We addressed the question of – Do I need to specialize in an MBA program in another query (see link at bottom). In that article, we presented the case that it is an individual decision predicated on your career path and aspirations. Many working professionals return to school online to pursue their MBA. Some are fortunate to have their employer reimburse tuition and expenses. The policy varies by company; however, larger corporations are more generous and see the advanced degree as a worthwhile investment in the employee.

MBA letters

For those who are working in a particular field, like finance, healthcare management, technology, human resources, or international business would likely select one a concentration related to their position. Individuals who opt to jump from an undergraduate degree to an MBA might be undecided on whether to choose a specialty or not. There are General MBAs also, which provide a well-rounded education in business, finance, accounting, and management. The question remains: Do you need to decide on a specialty at the time of enrollment, or can you transfer from a general program to one of the numerous MBA concentrations.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that a master’s degree in business is statistically the most popular one conferred. The 2017-18 school year shows 820,102 master’s degrees awarded, of which 192,184 were in business. The second place was education, with 146,367 conferred master’s degrees for the same period. Health professions and related programs placed third.

Indecision can be problematic – not just about deciding whether to specialize or not, but also the school you choose. A 2015 article in U.S. News stated that MBA applicants should research programs wisely, as it is challenging to transfer from one school to another. Some institutions forbid the practice! The article sites the George Mason University School of Business that doesn’t allow students to switch from another college into its program.

Another consideration is how many of your earned credits will the new school allow. If you change programs, you may receive credit for only six credits. Students who have completed more than this would have paid for courses, yet not receive the credit—wasted time and money. Business schools that allow students to transfer may have exemption exams as a means to see if the student qualifies for their program.

MBA spec

Some institutions commence the specialization courses in the second year of the typical two -year program, which allows students to defer their decision until that time. One example is Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) that offers an online MBA with the choice of several concentrations. Finance, Business Intelligence, Engineering Management, Entrepreneurship, Human Resources, International Supply Chain Management, Sport Management, and Leadership are some of them on the list of twenty-five. SNHU has been a leader in business education since 1932.

Another example is the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, whose MBA ranks #1 by U.S. News for 2020 and #2 for Best Online MBAs by the Princeton Review for 2020. Students study a range of subjects in the Core Courses that include Business Strategy, Financial Accounting, Marketing, Leading & Managing, Business Communication, and more to total thirty-four credit hours. Upon completion of these hours, students may select from a list exceeding twenty-five electives and five concentrations. The latter are:

  • Marketing
  • Data Analytics and Decision Making
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Strategy and Consulting

Students can tailor these concentrations and take electives in any discipline to create a curriculum that fits their academic and career goals. The program includes two Summits, which are in-person experiences held on campus or at an international location. Prior cities for the summits were Helsinki, London, Johannesburg, Lima, and Taipei.

Other Considerations

Students whose undergraduate degree is in business or a specialty in this field may have set their career path. A student with a bachelor’s degree in finance would probably not select to focus on an MBA in human resources. This individual should continue to expand her/his knowledge in finance.

Also, if you prefer one of many accelerated programs advertised to complete in ten or twelve months, then a general program might be beneficial. The shorter programs may suit those with several years of work experience.

Some experts opine that there is more job competition with the graduates of a general MBA due to the numbers. Conversely, fewer specialists can result in fewer jobs in your area of expertise. A moot point if for individuals settled in a career, and the MBA is a ticket to higher salary and advancement within the corporation or organization.

Be assured that there are many colleges and universities where you do not need to decide on a specific concentration until the second year. Thus, plenty of time to conduct employment opportunities, discuss with professors and discover where your interest and acumen lie.

Additional Resources:


What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs in Business Administration?

What Is the Salary Potential for Someone With a Business Degree?

What Is the Salary Potential for Someone With an MBA?

Do I Need a Graduate Degree to Become a Manager?

Do I need to specialize in an MBA program?