The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a popular degree choice. Students and business professionals who wish to improve their career prospects opt for an MBA. Some students want to build the skills they need to make career shifts. There are others who wish to strengthen their resumé so that they can move up into leadership roles and earn higher salaries.
Students who wish to earn an MBA degree may wonder what exactly they can expect when they enroll in an MBA program. It is important to know with coursework for an MBA that must be completed to earn the degree. MBA programs provide students with various business skills and knowledge. These help them become effective professionals and leaders in the business sector. The type of coursework students need to complete and earn their MBA degree can vary based on the school and the concentrations they choose.
Coursework for MBA programs include advanced classes. They are like other graduate-level programs with the same rigor and depth. Some classes are specialized – this means that fall in an area of emphasis that students choose. The others that fall under the core courses may be broader in scope. Students learn several core concepts covering business areas like:
- Managerial Accounting
- Organizational behavior
- Human Resources
What does a core curriculum in an MBA Program include?
Core courses give students a deeper understanding of the field of business. Every program has a set of core coursework students must complete. These help them build a foundation for the general business degree. They can then take courses within the concentration or specialization they choose. The extra coursework typically begins in the second, as the first year covers the core courses.
Some of the courses will feel familiar if a student has taken an undergraduate business administration program. But, the courses in the MBA program are more challenging. They go deeper into each subject so students can get more industry insights and domain knowledge. They are taught from a different perspective and from an industry viewpoint. They cover different business fields and prepare students to deal with real-world business problems in their future careers.
Typical courses in an MBA business core might include:
- Leadership strategy and skill development.
- Advanced or managerial economics.
- Marketing management.
- Managerial statistics and analysis.
- Advanced or accelerated financial or managerial accounting.
- Management communication.
- Operations strategy.
- Advanced corporate finance.
In most cases, the required core courses are grouped by functional disciplines. Most schools have their core business classes set in stone. But there are some that are more flexible and allow students to choose a certain number to complete their degree. This is especially for students who have completed certain prerequisites. Students who have earned their bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than a business program can join a fast-paced pre-MBA boot camp. This will help them get their skills and foundational knowledge up to speed. Students need to look carefully at the curriculum of each MBA program they are considering. In this way, they can choose the program that best matches their skills, goals, and career plans.
The first step is to meet with an admissions counselor who will help you schedule all the standard core courses during the first year. There is a choice between a cohort-style program or an asynchronous program, especially for online MBA programs. In the former, you will attend classes with the same group of classmates throughout the program. In the latter, students have more flexibility to attend classes at their own pace and time. In any case, students can take part in the different forums. Through these, they can connect with other professionals and develop business and personal connections for life.
What are the different kinds of MBA specializations and courses?
An MBA degree offers several different career paths. It is important that students decide which path they want to take first. It would be easier to select any advanced degree program and specialization after that. But it is not clear at the outset for many students. Sometimes, it becomes clearer as students progress through the first year and learn more business. It is important to check each school’s website and browse through the program details. This will help students see which courses are required in a specific program. If these, especially the concentrations, look like they will align well with your career goals, then you are in the right place. These courses will help you gain the skills and knowledge to complete in the competitive career market today.
In the second year of an MBA program, most students have already completed their core coursework. Some programs allow them to choose their electives or specializations in the first year. Others allow them to choose in the second year itself. Students should carefully consider these. This will make sure that the area they choose will benefit them most and help them get into a focused career path.
Specializations help students develop advanced and specialized skills in certain areas. These are usually areas they wish to get into or in which they already work. Declaring a concentration or specialization within their MBA program is important. It helps them focus their education and develop expertise. Some employers give preference to MBA graduates with specializations instead of a general degree. It could be because they are looking for talent with more specialized skills than before.
The list of possible MBA concentrations can be comprehensive depending upon the school. The concentration one chooses will influence all the courses students take in their second year. It also affects the projects or internships they have to complete for their MBA. Some of the popular MBA concentrations include:
- Supply chain management
- Human resources
- Project management
Let’s delve a little deeper to understand this better. For example, MBA students in finance may take classes in financial reporting or financial investments. They could cover corporate financial policy, business mergers and acquisitions, and corporate valuation. A marketing and advertising coursework may include digital marketing and modern advertising industry. It could also include marketing research, buyer behavior, personas, and advanced marketing strategy.
As mentioned above, students will benefit from meeting with their admissions counselors. They will help them schedule the core courses during the first year. They provide support to MBA students throughout the program. They help students go through the list of specializations and choose one that best matches their career goals.
A closer look at the MBA concentrations:
General Management: This is perhaps the most common and available at most schools. It is a good choice for students who are unsure what type or size company will suit them best and wish to keep their career options open. Later they have the option to choose from a wide variety of electives.
Marketing: Marketing is a popular MBA concentration and perhaps one of the most versatile ones. It prepares students for a wide range of fast-growing fields within the broad and dynamic spectrum of marketing. Graduates eventually move into roles like Chief Brand Officer, VP of Marketing, Brand Directors, and Brand Marketing Managers. Marketing research and new product development are also areas students can choose as career options.
Finance: Students who choose the finance MBA specialization graduate with a solid foundation for roles like Financial Analyst, Financial Advisor, Financial Manager, or Investment Banker, and Hedge Fund Manager, among others. The finance concentration is also a solid foundation for careers like Accountants or Economists. Finance MBA paves the path to senior titles like a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Strategy: Strategy is a focused MBA specialization, perhaps more skill than a career. But this concentration prepares students to excel in all jobs as most require a strategy and strategy implementation in projects. It helps them build excellent problem-solving skills. Students can expect to excel in a wide range of roles that increase demand, including Senior Strategist, senior product manager, and Project Manager.
Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship is an MBA concentration that is designed for students interested in starting new businesses and taking on some unique challenges in life. They learn about business ventures, services, and products, ideation, and strategy, acquisition of capital, launch and post-launch needs, as well as campaign management. Graduates also excel in managerial or leadership roles for companies of all sizes.
Startups and Small Businesses: Startups and Small Businesses specialization focuses on the management of smaller businesses. There is a distinct difference with “Entrepreneurship.” Students learn about the unique challenges that small businesses and startups face. Innovation is a big part of the course. They learn to manage the evolution of a brand or series of products, marketing, and legal costs and keep the businesses profitable. Graduates often become a consultant for small businesses and startups or start one.
Operational Management: Operational Management prepares students to manage projects. They also learn to manage different teams or specific departments within a company. They have many responsibilities and often coordinate with many departments and leadership teams. Graduates work as Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Management Consulting: Management Consulting is a popular MBA specialization as consulting can be a lucrative career path. Consultancy work offers an opportunity to work with various companies. Graduates work on various projects with different goals and needs to apply their MBA education. Consultancy work can be done independently or within a firm.
Human Resources: Human Resources MBA helps students learn about various human resources duties. It includes HR analytics, operational management, consulting, and employment law. Students who want to apply their MBA to the Human Resources field are best suited for this MBA concentration.
Information Systems/Technology: Information Systems and Technology specialization can prepare MBA graduates for the tech industry. Technology touches every area of a company’s operations. That is why this specialization can boost one’s profile in the job market. Graduates get into the executive track to chief technology officer (CTO), IT Director, and Chief Information Officer (CIO).
Supply Chain Management: Supply chain is an integral part of many companies. More so with the increase in the Internet and e-commerce and the flow of goods and services in the digital world. Focusing MBA studies on supply chain management is a great career choice. It creates a special kind of SCM specialists which many employers are looking for today. Graduates can move into roles like Senior Product Managers and Project Managers, among others.
International Management: This MBA concentration includes many aspects of international business. It also includes some exciting and enriching study abroad experiences. With more brands going global, the coursework broadens a student’s perspective. They learn how other countries conduct business from an economic, legal, and cultural standpoint. Graduates do well in large corporations and established global brands.
Project Management: This MBA specialization can open career paths across many different industries. It is a good choice for those who are more particular about the type of work they want to do. Students learn about solid strategy, organization, and leadership skills. Project Managers are responsible for overseeing multiple projects, outcomes, and resources. This role is increasing in demand, with more teams going virtual.
Product Management: As technology continues to shift and expand, both new and existing products need good managers to guide workflow. They can lead teams toward the successful and fruitful completion of product-related tasks. Product Managers know how to keep pace with challenges that affect many work processes. They help manage efficiency and save money and resources along the way. Students in this MBA concentration learn to coordinate many teams. These include finance, subject matter experts, development, marketing, and IT teams. It’s a popular field that does not limit students to a specific industry and offers expansive career options.
Cybersecurity: An increased use of data to run businesses has, in turn, led to increased risk of a security breach for companies both global and local. Though larger corporations and government organizations may be more at risk. This has led to the rising popularity of Cybersecurity as an MBA concentration. Courses cover important areas like business, data, and security. These graduates hold a certain distinction in the contemporary job market. They are in demand in almost all industry sectors and companies of different sizes.
Nonprofit Business: Nonprofits or “not-for-profits” need expert managers to manage their capital campaigns. They help maximize their fundraising efforts and oversee expansion plans. It is a challenging and rewarding field of work. It focuses on helping people around the globe with the brightest business minds to help them. Graduates in this MBA concentration learn to help these organizations stay financially healthy. They work to support marginalized groups and communities, work for various social initiatives and environmental efforts.
Healthcare Management: Healthcare Management is one of the fastest-growing fields, and the opportunities are many. The MBA courses in this specialization prepare students to excel in many roles. They work in administrative, high-level executive, and managerial roles in the healthcare industry. They learn to help organizations with their business and financial management approaches. Graduates work in varied settings. These include hospitals, insurance companies, and device manufacturers. It also includes research labs that are focused on healthcare. They also work for large pharmaceutical companies.
Sustainability: This is a rapidly up-and-coming concentration area. Sustainable practices can have a significant impact on a company’s image, finances, and future. The need for MBA graduates with a working knowledge of Sustainability is set to increase. This practice intersects with many new laws. Graduates in this discipline may need to manage a complete business overhaul. They work in manufacturing, SCMs, technology management, budgets, and operations.
Resources and Environmental Management: This MBA specialization is also known as “Resources and Environmental Economics.” It covers the study of how communities affect the environment and leads to consultancy work and even academia. The subject can be complex, so students need to look into the curriculum for this MBA specialization to ensure it is a good fit. It requires a good deal of research and science, so students with an affinity for those areas will do well in this field.
As we can see, different schools have different names for similar MBA concentrations. So choosing one requires a lot of research and planning. Students can explore some important questions while researching MBA programs and specializations like:
- Will this increase the number of credit hours, and how might this affect the duration of my MBA?
- Will it cost more or the same as a general MBA?
- What aligns best with my interests, values, and career goals?
- What MBA specializations are most in-demand right now?
Students should explore and find answers to these questions while they inquire about the curriculum and hands-on learning opportunities at each school they shortlist.