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5 Industry-Specific MBA Specializations

MBA specializations that relate to a specific industry

MBA specializations are available in areas as wide and varied as the career ambitions of the students they target. Depending on the business school, you might also see specializations referred to as concentrations or as tracks that can be taken, through elective course offerings, within the confines of a traditional MBA program.  

With these nuances in mind, TopMBA.com recently took an in-depth look at six of the most popular MBA specializations out there, together with examples of how a top business school teaches that particular topic of specialization.

Here now are five MBA specializations that are most commonly associated with preparing its graduates to work, or advance, in a specific industry. The list features concentrations in finance, healthcare, luxury management, nonprofit management and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is included on this list because, although startups formed by MBA graduates may fall into any number of industries, making a decision to start and run a business (and therefore to live the life of a full-time entrepreneur) is akin to deciding on a career in a particular industry. Once again, examples of how a leading business school approaches the topic are outlined. Read on to learn more…

1. Finance

A finance MBA specialization is designed to help you advance your finance career or to transition into a finance role. London Business School offers a concentration built around a corporate finance core and a selection of 20 different electives. While the corporate finance core looks at the management of company finances and the frameworks used to make financial decisions, the electives available include courses on mergers, private equity and one entitled: ‘Distressed Investing’. The idea behind the electives is that students can customize their finance courses to a specific area of focus. An internship within the finance industry after the first year of the MBA program and a faculty-supervised consulting project are among the program’s applied learning, or experiential, opportunities.

2. Entrepreneurship

An entrepreneurship MBA specialization helps students start businesses and act upon their ideas. At IE Business School, entrepreneurship is not offered as a specialization but is “integrated from front to end in the International MBA Program”, in the words of program director, Steven Thompson. Critical entrepreneurial concepts and theories are introduced as part of the program’s core curriculum, with subsequent access to the school’s startup and venture lab initiatives offering students the chance to work on their own business ideas. IE also offers approximately 12 entrepreneurship-themed electives, with the aim of providing students with a roadmap for launching their own companies.

3. Healthcare

A healthcare MBA is designed for students who want to work in various areas of the healthcare industry, including: Healthcare delivery; insurance and health benefits; pharmaceuticals; medical devices and other healthcare technology. The healthcare management concentration at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, for example, builds on research and course offerings not only from Ross, but also from the wider university.

In order to accommodate the diversity of student interests around the field of healthcare, the concentration has no mandatory courses. Instead, students are simply required to fulfill a set amount of credits through their choice of healthcare-related courses, at least a quarter of which must be obtained from courses offered outside of Michigan Ross (for example, those available at the university’s public health and public policy schools). Students can also receive credit for a healthcare-related Multidisciplinary Action Project.

Action-based learning is an emphasis in this healthcare management concentration as, indeed, is now so often the case with MBA programs available at leading business schools. At Ross, one healthcare elective sees students embark on a collaborative project with healthcare organizations in less-developed countries. Another focuses on a week in Washington DC during which students meet with health policy experts working both inside and outside of government.

4. Luxury management

A luxury management MBA specialization is tailored for those who wish to take on senior roles with luxury brands and companies. Specialized luxury management MBA programs and concentrations have emerged because of the specific skillset sought by employers in this industry.

In addition to elective courses in the subject area, MBA students at HEC Paris can take certificates that are sponsored by the luxury groups Kering and LVMH. The school has now been offering MBA electives in the area of luxury management for six years and emphasizes its location in the French capital as an ideal environment for studying the luxury business. One case in point is HEC Paris’ ability to call on partnerships with the aforementioned luxury groups as well as companies such as Porsche and Gucci (a subsidiary of Kering).

5. Nonprofit management

“’Confluence’ is the new byword of the social impact sector. Whereas commerce and charity were once viewed as separate streams of endeavor, now the streams are flowing together - creating a stronger current and new channels of activity and opportunity,” states David Stolow, faculty director of the MBA specialization in public and nonprofit management at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.

The Questrom School’s Public and Nonprofit (PNP) MBA program aims to address the juncture at which business and management fundamentals can be used to create social value. It does this by exploring issues relating both to private enterprise and nonprofits, as well as governmental organizations. The curriculum covers all the usual MBA terrain, but with an ultimate goal of finding solutions to social problems as well as organizational success. The program also considers the ways in which for-profit corporations can create social value and, indeed, about half of its graduates are said to progress to post-MBA jobs at blue chip companies, such as Nike and IBM.

More specifically, students in Questrom’s specialization study the same core courses as their ‘traditional’ MBA classmates, before taking electives that are focused on social value, for example, ‘Marketing Social Change’, ‘Leading the Mission-Driven Organization’, and ‘Social Entrepreneurship’. There are also opportunities for students to test their skills in the industry through, for example, consultancy projects and participation in relevant conferences and case competitions.

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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