Getting your MBA is a great educational decision for most people, leading to promotions, higher salary and greater authority and respectability. Choosing the right MBA degree concentration can help you to turbocharge your career even more.
Some specific areas of the business world are higher growth and more dynamic than others, and it is beneficial to do your research about which MBA concentration is best for you. Note that some of the best-paying concentrations may not be the ones that get the most press, either.
The latest research shows that the following 13 MBA concentrations hold a great deal of promise:
#1 Strategy MBA
In a highly competitive business environment, the winning and losing companies often are determined by how well companies are able to innovate, strategize and outmaneuver other companies in their market.
MBA schools have long stressed the importance of developing business management strategy skills, but in recent years, the strategy concentration has become a more common offering. This concentration is often selected today by students and professionals who want to join a leading business strategy consulting company. It also is a popular pick for those who have a general interest in strategic planning for regular companies.
Experts say that an MBA in strategy will train the student to view the enterprise as a whole and to really grasp how and why the executive or manager can make a demonstrable difference in how the firm performs. A good grasp of strategy on the part of the manager helps to better align the activities of the organization to ensure its long term financial success.
The required courses that are common in this speciality will give you the skills, knowledge and perspectives that are needed to craft effective innovations and business strategies that will lead innovative change in highly competitive and diverse business environments.
A professional with business strategy skills will be valued by his or her supervisors to drive the company forward and to expand the organization’s opportunities.
Some of the areas covered in a strategy MBA specialization are:
- Internal analysis and competitive advantage
- Industry and environmental analysis
- Design and alignment
- Competitive analysis
- Strategy implementation
- Intellectual capital and competitive strategy
- Market evolution and dynamics
Payscale.com reports that the entry level salary for this concentration is $96,200, with a mid-career average pay of $149,000. This high level of pay could be because of large numbers of strategy consultants being hired at top consulting firms; the typical entry level salary for these positions is around $135,000.
#2 Entrepreneurship MBA
Aspiring business owners and those who dream of developing their own start up company are choosing to study entrepreneurship in their MBA program. You will learn about how to successfully build a solid business foundation, and also how to hone the entrepreneurial skills that you need to be successful for years to come.
Students also receive education on project building and management, small business management, organizational leadership skills and how to be an innovation leader and change agent.
More students today are choosing this specialty because it enhances their odds of being a highly paid business owner, manager, investor, venture capitalist or senior executive.
The University of North Carolina has a highly regarded entrepreneurship concentration which features these courses:
- New Ventures Discovery
- Introduction to Entrepreneurship
- Corporate Strategy
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Developing Economies
- Digital Marketing
- Managing Innovation
- Business Innovation and Technology Management
Payscale.com states that the entry level salary after earning the MBA in this speciality is $70,300, and the mid-career average pay is $139,000.
#3 Corporate Finance MBA
Finance is always a popular and in demand concentration for MBAs. But corporate finance is a newer subspecialty that focuses on financial matters at the firm level. For example, this specialty explores how companies may raise capital, how to decide on a structure of equity or short/long term debt, and the many different ways that large firms can be structured.
Students will develop an excellent grasp of the many financial issues and choices that face large corporations and how these choices will affect company performance, risk and valuation.
You may want to consider the corporate finance concentration if you are interested in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, public finance, real estate finance or sales and trading.
Common courses in corporate finance may include:
- Case Studies in Bankruptcy and Reorganization
- Corporate Finance
- Investment Banking
- Entrepreneurial Finance
- Real Estate Capital Markets
Payscale.com states that entry level corporate finance professionals earn an average salary of $78,100, and a mid-career salary of $138,000.
#4 Marketing Management MBA
An MBA in marketing management provides the student with interdisciplinary skills in executive leadership, new media and marketing. You will have theoretical and practical training that helps you to hone the skills you need to run the marketing branch of a large company or corporation.
You can expect to learn about product development, managing marketing campaigns, business management and its relationship to marketing and promotion. Many MBA programs in this specialty focus on social networking, advanced Internet technologies and emerging media platforms.
Typical courses in a marketing management program are:
- Marketing Research
- Marketing Strategy
- Advanced Marketing Research
- Advanced Pricing Strategy
- Advertising and Promotion
- Brand Management
- Business to Business Marketing
- Consumer Behavior
- Digital Marketing
- International Marketing
Payscale.com states that the entry level salary for this MBA concentration is $63,900, with the mid-career average salary totalling $126,000.
#5 Information Technology MBA
Business and information technology is becoming more interrelated and intertwined by the day, thus an MBA in information technology is becoming a vital qualification to work in many businesses today.
In the past, it was not as necessary for an information technology professional to have an MBA, but today, the skills learned in an MBA program pertaining to business management are becoming more important for IT professionals to advance in their careers.
For professionals who have more of a business management focus, an MBA in information technology still can be a big advantage over your competition; you will develop a conceptual vision so that you can lead your business in changing as technology changes.
