Sheets with MBA charts and resume listing MBA concentration or specialization for applying for jobs by the desk by the laptop.

How to Choose the Right MBA Specialization (Complete Guide)

Choosing the wrong MBA specialization (also called concentration or focus) may narrow down a student’s career options. Choosing the right MBA specialization may help to build a career post-MBA. As a former MBA student, let me weigh in on how to choose the right MBA concentration.

As a rule, students should choose an MBA specialization or concentration by considering their personal preferences, natural abilities, experience, and existing skills. Other essential factors to consider are business schools’ rank, reputation among employers, and demand in the job market. 

I chose management concentration when I was an MBA student. Management was the primary choice for many of my MBA classmates.

But modern MBA programs offer more specialization options for students. Below I will explain what those options are and how to choose the right one for you. Of course, everything below is my opinion. I am not your academic, financial, or career advisor, and you should make your informed education and career decisions.

What is the difference between MBA specialization and concentration? MBA concentrations explained

First, let’s once and for all distinguish terms “specialization” and “concentration” in the MBA context. Many publications, for some reason, incorrectly use these two terms interchangeably.

Generally, concentration means exposure – taking an MBA elective course within a specific narrow focus like finance, marketing, management, strategy, leadership, or others. 

Specialization in MBA would mean deep immersion into above or other areas of study by taking many electives. In addition, specialization would mean deep knowledge.  

Most of what MBA programs offer are concentrations rather than specializations. MBA students can choose 3-6 electives in a specific business area and thus get a good exposure. But the MBA program is usually too short for students to take 6-10 focused courses to acquire particular skills and specialize in that area. 

For example, accounting is a concentration where students take several accounting electives classes, of which one class could be forensic accounting.

Forensic accounting is a specialization because it is a narrow sub-field of accounting when a student takes 3-6 classes, all related only to forensic accounting and no other types of accounting. Taking 8-10 classes only in forensic accounting would make an MBA student a specialist.  

General management is a concentration. Human resources management would be more like specialization. Unfortunately, most MBA programs do not offer specializations. 

Hint: After completing MBA, a graduate can take additional focused classes to become a true entry-level specialist in a chosen focus area. 

Thus, in the context of MBA, we talk about concentration. The above is true unless an MBA student takes on dual specialization with deep immersion. 

What is an MBA dual specialization?

Generally, MBA dual specialization is also a misleading term. Most of the time, it simply means two different concentrations for MBA students. For example, the dual concentration could include economics and finance, finance and management, finance, and accounting. 

For the most part, dual specialization in MBA means taking elective classes in two selected focused areas rather than one. Business schools claim that selecting dual MBA specialization or concentration gives graduates more career options. Maybe, but it depends on many factors. 

Other times, however, MBA dual specialization or concentration essentially means getting a dual degree. Examples of dual MBA degrees include MBA/JD (Juris Doctor), MBA/MD (medical doctor).

Wharton school of business offers some dual specializations or concentrations like MBA/Healthcare management, MBA/MSE (Engineering), MBA/MSN (nursing), MBA/VMD (veterinary medicine). 

MBA applicants should carefully choose dual specialization or concentration. Because now they will essentially be studying two degrees instead of one. MD by itself is quite a difficult degree to obtain. MBA may hinder the ability to focus on MD studies. Dual specialization makes sense in few instances. 

MD graduates sometimes go straight into administrative positions without working a single day as a medical doctor outside residency. MBA may become a handy tool in this rare and specific instance. The half-million-dollar question is, can you go for an MD degree without even bothering with such extra burden as simultaneously pursuing MBA? 

You can also go for engineering or Juris doctor degrees without any MBA whatsoever. Frankly, I am still to comprehend the value of dual MBA degree concentrations or specializations for masses. I think that is more marketing stunt than anything else. 

For example, MBA by itself may not be very marketable if not from an elite business school. For example, an MBA alone or MBA/MA in International Studies from Wharton are equally worth it. 

