The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, but some MBAs are in higher demand than others. MBA programs generally include a core curriculum that encompasses studies in a variety of business areas and an area of specialization or concentration. Some MBA concentrations can afford you better business opportunities than others. Some of the most sought-after MBA specializations include management, finance and information technology.
The MBA isn’t, generally, a degree you earn to get your career started but instead to advance to a more senior-level role. Many MBA holders work in management roles, so it makes sense that concentrations that emphasize management and leadership would be some of the most in-demand courses of MBA study. A general management MBA specialization focuses on teaching graduate students the skills and strategies of management without getting too granular in one specific area of management.
If you would like to narrow your focus a little more, though, you might look into options like international management, strategic management or operations management. An international management MBA concentration is ideal if you want to become a leader on the global business stage and often includes multicultural studies and experiences as well as general business management coursework in an international context.
A strategic management MBA concentration will help you learn matters of corporate strategy, competitive strategy and strategic planning. Students of strategic management learn how to make sound decisions and apply the concepts of game theory to numerous aspects of management. If you choose an operations management MBA concentration, your specialized coursework will equip you with the skills to plan, supervise, strategize, analyze and organize the operations functions of a business. This generally means maximizing the efficiency of producing products or providing services.
Each type of management specialization provides slightly different skills and opportunities for experience, but they all serve to train current or aspiring leaders to reach their full potential as effective managers.
Another MBA concentration that employers tend to value is finance. Students pursuing a finance MBA typically study international finance, financial markets, risk management, investments and derivatives. Studies in econometrics, a math-focused branch of economics, may also be part of a finance MBA student’s curriculum. Core MBA coursework also encompasses studies in the field of finance, including classes in business finance, corporate finance, financial markets and financial accounting. Some finance MBA students study investment banking, portfolio management and valuation.
Students might also take courses in financial technology, or “fintech” topics, such as cryptocurrency, digital wealth management, digital lending and financial engineering.
Computer technology is a crucial part of modern businesses, and knowledge of topics pertaining to technology management are in high demand. If you’re interested in a role like information technology (IT) director, senior IT project manager or vice president of IT – and the six-figure average salary that comes with it – consider an MBA concentration in information technology or technology management. Technology management is also one of the highest-paying MBA concentrations, according to the job search website Monster.com.
Information technology MBA concentrations usually include some coursework specific to IT, such as the methodology of effective IT project management and strategic solutions for technology management. However, much of the curriculum focuses on cultivating the management skills that experienced IT specialists might not have. You can expect to take classes in the different aspects of business administration, including management, human resources, marketing, finance, accounting and economics.
The computer-focused MBA concentration of information security emphasizes the security and protection of computer networks and the information contained on them. Coursework may include IT security, risk management and threat and vulnerability analysis.
The Wealth of Concentration Options in MBA Programs
Although you obviously want to choose an MBA concentration that will open new doors for you, you shouldn’t base your decision solely on which option is the most versatile or seeing the most rapid career growth at a given moment. There are a lot of factors to consider, including earning potential and whether the field is a good match for your personal and professional strengths and interests.
If you hate math, for example, pursuing an MBA in finance probably won’t make you happy, even if you manage to improve your skills enough to make it as an analyst. As you explore the MBA concentrations available to you, look at the big picture, not just the amount of demand for the degree.
The good news is that you have plenty of other MBA specializations to choose from if management, finance and IT don’t fit the bill. Healthcare administration is a rapidly growing field to consider if you have an interest in health. If your dream career is starting your own business, entrepreneurship may be a good option. Human resources is generally a good fit if you consider yourself a “people person,” while supply chain management is great for building your skills in managing the logistics of a company’s operations.
There are dozens of possible MBA specializations you can choose from, ranging from the fairly broad to the very specific. The benefit of the MBA is that its core curriculum is versatile enough to give you options beyond your area of concentration.