To Specialize or Not To Specialize, That’s the Question

In a survey released just last week, the Graduate Management Admission Council states that roughly half of employers said they’d raise annual base salaries for new MBAs in 2015 to keep up with inflation, and 18 percent stated that they would increase salaries more than that. With the rise in popularity of MBAs across industries, what sort of MBA should you get?

 MBAs: 1908 – 2015

In 1908, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration established the first MBA program based on Frederick Winslow Taylor’s scientific management theory. It was the first “general” MBA which lead to the basic definition of the degree: a professional degree allows graduates to extend their understanding of academic business knowledge and apply that knowledge in business applications.

However, many business schools are now developing specialized MBA programs to differentiate themselves from other programs and schools. In an interview with TopMBA.com, Vladimir Nanut, a professor at MIB Management School in Trieste, Italy, states that “in every industry there are well-qualified people who simply want to progress within their existing field, and a specialist MBA can give them a helping hand in their career.”

However, on the other hand, others believe that the primary reason for an MBA is to teach an overview of business which allows for versatility in careers. Professor Simon Stockley of the Imperial College Business School in London states that “the MBA is, by definition, a general management qualification, and therefore we aren’t entirely convinced there can be such a thing as a specialized MBA, an ‘MBA in’ something.”

Despite critics, the increase in specialized MBAs over the past few years has some very famous examples (and extremes): the Wine MBA at Bordeaux Management School, the Football Industries MBA at the University of Liverpool, and an MBA in Oil and Gas Management at Aberdeen Business School at Robert Gordon University.

How To Decide

Associate dean of the Masters Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, Jana McQuaid gives the following advice on how to decide between a general or specialized MBA:

  • Focus on your career objectives.
    • “If you are interested in moving up within management ranks in an organization or if you have an undergraduate degree in another discipline and are looking to learn the functional business skills, the MBA would be a good choice. However, if you would like to go deeper into a discipline and become a specialist you should consider a specialized masters degree.”
  • Determine your eligibility.
    • “Do you have the required work experience?” Or, if you are a recent college graduate, you may consider a specialized degree or working then enrolling later in an MBA. Some students do both.
  • Do your homework.
    • “Evaluate your career goals and determine the educational path that will best help you achieve these goals.”

In any case, an MBA or specialized MBA can help you further your career. Every employer is different and values different degrees. According to TopMBA.com, “the key criterion remains the perceived strength of the business school delivering the program.”

As you research various programs, make sure to consider the Cottrell MBA in the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia. The Mike Cottrell College of Business is accredited by AACSB and in 2014, listed as one of the best schools for military veterans by Military Times Magazine.

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Sources

Do MBA Specializations Make Sense – TopMBA.com

Salaries For Business School Graduates Will Go Up in 2015 – Bloomberg Businessweek

MBA or Specialized Business Master’s? Which Degree Is Right for You? – GMAT

Harvard Business School History – Harvard Business School

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