That is because Wharton graduates are more likely to be hired fresh from school in government, big companies, or firms dealing with international business issues. So MA degree, in that respect, is a leveraging plus additional degree. 

But the same MBA/MA from the top 350 (irony) MBA program will probably not make a student much more marketable. So focus on one, as they say. 

But, say, MBA combined with engineering may give such student-specific knowledge and skills in engineering, which is in demand in the job market. It is easier to find a job as an engineer than for an MBA graduate. 

The same goes for other dual specializations like MBA and JD, MBA, and MD. Thus, MBA programs smartly sell their MBAs by combining them with more marketable different degrees. 

Stop falling for intelligent phrases like “fast track your career” or “flexible career options” “better job security” – all of that is just marketing buzz to sell you a degree. 

The point is that you should not fall for a trap when low-ranking business schools are telling you that obtaining a joint MBA/Nurse or health management degree will immediately propel you into a hospital administration and management position. 

See, there are thousands of non-MBA people in that field with decades of work experience who know every little aspect of hospital or healthcare operation. They are the ones who will get those positions. You will be lucky to get even an entry-level clerk or secretary position. 

You have more chances to get your nurse degree and work as a nurse and then, after 4-5 years, obtain an MBA and move into a nursing management position. 

The MBA dual specialization or concentration degrees should complement each other. For example, Rutgers School of Business offers dual degrees of MBA and Bachelor of Science in business topics like accounting, finance, marketing, or management. 

That combination makes more sense, in my opinion. Likewise, combining dual master’s degrees such as MBA/MS Finance, MBA/ MS Economics, or even MBA/MS Computer Science or MS applied mathematics makes sense.  

There is a caveat with MBA dual specialization degrees. For example, being a dual MBA/JD in Rutgers is more manageable than being a full-time JD. Here is why. In Dual MBA/JD degree, students study core law courses in their first year (1L), and in the second year, they take business courses. 

General MBA is easier than a JD degree. Essentially, such a dual degree is a loophole, allowing students to obtain a law degree quicker than full-time law students. Mind the fact that you must apply and be admitted to both JD and MBA programs separately. Such graduates can sit for a bar exam after graduation. 

The negative in this respect is that when such a graduate is looking for a job, then law firms may be puzzled by why this student did not do JD full time as they did themselves a long time ago. Will it make you less of a lawyer or a doctor if you simultaneously pursue an MBA degree while studying for JD or MD? Who knows, but I think it is not the best idea to get distracted. 

In the end, I would agree that some dual degrees do provide a second career option if one fails. Whether you go for a full-time MBA or an MBA dual degree with something else, it is your choice.  

Do I need a concentration for MBA?

Say you, like most students, have decided to forgo exotic dual degree opportunities and choose an MBA concentration. The next question is whether you need to select an MBA concentration?  

My frank opinion is that MBA concentrations better work for students at top elite MBA programs in the country, where employers come to campus with reasonable job offers. However, for Most MBA students who go to regular non-elite business schools’ concentration may not play a huge role in a future job search.

MBA by itself is a terminal generalist degree, and general specializations or concentration mislead students into thinking that 3-4 classes in certain areas will make them more marketable. It could be the case but on an individual basis. The necessity of concentration or specialization depends on your future goals and the market demand for specialists. 

MBA students and graduates always must keep in mind the economics concept of specialization of labor. Employers are usually looking to hire true specialists who have skills or experience in a specific narrowly focused business area. An employer must fulfill specific staffing needs of their companies and thus usually are not looking for generalists. 

NOTE: I wrote other articles on this blog about how MAB students and graduates can make themselves more marketable by pursuing additional skills or courses after graduation. 

Therefore, an MBA concentration in accounting, for example, from a low-ranking MBA program is unlikely to result in an immediate accounting job for graduates without any previous accounting experience. Likewise, taking just a few elective classes in finance during MBA does not make the student a finance specialist. 

That is why some MBA graduates then go and get a second master’s in finance degree because MS in Finance does indicate to an employer that the holder of that degree is an entry-level specialist in finance. 

