PETAP Blog

More Business Schools Offering More Specialized Degrees

June 13, 2013 ·


There was a time when an MBA was pretty much an MBA. Students might have specialized in a few niches, such as international finance or nonprofit management, but that was about it.

 

However, with business constantly evolving, and recent advances in international commerce, MBA programs have had to keep up. Students now have a broader range of options at their fingertips. They’re no longer stuck with a few options for their advanced (and expensive) degree.

 

From arts administration to biosciences, there’s truly something for everyone. According to Businessweek, this is especially the case in “B schools,” perhaps because they need to keep up with the most highly prized, upper-tier programs.

 

But this is also making business more accessible to students, especially those who aren’t quite sure what to do with their art history degree after graduation. Here’s a look at how specialized degrees are changing and broadening the playing field.

 

Schools respond to competition

 

More students are seeking to pursue business degrees, and schools want the brightest and best. But they also want a diverse pool of applicants, not the same profiles they’ve seen in their candidate pool for years. By branching out and offering more choices, business schools are reaching students who might not have considered an MBA in the past. While they might still seem like boys’ clubs, that’s not the case any longer.

 

It’s not just second-tier schools that are broadening their horizons. UC Berkeley and Wharton are a couple of examples of MBA leaders that are looking for a more interesting selection of applicants. Electric commerce, health care, and real estate are a few of the niche areas that are proving to be highly popular on campuses across the country.

 

This opens opportunities to undergraduates who are ready to start thinking that Mom and Dad were right when they lobbied for choosing a more lucrative educational path.

 

The downside

 

Just because a reputable school offers a specialized program doesn’t mean it’s as “good” as the traditional path. Many of these programs don’t have the track record to create business leaders in these fields.

 

It’s also too soon to tell whether hiring managers will be seeking out graduates in these specializations, or the trend will peter out in a few years. Competition in the job market is still fierce, and a niche MBA could go either way.

 

Some MBAs just about guarantee students a high-paying job upon graduation, but specialized programs don’t yet carry that kind of promise. This puts students on rocky ground; for the moment, the payout is yet to be determined. Choosing a more traditional MBA might ensure a more stable financial future. On the other hand, certain students simply might not flourish in the traditional sort of business environment.

 

What’s the best route?

 

Even if a scholar earns an MBA from the Harvard Business School, that’s not a 100 percent guarantee that he or she will have a successful and lucrative career although the chances are probably higher than if the student had taken another route.

 

Some students can be wildly successful with a specialized MBA, but those tend to be pretty ambitious and imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit to begin with. Forging ahead on a road less traveled can lead to great success or failure, and it depends a little on luck and a lot on the drive of the particular person.

 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know absolutely which route is going to be best for each individual student. Everyone will have to assess his or her goals carefully, weigh ambitions, and decide what they would most like their career to look like.


If reaching out into the great unknown is too scary for you, a traditional MBA might be the better choice. For the rare few who want to dive right in, however, a specialized MBA at a reputable school might just be the way to go. Only the student can decide that.

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