7 Obscure Specialized MBA Programs 2017

MBA specializations

The MBA program has come a long way since its inception at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School in 1900, when you could count the amount of people taking a Master of Science in Commerce course (the predecessor to the MBA) on one hand.

In terms of popularity, MBAs now outstrip education degrees as the most-popular graduate-level degree in the US, with hundreds of thousands of MBAs granted across the world every year. With so many business schools vying for top talent, it should come as little surprise that a spate of specialized MBA programs have emerged to allow schools to stand out, as well as to engender more-specific expertise.

MBA in Aviation

Aviation The MBA is being taken to new heights with a number of business schools providing aviation-focused courses. The Emirates Aviation University in Dubai runs programs in aviation management in partnership with Coventry University in the UK. An MBA Aviation is also available at the at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), while an aviation management pathway at Brunel Business School is available to those that want to spread their wings. Both schools are based in the UK.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s (ERAU) MBA of Aviation and MBA of Aviation Management in the US aims to provide, “strong foundations for success in any facet of the global aviation business arena”. Singapore Aviation Academy also offer a two-year MBA in Aviation (jointly organized with ERAU).

Other programs of note are the aviation management executive MBA track run by the University of Geneva in partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), launched in 2010 and the highly selective,12-month Aerospace MBA at Tolouse Business School.

MBA in Film & TV 

Film and TV

Offered in conjunction with the Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, the three-year MBA/MFA in Film and Television Producing program at Chapman University in California is designed for individuals seeking a management or executive level position at a production company, talent agency, studio or television network. The purpose of the degree is to leave students with a strong knowledge of business concepts and how they can be applied to TV and film production.

New York University (NYU) Stern also offers a range of courses that include ‘Business of Independent Film’, ‘Business of Music and Film’, ‘Movie Marketing and Distribution’ and ‘Television Management’ to name but a few within their specialized MBA Entertainment, Media & Technology.

MBA in Sports Management

Sports ManagementIt wasn’t that long ago that a sports management MBA would have been considered niche, but now a wide range of business schools provide either a specific MBA or an element of sports management within its content. Just a few of the many options available include an MBA – Sports Management at the EU Business School (EU) at either their campuses in Switzerland or Barcelona, an accelerated, 18-month Sports Management MBA degree at San Diego State University (SDSU) and the Flex MBA program available at Hofstra University's Frank Zarb Business School which offers students a wide choice of concentrations including sports and entertainment management. Read more about an MBA in sports management in our program guide.

As the popularity of sports management MBA programs continue to grow, it has allowed for niche within a niche. An example of this is the Thoroughbred Horseracing Industries MBA, offered at the University of Liverpool Management School. Students focus on a range of modules that include ‘Marketing, Sponsorship and Media in the Thoroughbred Horseracing Industry’, ‘Equine Welfare and Thoroughbred Racehorse Security’ and ‘Racecourse and Event Management’. While this might not be for everyone, it certainly highlights how broad the range of industries that value the MBA has become.

MBA in Oil & Gas 

Oil and Gas MBA

With its proximity to the North Sea oil and gas fields it is understandable why the UK’s Aberdeen-based Robert Gordon University offers a specialized MBA qualification in oil and gas. It isn’t however the only business school in the area that is developing talent for the industry. The Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University also offers four specialist courses as part of their distance learning MBA in Oil and Gas Management, concentrating on finance, project management, strategic negotiation and strategic planning for the oil and gas industry.

As major players in the industry look to the future, facing challenges such as climate change and the growth of renewable and clean energy, oil and gas companies are seeking strong and adaptable management strategy skills. Other business schools in Europe offering similar programs include Geneva Business School who aim to “provide you with in-depth knowledge and practical training relevant to the specialized field of trading in oil and gas on an international scale”.

In the US there are a number of options for students looking to specialize in energy including Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma where they run a 15-month Executive MBA in Energy and McCombs School of Business who offer a wide variety of concentrations as part of their MBA program including ‘Energy Finance and Clean Tech’. North of the border in Canada, the University of Alberta offer the Alberta MBA in Natural Resources Energy & Environment, while Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary offer the Global Energy Management and Sustainable Development MBA concentration, in addition to their Global Energy Executive MBA.

MBA in Luxury Management 

Luxury Management MBA

Specializations in luxury management may not be a new thing in the MBA world, with a range of top US business schools offering the option. However, you’ll be hard pushed to find a location for your studies more synonymous with luxury than the Monaco Business School at the International University of Monaco. The university’s website states that students that study this track “will be exposed to the unique market and competitive characteristics of different luxury sectors, such as fashion, jewelry, yachting, private aviation, real estate, hospitality and event management, etc.”

Monaco isn’t the only luxury destination in Europe that offers such an MBA though. Paris is one of Europe’s fashion centers and as such the nearby ESSEC Business School offer a choice of six concentrations during their Global MBA, one of which is luxury brand management.

MBA in Real Estate

Real Estate MBA

Again, it is arguable that the amount of MBA programs that concentrate on real estate should mean that there is no place for the industry on this list. And it’s a good argument. After all, as we’ve previously said in the ‘Rise of the Real Estate MBA’, soon after World War II and the real estate boom that occurred, business education was already seeking to expand into the real estate sector.

The Wharton School has had a concentration in real estate since 1985 for example, while UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and Columbia Business School also have long-established programs, with a range of US schools establishing similar programs in more recent years. Despite this, their inclusion is a valuable reminder that if the demand is there, the MBA can be adapted to serve a number of purposes and industries.

Further examples of real estate MBA programs across the world include a range of concentrations at Amity Business School in Mumbai and/or Noida (MBA in Real Estate and Urban Infrastructure; MBA in Construction Project Management; MBA in Construction Economics & Quantity Surveying; MBA in Infrastructure Management), accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and a Construction and Infrastructure Management MBA at London South Bank University.

MBA in Art and Design

Art and Design MBA

Enabling an ideal mix between a passion for arts and business leadership, the Wisconsin School of Business deliver an MBA in Arts Administration. Offered through the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, it highlights the benefits an MBA can bring to the creative industries as well as the more traditional corporate settings with which the qualification is more synonymous. The California College of the Arts have also introduced their MBA in Design Strategy program with an aim of fostering “the new type of creative leader eager to design a world that is profitable, ethical, and remarkable”.

It is perhaps this last section on art and design that is most interesting and poignant when considering the various specializations now open to MBA candidates. The core elements of any MBA program remain similar, designed to instill first-class management skills in students. What is becoming clear is a greater number of industries are seeking the skills MBA programs develop. Combine this with an ever-increasing tailored approach to courses on offer and it’s easy to see more career routes opened up to MBA students than ever before. 

phil_cottrell
Written by Phil Cottrell

Phil is the editor of TopMBA.com and has a breadth of editorial and digital marketing experience. He has worked across a variety of industries from e-commerce and commercial real estate to managing all content for a C-suite careers site aimed at UK and US professionals.

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