But, if you worked in a particular field before getting your MBA and intend to continue working in that field, then MBA specialization or concentration in that field makes sense. Because now that concentration can leverage and complement your existing skills.

For MBA students who want to shift to a different career field choosing concentration or specialization can make some sense. You can show potential employers your interest in a specific new area. 

At the same time, you can show that you succeeded in your previous field in your resume package. Based on a history of proven success, an employer is more likely to think that you can learn a new career and succeed there. But you will have some explaining in that regard as to why you do not want to return to your original career area. 

To have a better chance of working in your chosen field of MBA concentration or specialization, you may want to consider taking extra college-level classes in that concentration area selected. 

What is the most popular MBA concentration?

The following are the most popular MBA concentrations or specializations. 

General Management

General management is traditionally the most common MBA concentration or specialization, covering a broad range of topics from management and marketing to economics and finance. 

I would say most MBAs choose this specialization because they want to get into management after graduation. 

This concentration also allows flexibility in class choices to the point that this general management is not a concentration or specialization. Instead, I would call this a traditional MBA program where students learn many management aspects, from HR and personnel management to negotiations or overseeing finance or accounting. 

An MBA in strategic management may land a graduate of a reputable MBA program a management consulting career.


Such concentration or specialization as MBA in finance focuses on how to manage finances in the organization. Thus, students immerse a little bit more deeply in understanding financial statements, financial ratios, cash flow management. 

You will learn many things, including corporate budgeting. Students thinking of breaking into any financial or investment position should consider this specialization. In addition, there is math involved in this MBA concentration. 

Operations and supply chain management

MBA with a focus on operations is an option for those interested in supply chain or production management. Students learn about quality assurance, logistics, and other relevant concepts. 

Essentially, you will learn about operations processes applied in any industry, from manufacturing to a service industry. For manufacturing, students learn about materials and sourcing, product development and design, optimization of the process. For the service industry, they will learn human resources and streamlining serving consumers, clients, or counteragents. 

This particular concentration is suitable for engineers, according to several sources. 


As many people want to break into the startup industry and own a business, MBA interest in entrepreneurship has been relatively high. Specialization in MBA in entrepreneurship allows students to learn how to start, manage and grow business projects or startups. 

You will learn how to obtain financing and how to attract investors. In addition, you will learn about how to attract venture capital and develop business. 

It is also supposed to teach students how to cope with everyday problems new growing businesses encounter. Of course, you can learn all that online, but MBA gives you knowledge in condensed form. 

Students can work in the startup industry or launch their startups. 


MBA students who chose marketing specialization or concentration will study all fundamental aspects of marketing, from researching and launching a product to selling to customers while retaining and managing customers. 

There is some analytics involved in marketing. I am giving a heads up. Students can go and work in sales and marketing roles in different business organizations. Or, they can launch their own business and exploit this marketing knowledge.

Information Technology

Information technology management is another hot MBA concentration or specialization. Students will learn how to manage and grow tech projects and an overview of types of technology. In addition, they will understand the central concept of data management, data mining, and other concepts related to managing information technology at the organization. Again, this is an MBA degree focusing on technology, not a technology degree, though. 

Real Estate

Real Estate concentration or specialization in MBA focuses students on all aspects of managing real estate business. This specialization or concentration is going to be an overview of the real estate industry. Property development, management, purchase, and resale are topics covered in this concentration. Some real estate analytics are also involved. 

Graduates can go and work for real estate companies or real estate management organizations, including such things as REITs (Real Estate Investment Trust). 

Business analytics. 

Business analytics is a growing field, and MBAs also can get into this field. Thus, some business schools now offer MBA with concentration or specialization in business analytics. 

Business analytics essentially involves using knowledge of maths and statistics to extract company or industry trends from available historical data. 

These include preparing various forecasts, budgets, and other planning to make company operations smoother and less costly. Essentially, the job of a business analyst is to improve company operations and performance. 

