that doesn’t require a formal concentration.

Kenton Kivestu is the CEO and founder of RocketBlocks, a company that helps aspiring management consultants prepare for consulting firm job interviews. Kivestum who holds an MBA from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, earned a general management degree – with no formal concentration. In an interview with US News, Kivestu says the broad focus on Dartmouth’s MBA program allowed him to explore a wide variety of courses and fields.

“One of the reasons I was coming into that program and interested in an MBA in general was I wanted to build expertise across the different functions that I knew I would need experience in as a CEO,” he tells US News.

An MBA Concentration Can Build Skillsets… and Salaries

Choosing a concentration isn’t for everyone, however. Anumber of experts say that concentrating or specializing in a certain field may be useful in building skills that are in-demand.
“MBA applicants should consider how rapidly change is occurring across all industries, and identify an area like innovation and tech that is equally applicable to different sectors and will give them a toolkit of skills that is adaptable and future-facing,” Crystal Grant, director of admissions at the Imperial College Business School at Imperial College London, tells US News.

It’s also important to note how certain skillsets may be affected by automation.

“You need to do something that is not going to be replaced by machines or robots in the next one or two decades, because that’d be a problem in the future,” Keng Siau, professor and chair of the business and information technology department at Missouri University of Science & Technology, tells US News.

It’s also important to carefully consider your MBA concentration, because in many ways, it very well likely determines how much money you may make.

Among MBAs, those who concentrated or specialized in strategy make the most compared to their peers. According to PayScale data provided exclusively to Poets&Quants, strategy MBAs earned a $94,800 median in early career – an estimated $13,900 better than any field of study. By mid-career, strategists made $150,000 median annually.

While the MBA concentration is an important decision, students shouldn’t feel pressured to choose one, especially when there are flexible programs available.

“The MBA program in general is designed to be exploratory and so, if you’re not sure, look for a school that has a wide variety of concentrations,” Eric Newton, an MBA student at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, tells US News.

Sources: US News, Poets & Quants