Should I Choose an MBA Concentration? - Pros & Cons
When you begin studying for your MBA, you may have the chance to choose a concentration – that is, a specialisation in which you focus on a particular area of business to study in-depth. It is particularly common in the USA for MBA students to have the chance to choose a concentration before they begin their course, similar to how other students would choose a major. If you are given this chance, should you choose a concentration? Here are the pros and cons of specialising during your MBA.
Pros of an MBA concentration
In some courses, you will find that having a concentration is mandatory. In these cases, it is obviously necessary to choose a concentration. But if choosing a concentration is optional for you, then you should consider your long-term career goals. If you know exactly which job you want to go into once you have graduated – for example, if you wish to enter a career in financial services – then a finance concentration will help prepare you for this work. Having a specifically relevant concentration on your CV will also help you to stand out from the crowd when you are applying for highly competitive positions which have very large numbers of applicants, all of whom have an MBA.
There can also be a financial advantage to choosing a concentration, as some of the best compensated jobs which are open to MBA students – such as in banking or risk management – are roles in which you can specialise while you are still studying. Typically, an MBA with a concentration can help you to earn more over a lifetime career than an equivalent Master's degree. So if you are focused on getting a well-paid job once you graduate then a specialisation can help you to achieve this.
Cons of an MBA concentration
One common motivator for students pursuing an MBA is the desire to be entrepreneurs once they graduate. If you wish to start up your own business, then it is in your interest to have as broad a range of skills and knowledge as possible. In this case, you may wish to forgo a concentration and aim for breadth of topics to study rather than focusing on a specific topic in depth. However, some MBA courses do offer a concentration in entrepreneurship which should cover all of the topics that you will need to know about to succeed in starting your own business, so check up on what concentrations are offered by the particular university will be attending.
It's worth noting that some MBA concentrations are less worthwhile, financially speaking, than others. Specialisations in human resources, for example, tend to produce lower salaries. If your interest is in working in HR, you may be better served by getting into a job and gaining real-world experience rather than paying for an expensive MBA course. Similarly, in a field such as accounting you may be as well served by a cheaper and quicker one-year master's degree in accounting as you would be by the longer and more expensive MBA with a specialisation in accounting.
It can also be difficult to choose an MBA specialisation if you haven't yet decided exactly what you want to do once you graduate. If you know that you want to go into business, but aren't sure in what capacity, then it is to your advantage to try and study all areas of business as much as possible. Even a field which you think you may not like, such as information technology, or a field which seems obscure, such as sustainability, may prove to be interesting and rewarding to you once you study it. It's worth taking the opportunity to study many areas during your MBA rather than specialising if you're not one hundred percent sure what kind of role you would like to get in to eventually.
Hopefully this guidance can help you choose the right MBA specialisation for your needs.
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