Other popular concentrations are corporate strategy, leadership, or innovation. 

There are many other concentrations like human resources, accounting, consulting, strategy (for CEOs and top management), small business, healthcare, project management, and so on. 

Which is the best specialization in MBA?

Now we came to a question about what the best specialization in MBA is. As usual, this is an open-ended question as the best specialization in MBA depends on many factors and your criteria.

I will tell you that the best specialization or concentration in MBA is when you have a degree from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Yale, Columbia, or any of the top 10-15 MBAs in the country. This is semi-joke, of course.

Any MBA specialization or concentration can be best because you’ve got a brand-name degree allowing you to switch areas if necessary.

For the rest of us, mere mortals, we need to think about this question through the prism of many factors, including our goals, natural abilities, previous work experience and skills, market demand, and pay rate. Do not forget about the quality of life too.  

Therefore, let me go through the mock best MBA specialization or concentration selection process below. 

Which MBA specialization is in demand?

I want to know which MBA specialization or concentration is in demand because job openings are market-driven – driven by market demand for MBA graduates with specific knowledge and skills. 

According to a few sources, MBA specializations or concentrations in demand include MBA in health management, MBA in information technology, and MBA in finance. Other MBAs popular in the market are MBA in real estate and MAB in Entrepreneurship. 

If you want to find a job sooner after graduation, then MBA with quantitative concentration or specialization will yield an early or entry-level position sooner. The two most cited quantitative MBA specializations or concentrations are MBA in technology and MBA in finance. 

I also personally think that MBA in accounting with additional training can also land an accounting job relatively soon. 

What MBA concentration pays the most? Which MBA specialization is best paid?

It is not a secret that graduates from top MBA programs can get into management consulting and earn large salaries. But what are other MBA concentrations that pay plenty of money?

According to few sources, technology management or information technology MBA yields the most lucrative salary of $78,000-$80,000 shortly after graduation. Next follows an MBA in finance with a slightly lesser annual wage of $76,000-$78,000, followed by an MBA in operations management with an average of $75,000 salary for an early career. 

But it would help if you also thought about the long-term career potential of MBA specialization or concentration. The long-term career in more verbal MBA concentrations or specializations currently yields higher salaries of average $110,000-$120,000 plus after ten years of working in the field. 

Those include concentrations like strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship, and such quantitative things concentration like economics. And the most significant gain over a long-term career is attributable to concentration in innovation.

Such timing discrepancy is likely since it takes longer to develop skills and a managerial career in big companies. But the reward is that such people may move up to key positions like senior managers, CEO, Vice-Presidents, or open their businesses.  

By the way, for some reason, concentration in marketing, operations management statistically does not yield such significant long-term career salary gains. I suggest focusing on social media and digital platforms if you want to succeed in marketing. 

The top salary spots of $130,000-$140,000 often go to MBA graduates who chose finance concentration or specialization. MBAs in finance potentially can go into banking, investment management, investment banking, financial services, or other financial sector and earn excellent salaries. 

MBAs also enjoy the other two types of high salaried careers focused on information technology or real estate (real estate may suffer severe ups and downs in coming years).

Plus, the long-term benefit of working in financial sales means that best performers start earning hefty bonuses on top of base salaries. 

That can happen in any area, from banking to the financial services sector. And corporate finance professionals moving up the management ranks also rack up hefty salaries, benefits, and bonuses. 

Which MBA specialization is best in the future?

The MBA specialization that is best for the future depends on your goals because most MBA concentrations or specializations are likely to survive within our lifetime. Predicting future trends is a very ungrateful task. Let’s try, though.

I would say that in the future technology sector will continue to grow and take over every aspect of our lives. That means the demand for MBA’s understanding technology should continue to grow as well.

The technology sector is one of the fastest and strongest growing sectors of the economy, and I think this is only the beginning. Think about all the data, AI, robotics, space exploration, drones, self-driven cars, robots replacing humans. Therefore, I would say that MBA in technology is probably the most exciting MBA concentration or specialization with tremendous growth potential.

