Types of MBA: A List of Top Concentrations
Understanding the numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.
Today's Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs provide plenty of options to focus on particular aspects of business in either a specialization or concentration, giving you a competitive edge in today's job market. Specialization can be beneficial if you're looking to break into industries where you lack work experience — or a great way to improve skills that are most relevant to you in your current field.
You should pick a concentration that best aligns with your interests or career goals. Niche MBA concentrations, such as business analytics, human resources, information technology management and sports management, can help you demonstrate to employers your unique skill set for a particular role.
5 Tips for Choosing the Best MBA Specialization for You
MBA degrees are in high demand. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reported that 94% of U.S. recruiters planned to hire new MBA holders in 2022, according to the organization's Corporate Recruiters Survey from the same year. (GMAC PDF source). These recruiters span multiple industries, including healthcare, finance and accounting, manufacturing and technology, according to GMAC.
In other words, any concentration you pick is bound to support high-demand business roles.
Here are five steps to help you decide which type of MBA is right for you:
- Reflect on your strengths and interests. Take courses within a concentration or specialization that capitalize on the skills and work experience you already have. Alternatively, use the concentration to build competency in an area or industry you’ve always wanted to learn more about.
- Decide what industry or industries you might like to work in. MBA concentrations in healthcare management, public administration, project management or sustainability lend themselves to unique work environments — think about what fits you best.
- Determine what you’ve liked and/or disliked about previous jobs or internships. Do you enjoy working for one company or consulting on behalf of many clients? Do you enjoy analyzing data rather than speaking to large groups of people? Do you prefer a company with an international reach to a smaller start-up? These are all factors to consider when you choose a concentration.
- Consider exploring a niche. Although finance and general management are traditional specializations that offer tremendous value, newer concentrations might carve out opportunities in growing fields. For example, concentrations in healthcare management or engineering management can help you stand out as an employee with innovative technology skills.
- Factor in any extra potential earnings a specific concentration might bring. The median annual wage for management jobs was $102,450 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's more than all other major occupational groups. Some specializations lend themselves to higher pay. For instance, financial managers earned a median of $131,710 in 2021, and HR managers earned a median of $126,230.
Which MBAs Are Most In Demand?
Not all MBA specializations or concentrations are equal. Research what types of classes, field experiences or internships are available within a particular program to see which interest you most.
Here are some of the top specializations/concentrations identified by The Princeton Review:
- MBA in Corporate Strategy: This concentration helps you discover how companies create value, develop a business portfolio and work with other organizations to achieve goals. It prepares you to find consulting jobs in specific industries or become general strategy consultants.
- MBA in Entrepreneurship: Want to build a start-up? The entrepreneurship concentration teaches you how to start your own business or develop new initiatives within an existing company. This concentration can also be helpful if you're looking to get into related fields, such as venture capital, as it focuses on capital and venture capital opportunities, franchising, consulting and small-business management.
- MBA in Finance: Finance concentrations prepare you for jobs in financial services, banking and risk management, or corporate finance positions in other firms. This concentration focuses on corporate financial management, investment and portfolio management, forecasting and core cash management.
- MBA in General Management: Perhaps the most traditional MBA program, this option gives you a broad business overview and focuses on finance, leadership, data analysis, marketing and human resources, with an opportunity to customize your degree through electives.
- MBA in International Management: Today’s businesses are truly global, and this concentration trains you to lead globally, emphasizing international business in a variety of cultural, political, social and economic contexts.
Other Types of MBA
Your choices don't stop there. Some schools, such as Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), offer more than 15 concentrations. If you want to dive deep into specific departments and their function within a business, you may be interested in an:
- MBA in Business Analytics: Big data continues to explode, sparking the need for leaders who can accurately analyze patterns, put them into context and make correlations between information and results. With a business analytics background, you can prove yourself valuable in all types of departments — including marketing and operations — as well as industries such as sports and healthcare. The job market for business intelligence experts is growing as fast as big data itself. According to BLS, operations research analyst jobs will increase by 23% through 2031.
- MBA in Healthcare Management: A healthcare management concentration develops leaders, preparing them to expand, diversify, improve healthcare quality and contain costs within an organization or health network. Coursework focuses on the business of healthcare, providing both an academic and real-world foundation in healthcare issues, trends and practices. Jobs for medical and health services managers are projected to grow 28% by 2031, according to BLS.
- MBA in Human Resources: For those looking for human resources leadership roles, this concentration provides insight into recruitment, hiring, training, compensation and benefits, human resource information systems and career development, all from an organizational and employee perspective. Job outlook for human resources is expected to grow by 7% through 2031, which is as fast as the average projection for all occupations.