Common courses in an IT MBA program include:
- Analysis and Decision Making
- Corporate Financial Strategy
- Leadership Development
- IT Project Management
- Information Security
- Systems Analysis
- Emerging Technological Changes
The entry level salary for IT MBAs is $72,400, and the mid-career salary is $123,000.
#6 Operations Management MBA
Operations management is sometimes a field that is not as well understood because it is very multidisciplinary in its nature. Still, the functions involved in proper operations management are critical to the success of businesses today.
The two major terms that operations management students must understand to succeed in this important concentration are supply chain management and logistics. Operations management is involved in both of these subjects. For instance, being able to understand global trends in modern supply chain management to meet current client demands is usually very important.
In logistics, the very careful and considered use of company resources and also cost effectiveness, is very important. Due to the increased competition that companies face today, resources in an organization can be lacking, but customer expectations have only increased.
An operations management MBA concentration will teach the student how to plan, organize and supervise in the context of manufacturing, production and provisioning services. This MBA will offer the student a worldwide perspective on industry trends and a more attuned awareness of financial regulations and political considerations that could affect a company.
Bloomberg.com notes that while salaries for operations management MBAs may not be as high as those for financial consultants and investment bankers, they tend to catch up over time. Professionals who succeed in operations management will get a lot of positive attention that leads to higher pay and promotions.
Common courses in an operations management MBA are:
- Operations Management: Business Process Fundamentals
- Supply Chain Strategy and Practice
- Managerial Decision Making
- Revenue Management
- Managing Service Operations
Payscale.com states that the entry level salary with this concentration is $75,500, and the mid-career pay is $121,000.
#7 International Business MBA
A highly global economy requires business professionals to understand the best ways to conduct business internationally. An MBA in international business will help you to think, plan and organize business management on a global scale.
You can think of an MBA in international business as an MBA in general management and business but with a focus on multinational corporations. In addition to working for multinational companies, graduates of an MBA in international business program often secure excellent employment opportunities in management, consulting and international finance. Some graduates also may choose to work for international companies in the travel and hospitality field.
#8 Cybersecurity MBA
Cybersecurity is a very important part of the business world today, and that is why cybersecurity MBAs are becoming common. Cybersecurity professionals are greatly needed today to keep information systems and data safe from online theft, damage and disruption.
This growing need was recently revealed in the updated occupation statistics by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS. That government organization noted that jobs for information security and cybersecurity analysts is going to increase by 18% by 2024. The reason for this is that cyberattacks are becoming more common than ever before. Analysts are needed daily to devise the most current and innovative solutions to prevent cyber attackers from taking vital company information.
One area where this is a lot of employment growth for cybersecurity professionals is in the federal government sector. More of these computer professionals are being hired to protect the IT systems of the federal government.
Also, the healthcare industry is greatly expanding the use of EHRs or electronic medical records. The use of these e-files better ensures the privacy of patients and better protects their personal data. More cybersecurity professionals are needed today to devise new safeguards to keep patient data safe.
An MBA degree in this growing specialty features specific classes that focus on cybersecurity issues and knowledge that will put you in line to work in this very important field.
The cyber security specialization will give you an excellent understanding of cyber intelligence, and also how cybersecurity networks, protocols and related systems are so important to organizations, government applications and networks.
In some areas of cybersecurity, it is believed that job growth will be even more rapid than in the general cybersecurity space. In computer systems design and related services, job growth as projected by BLS will grow by a huge 36% by 2024.
Some of the most common courses in this MBA specialty include the following:
- Principles of Cybersecurity
- Cyber Intelligence
- Computer Forensics
- Disaster Recovery Management
- Network Security Management
- Web Security Management
- Critical National Infrastructures and National Security
- Principles of Cybercrime Investigations
#9 Healthcare Management MBA
An MBA in healthcare management has become a very popular choice for professionals who want to become leaders of large healthcare organizations. Today the US healthcare industry is estimated to be worth in excess of $2 trillion dollars.
More organizations in the healthcare field want to keep pace with the legal and regulatory changes that are affecting the industry each year, so there is more need for accomplished healthcare professionals with an MBA. Also, with all of the growth in the healthcare industry generally and the great demand for healthcare services, there will be great need for healthcare business professionals for many years to come.
For example, healthcare administrators and executives often have an MBA in this speciality; BLS estimates that jobs in that field will grow by 16% or 17% in the coming decade.
Healthcare management MBAs cover finance, marketing, management and business principles as they specifically relate to healthcare organizations and systems.
Courses in this speciality include healthcare business, marketing, business management as related to healthcare, legal and ethical aspects, health information systems and services, and human resources in the healthcare industry.
#10 Internet Marketing MBA
There are at least 38,000 Internet searches occurring across the world every second of every day. The digital marketing world has opened up many new possibilities as companies have all-new ways of reaching customers at any time.
An MBA in Internet marketing will provide you with the skills that you need to increase the online presence of your brand in major search engines, mobile platforms and social media. You will understand what you need to do in this specialty to optimize online strategy and to tie it to important business goals.
