Gamer Earns MBA At Age 17

How to Decide Between a Generalist vs. Specialized MBA

An MBA, for the most part, is a generalist degree. Business school offers an expansive foundation in all things business—from finance to marketing. Still, some MBA programs allow students the option to specialize in a particular field.

US News recently spoke to experts on what each path offers and what prospective students should be aware of.


A generalist MBA program will typically offer students a foundational education across core business topics.

Lindsay Loyd, an executive director of MBA admissions at the New York University Stern School of Business, says the generalist MBA route “also gives students options to dive deeper and explore their interests via electives, specializations and experiential learning.”

Additionally, generalist programs tend to focus more on leadership development and effective management skills.

“A generalist perspective has a focus on those softer skills, the ability to be critical thinkers, to be more effective communicators, to understand the audience, to understand complexities of decisions involving stakeholders,” says Mary Conran, a professor of marketing and associate dean of academic programs and curriculum at the Temple University Fox School of Business & Management.


On the other hand, a specialized MBA program allows students to concentrate in a particular field, such as finance, marketing, strategy, data analytics, international business, operations management, human resource management, management consulting, and entrepreneurship.

This type of program typically is designed for students who are set on their careers and looking to jumpstart their progression.

“MBA specialization is a good move for individuals who know precisely what they want to do with their careers,” Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, says. “Suppose you already know you’re interested in STEM, digital marketing, real estate, business analytics, social innovation, health care, etc. In that case, earning an MBA with a concentration can make you even more marketable. Recruiters like to see a strong focus on a particular field or functional area.”

Sources: US News, Stacy Blackman Consulting

Next Page: A guide to all MBA program types

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.