- MBA in Project Management: Learn how to plan, manage, budget and monitor projects to improve organizational efficiency with a concentration in project management. Project management methodologies are used in the information technology, construction, manufacturing and consulting industries to help define projects and ensure a cost-effective bottom line. Many project management concentrations prepare you for a PMP® certification issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI)®.
After completing a bachelor's in business administration, Theresa Dominguez '21 '23MBA decided she should get an MBA. She chose to specialize with a project management concentration. The field interested her, and the concentration would help her qualify for an industry credential.
"The concentration helped provide the credit hours I needed to test for my Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification," Dominguez said.
SNHU students pursuing an MBA in Project Management can choose to take a course that fulfills the educational requirement of the certification exam. They also learn from instructors who completed a PMP® exam preparation program called the Authorized Training Partner Train the Trainer, meaning the course's instructors are positioned to deliver quality training.
With just the project hours requirement left until she can sit for the certification exam, Dominguez already sees the benefit of her MBA and concentration on her career.
"This degree has helped open many new doors, and in fact, just a month after graduating, I was promoted within my current company to a senior project program manager position," Dominguez said. She knows having an MBA and being well on her way to a PMP® certification helped.
When Do I Pick an MBA Specialization or Concentration?
You may know exactly what area you’d like to focus on in your MBA from the start. If you aren’t quite sure which direction to go in, or if you even want to choose a concentration, chances are you’re not alone.
The good news: Most MBA programs require students to complete core courses before they pick a specialization. Some allow you to take a few courses within a focus area as part of a general MBA program without declaring a specific concentration.
How long it takes you to get an MBA may factor into your decision. At some colleges, for example, you can finish the program in just over one year. If you're looking to finish fast, you may also need to declare your concentration sooner than if you were to journey through a program at a slower pace.
Still figuring out whether you’d like to pursue a straight MBA or double-down with an area of specialization? Here’s why these women chose the paths they did for their MBAs.<lite-youtube title="MBA Specialization | Is an MBA Specialization Worth It?" videoid="leYKaSBHNmA" playlabel="Play video"></lite-youtube>
A Tale of Two MBA Alumni
When Kira Morehouse '13MBA earned her MBA, she chose to pursue a concentration that allowed her to focus on business and corporate strategy to better align her digital marketing background with financial strategy.
She credits both the degree and the concentrations for opening the door to her role as a digital marketing specialist for Enterprise Bank. Morehouse has since been promoted to senior digital marketing specialist and an assistant vice president.
“In a corporate environment like a bank, it’s helpful and reassuring to the people interviewing you and people you have to report to — board members and directors of the organization — that you have the right background,” she said.
Morehouse, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communication, had worked for several years in marketing agency roles before earning her MBA. She had a solid record of accomplishment that included developing TV, radio and digital media campaigns for a diverse roster of clients. However, Morehouse did not have a formal background in math and business analytics, so she chose to focus her MBA on gaining skills in those areas.
She said that because digital media is a newer field, proving that she had a solid foundation in research and analytics — as well as financial compliance — helped show her employer that she could set digital media goals that improved the bottom line.
“The confidence I gained when I actually discovered I could do calculus and understand managerial accounting and economics with proper instruction made me feel very capable,” she said.
Morehouse said she was inspired to earn an advanced degree early on after watching her mother juggle college, two jobs and a family. Although she never thought she’d pursue an MBA specifically, Morehouse said she realized that being able to speak the same business language as her clients and supervisors would serve her well in her career — and it has.
“I always had ideas, but I didn’t think they were valued or heard,” she said. “The MBA really sealed the deal for me. Working with bankers, I was now able to contribute to strategy and show return on investment.
On the other hand, Claire Regan '18MBA completed a general MBA with career advancement in mind. She wanted to move from a traditional sales role into an analytics role — and she made it happen.
She credits her MBA for a promotion, which she received just a few months shy of commencement. As a business systems analyst, she analyzed sales accounts and determined how the company might better manage and expand its business communications services.
Although she didn't choose a specific concentration, she did take two courses focused on workplace conflict management.
"They proved to give me some valuable skills to use not only (in) my professional life but in my personal life as well," Regan said. "Not everyone gets along in the workplace; it's ... good to figure out how to best handle those situations.”
For Regan, earning an online MBA was worth it.
As you consider moving forward with an MBA, keep in mind that this degree can prepare you well for broad industries. A concentration, however, provides specialization in a particular area that can make a difference in taking on a role in the area you enjoy working in most.
Discover more about SNHU’s MBA program: Find out what courses you'll take, the skills you’ll learn and how to request information about the program.
Krysten Godfrey Maddocks ’11 is a writer and marketing/communication professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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