The finance sector is also not going anywhere. I think the financial industry will continue to dominate many rankings because financial behemoths essentially already run all aspects of our lives. So I would say that these two concentrations or specializations are still solid, viable choices for the future. But frankly, any of the ones I mentioned in this article are good.

Note that some industries or sectors will be overtaken by automation within the next decade or two. Those areas are accounting and operations according to predictions by various institutions. It does not mean they are bad areas to go into. However, verbal areas are less likely to get automated. Automation of jobs is whole another topic worthy of a separate blog.

Overall, for long-term future career and salary growth, statistically, the best jobs seem to be after MBA in information technology, finance, entrepreneurship, or real estate (the same caveat – see above). Note that I am guessing here based on past statistics. Things may change.

What MBA concentration should I do? How do I choose an MBA specialization?

There is no better or worse MBA concentration or specialization. Your career starts after MBA depends on the rank of business school. Also, it depends on your MBA program’s reputation and strength. 

Some MBA programs are known for specific concentrations or specializations, and employers specifically go to those business schools to hire graduates. Therefore, for a more informed decision, you should research each business school before you apply for MBA.

I suggest you choose an MBA specialization or concentration focusing on something that complements your nature and your skills. Don’t jump around and focus on a single career path by becoming a true valuable specialist in one or two areas. 

NOTE: It looks like MBAs with heavy quantitative specializations or concentrations are more likely to find a job after graduation and find it sooner. 

Here is a note for those MBAs who have no or little previous work experience:

  • Specialization or concentration on intangible areas of leadership, corporate strategy, general management, or innovation probably makes sense for MBA students in top elite business schools because students from top schools are more likely to get hired by a top or large companies where they can build a career in the non-quant field. 
  • But students in low-ranking MBA programs probably should choose more tangible quantitative specialization because quant is a more specific skill required by many smaller companies. Business analytics, finance, economics come to mind. 
  • Consider your MBA program’s most potent concentrations and reputation among employers. 

Here is food for thought: two professional areas which yield the most millionaires or billionaires are engineering and economics. 

Both enjoy such success because engineers understand technology and innovation, and economists can figure out global economy trends and make informed predictive decisions. 

Which MBA concentration is right for me? How to select MBA specialization?

When choosing MBA specialization or concentration, I suggest choosing by this criteria:

  1. You have passion for it.
  2. At which you are pretty knowledgeable, comfortable, or naturally good at,
  3. Which complements your pre-MBA work experience and skills, if any,
  4. Which aligns with your core moral and ethical values.

Due to difficulties finding a job for MBA graduates, you need to complement your experience and skills and build a portfolio with a specific focus to attract the employer’s attention. 

Even if you don’t know which specialization you will like, try to take few main courses first and see which material you can understand the best. Then chose that specialization or concentration. But beware that some knowledgeable professors cannot teach well, and you must rely on yourself to comprehend all the MAB knowledge. 

I haven’t mentioned MBA in human resources, which is another exciting concentration, especially if you have previous work experience as a recruiter or in HR.

Conclusion: How do I choose an MBA Focus?

I am a firm believer in complementing our pre-designed natural abilities. Therefore, I think you should choose your MBA focus based on your natural capabilities. 

Quantitative people can learn verbal communication, but they will succeed sooner and more effectively if they stay within the quantitative path—verbal people who are excellent communicators but maybe not so good at performing complex financial or statistical analysis. 

Both can learn how to perform work on the opposite side of the spectrum, but why fight nature and expend 10-15 times more energy than necessary? You will eventually learn how to count and communicate. The key to succeeding in the job market is to become a naturally good specialist.

Mother nature gave us everything we need. We need only to explore ourselves and find something we are good at that society needs and is ready to pay for that knowledge. 

See which classes you like and in which you perform well. That could be your specialization. And do not worry if you choose the wrong one. Once you eventually figure out what focus you want to select, you will have the opportunity to take few other courses or extension classes with certificates.


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