5 Things to Consider for Selecting an MBA Specialization

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

Many business professionals eventually face the challenge of deciding whether or not to return to school to earn a graduate degree. A report published by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2018 noted that the Master of Business Administration (MBA) is one of the most popular graduate degree programs in the US. Of all master's degrees awarded in 2016 (the last year for which data has been gathered), 24% were MBA degrees—more than any other degree program.1

However, there is more than just one type of MBA available for students considering to pursue a degree program. Within a given degree program there may be a number of available MBA specializations for you to pursue. These can range from a generalist option to degree specializations concentrated on a particular field, such as project management, accounting, finance or marketing.

How should students go about deciding which MBA degree specialization to pursue? Below we cover some basic considerations and questions to ask yourself when thinking about how to choose an MBA specialization based on your interest and career goals.

What Are MBA Specializations Exactly?

A MBA degree specialization indicates that graduates have taken a number of courses in a particular field or area of practice in addition to the standard business administration and management courses included in a MBA. Specializations are designed to provide students with the opportunity to tailor their curriculum to a particular field of interest.

For example, those interested in pursuing career opportunities within the healthcare field may need to know things about privacy regulations, insurance law and national health policy that those working in industrial operations management wouldn't. So while both specializations may include the same core business administration courses, a healthcare management specialization will also include courses related to the healthcare sector. Similarly, a marketing specialization may include courses related to market research and creative product branding, while a finance specialization may provide students with the opportunity to study financial management, cost-benefit analysis and current financial regulations.

Can a Degree Specialization Help You Make a Career Change?

For some of the above reasons, choosing a specialization that aligns with your specific career goals can be a good way to build important skills that may help you prepare to pursue career opportunities in a particular field. One of the key considerations in how to choose an MBA specialization then is to evaluate which specializations, if any, correspond to the career opportunities that you plan to pursue. When you're researching programs, take a look at the courses included in each of their available specializations. Will these courses provide you with the opportunity to develop a new and more specialized understanding of your field, or do they primarily cover topics you already understand through your current job? If you can't find a specialization that significantly overlaps with the skills and proficiencies you need to develop for your chosen field or position, then it may not be the right program for you.

MBA Specializations?

Remember that no degree program—guarantees you a job in your chosen field. However, it can be helpful to know what types of degree-holders employers are currently looking to hire and which sectors of the business field are projected to experience the most growth.

U.S. News and World Report points to recent data that suggests the current sectors drawing the most MBA graduates include technology and the products and services industry. Additionally, healthcare is projected to be one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the US according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with employment of medical and health services managers projected to grow by 20% through 2026.2

Can You Build Upon Prior Experience?

With a number of MBA specializations available, it can be easy to get excited about some of the new opportunities such degree programs may offer. (And if you're returning to school to make a major shift in your career, then that can be a great thing.) However, keep your main career goals in mind.

You may want to investigate whether the program you've chosen offers prior learning credit for work experience. How does your work experience compare to the curriculum for the MBA degree specialization you're considering? If completing your MBA quickly is important, then it may be wise to choose a specialization in which you have prior work experience, which may help qualify you for some experiential learning credits.

Does It Actually Interest You?

This may seem like an obvious one, but it's easy to get so caught up in researching career opportunities and how long it will take to complete a degree that you forget to focus on one of the most important considerations: whether you are actually interested in the specialization or degree path in the first place. Completing a master's degree requires a lot of time and energy no matter which specialization you choose, so you want to be sure you're going to be able to remain engaged and committed throughout.

Whether you maintain interest through learning about a new potential direction in your career or by working to develop skills to pursue additional responsibilities within your current field, make sure you're choosing an MBA specialization for the right reasons.

Ready to learn more? Explore all of our MBA degree specializations at AIU.

1. National Center for Education Statistics, "The Condition of Education 2018: Graduate Degree Fields," on the Internet at https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_ctb.asp (visited October 16, 2018). Conditions in your area may vary.
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, "Medical and Health Services Managers: Job Outlook," on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-6 (visited October 16, 2018). Conditions in your area may vary.

For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures. AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Not all programs are available to residents of all states.
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