How to Choose a Business Specialization:
3 Things to Consider

Business students face an extensive array of options when it comes to their ultimate career goals and field of focus, and the question of how to choose a business specialization can seem daunting. When choosing a specialization within your degree program, try to view it as an opportunity to tailor your courses to your specific interests and needs. One of the reasons specializations exist is to help students develop skill sets and knowledge more directly focused on their intended career paths, so choosing one relevant to your professional goals can be a big help once you enter the job market.

Below we review some potential benefits as well as things to consider when choosing a business specialization.

What is a Specialization and Why is it Important?

While there are core goals degree programs need to fulfill for all students, this doesn't necessarily mean all students should have the exact same experience. Your experience pursuing your degree, from the specific courses you take to the networking and connections you make with faculty and other students, should be specifically tailored to your professional interests and career goals whenever possible. One of the ways to help ensure your coursework creates a strong foundation for your career path is to choose a specialization that focuses on the business field and type(s) of jobs you want to pursue.

A business specialization should narrow your focus of study to your specific interests, generate a schedule of courses more tailored to your career goals, and help develop skills relevant to your specific career path. One benefit of such a focused course of study is that you'll likely spend less time on skills and classes that won't factor into your chosen field. This means you can spend more time and energy developing skills, building experience for your resume, and even working on portfolio materials when necessary.

Consider Your Professional Interests

When thinking about how to choose a business specialization, one of the first things to consider is where your professional strengths and interests lie. Take some time to assess what drew you to a business degree in the first place, as well as what you are looking forward to studying.

Some questions to ask yourself may include:

  • What kind of industries seem most interesting?
  • What do I want my role to be within a company (accounting/financials, management, marketing, production, etc.)?
  • Do I want to work for an international company?
  • Do I want to pursue a leadership role?
  • Do I enjoy working more with people or with numbers and data?
  • Am I planning to start my own business or consultancy?

Additionally, you may ask yourself, "Do I know exactly what my professional interests are yet?" If the answer is no, or you're not sure how to answer some of the above questions, you may consider opting for a generalist specialization. This enables students to focus on developing a well-rounded foundation of knowledge and skills so they can keep their career options open. You can also always switch to a more focused specialization if you discover where your interests lie down the road.

Skills Needed for Your Career Path

Because different specializations will place different levels of emphasis on certain skill sets, you may consider the skills you want to spend the most time and energy developing. While many foundational skills are likely to be covered by the core courses of a business program, the more specific knowledge required for vastly different career paths may not. For example, while all students in a business program may take introductory accounting and finance classes, these may not be sufficient if your end goal is to work as a corporate accountant or financial manager. An accounting or finance specialization could provide the additional courses and training needed for these types of jobs. On the other hand, if you're interested in working in a company's marketing division or for a large advertising firm, a marketing specialization may instead focus on developing your knowledge of marketing methods, branding, and market research.

Market Demand and Job Growth

One last thing to think about when choosing a business specialization is how each corresponds to current market demand. If you're torn between several specializations that interest you and correspond with your career goals, it may be beneficial to choose the one with the most potential for job growth in the future.

Burning Glass lists among the top 10 specialized skills in greatest demand:1

  • Business Management
  • Accounting
  • Business Development
  • Economics
  • Business Process
  • Financial Analysis

Some of the above may apply to more than one specialization, while others correspond strongly to one in particular. (For example, "business process" may be covered by both operations management and project management specializations, while financial analysis corresponds directly to a finance specialization). It may be helpful to be aware of the skills employers are looking for in today's new hires as you think about how to choose a business specialization that's right for you.

Available Business Degree Specializations

Some common business degree specializations students can choose from include:

If you still aren't sure what exactly you hope to do with your business degree post-graduation, don't hesitate to ask for advice. As you think through your options, remember to consult other resources including family, friends and those in your professional network.

Ready to learn more? Explore business degrees at AIU.

1. Labor/Insight (Burning Glass Technologies), "Specialized Skills in Greatest Demand," 1/1/15-12/31/15

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