Common learning outcomes in the Internet marketing speciality are:
- Exploring Internet marketing from a perspective of strategy
- Gain the knowledge and skills that you need to increase your experience level in Internet marketing strategy
- Learn effective ways to engage with your company’s audience directly and also learn how to measure and react to responses almost immediately
Coursework also often explores these areas:
- Current strategies in online marketing and how they can work with and interact with normal marketing on TV, newspaper, magazine, etc.
- The integration and application of online Internet marketing into many different business models
- Analyzing opportunities that exist online as they are related to the business goals of different companies
- Learning how to build effective Internet marketing campaigns built upon appropriate Web data analysis
- How to connect social media marketing to other channels online
Some of the classes that may be taken in this MBA speciality are strategic Internet marketing, search engine marketing and search engine optimization and online marketing channels.
#11 Project Management MBA
There is a strong, steady demand for effective project leaders across the world, and you can develop the skills you need to attain those positions by studying a project management MBA.
You will gain a high level of proficiency in new technologies that are used by top global companies and also smaller businesses. Also, students will learn how to plan, monitor and measure a business project from the beginning to the end.
Professionals who choose this specialty will typically move into jobs with these types of titles:
- Project or program manager
- Project leader
- Project risk manager
- Project planner
- Project procurement manager
- Team leader test manager
- Project quality manager
In addition to typical MBA classes such as economics, mathematics and statistics, business law and financial reporting, students in this speciality also will take courses in project management and also complete advanced project management seminars.
#12 Sustainability MBA
As there is more emphasis on sustainability and and eco-friendly practices in companies across the world, a popular, growing specialty today is in sustainability. This concentration is made for people who have a strong interest in both business and the environment. A sustainability MBA typically features a strong foundation in the best business practices and also a thorough assessment of environmental regulations, rules and issues that organizations all over the world have to work through. With all of these new laws and regulations, companies both large and small can no longer expect to boost profits by abusing the environment. It is very important for these companies to use sustainable strategies and that means there will be a need for hiring MBAs that are well trained in this specialty.
Common learning objectives in a sustainability MBA program include:
- Understanding the ways that energy needs affect the environment, business and society
- Learn how to address vital environmental matters as a more effective way to do business over the long term
- Examine vital energy issues that affect businesses, and the ecological effects that are involved in business decisions
- Be able to present strong arguments in sustainability issues that provide many perspectives
- Understand how environmental compliance and sustainability affects building communities, social engagement and business.
MBA programs in sustainability typically include courses in pressing environmental issues, energy and society and environmental compliance. At the University of North Carolina, the required courses in this speciality are:
- Innovations in Green Building
- The Energy Value Chain
- Sustainable Operations
- Strategies in Sustainable Enterprise
- Systems Thinking for the Sustainable Enterprise
- New Urbanism, Smart Growth and Sustainable Community Development
#13 Public Administration MBA
Private companies are not the only entities that need to be run efficiently so that they can provide the best outcomes to the public. Many public organizations also require business professionals that are highly skilled in operating all types of entities in an efficient manner. Professionals earning an MBA in public administration will learn how to excel in a public or government organization, meet the organization’s business goals and to also succeed professionally.
A public administration MBA will provide you with the advanced management and analytical skills that are needed to are needed to work through many critical public issues and processes.
One of the reasons that this may be an attractive specialty for many professionals is that the job outlook for many public service occupations is very strong and will grow stronger in the coming years. This is especially the case in social services and healthcare. It is believed that more than 500,000 federal workers will retire in the next decade, so it is likely that job demand in this sector will grow.
Some of the common jobs that you may pursue in government, nonprofit organizations and other areas include:
- Grant writer
- Legislative analyst
- Environmental analyst
- Nonprofit executive director
- Development manager
- Program analyst
- Government affairs director
- Sustainability manager
- Policy manager
If you do decide to earn an MBA in public administration, it is recommended that you be certain that you want to spend your career in public service; this is a specialized MBA concentration that is most appropriate for career in government organizations and nonprofits.
The MBA is one of the best educational degree choices for business professionals today. Professionals who earn their MBA usually earn significantly more over their careers than those with only a bachelor’s degree. Your opportunities will be even better if you choose a good speciality. As the above list shows, there are numerous solid choices that can fit most business career interests. Online & distance learning MBA program options are also a popular choice today (many without the GMAT requirement) with the likes of such schools as Southern New Hampshire University, Abilene Christian University, Villanova University, University of Dayton and more. Many of these schools can be seen in our America’s Best Online MBA Programs report published in 2017.
MBA students who choose one or more of the above specialities will be in a good position to earn a high salary and enjoy many rewarding job opportunities for years to come.
- Why MBAs Should Consider Operations Management. (2012, April 2). Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-04-02/why-mbas-should-consider-operations-management
- Highest Paying MBA Majors by Salary Potential. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report/majors-that-pay-you-back