Why you should consider specialising in your MBA

Management training is no longer one-size-fits-all.

by Management Today Staff
Last Updated: 27 Nov 2018

Fancy doing an MBA in football? How about music, or wine? These are all bonafide MBA specialisations, but they’re a bit niche for most business students. However, there is a growing trend for specialised MBAs; the most popular choices include the highly employable areas of marketing, finance, human resources and IT.

An MBA used to be a general business qualification that could lead to any number of careers. But 21st-century students are studying in different ways – online, mid-career, while running their own business – so there’s more demand for MBAs that are tailored to their needs.  

Australia’s Southern Cross University (SCU) offers an online MBA where students can choose to specialise in Accounting, Health Services Management, Information Knowledge Management, or Managing and Leading People. Students might already be working in one of these industries or aiming to enter that sector. The fact that the course is 100% online and part-time makes it a perfect option for students who are already in work.

Paul Betts, an SCU Online MBA graduate, says: "The great thing about studying online is you’re not tied into lectures and timetables. I was able to be more flexible in the way that I use my time and more effective; I’d use those grabs of time, maybe an hour here or even a half an hour there, that I wouldn’t have been able to use in a more traditional study environment."

The technological revolution means that virtual networking can now be just as effective and supportive as meeting face-to-face. So, if you’re choosing to specialise, you’ll be networking with peers in the same industry – the people who might just be the key to gaining essential advice or even finding a job after graduation. After all, MBA students often stay in touch for their entire careers.

Specialisation isn’t for everyone – many MBA students still want a broad qualification that will open up opportunities in different sectors. Research from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) suggests that nearly 40% of graduates globally are now working in an industry they hadn’t considered before their degree. And if you’re aiming for the CEO’s chair, it’s useful to have knowledge of all parts of the business.

But specialising doesn’t mean you lose out on key MBA skills, as most universities – including Southern Cross – demand you study the core MBA topics before narrowing your focus. But then you can go deeper into the area you’re interested in and learn how to manage the particular challenges of that sector. Having studied a specialisation may help you get hired by relevant businesses.

So how do students choose a specialisation? Some may be about to join a family business, and already know which area they need to focus on. And of course, students might have prior experience in a sector. Research has shown that several Southern Cross MBA students who specialised in Healthcare Management were working in hospitals, but those specialising in Information and Knowledge Management came from a broader range of employers, including technology companies, the manufacturing sector and the police service. Yet others make a specialism decision based on how lucrative their resulting career is likely to be (hello again, finance).

If you’re choosing to specialise in your MBA, be sure to do your research – talk to people in the industry to find out what day-to-day jobs involve and what progression would be possible with an MBA. It might be worth considering an internship or job-shadowing. Lastly, what are you really passionate about? That’s likely to be the key to your decision.

The online MBA at Southern Cross University helps you gain the deep knowledge you need to enhance your business management expertise in today’s competitive global market. With SCU Online, you can study a general MBA or choose to specialise in Accounting, Health Services Management, Information Knowledge Management, or Managing and Leading People.

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Image credit: Nirat/Getty Images

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