The MBA Specialisations Women Are Choosing in 2021 |

The MBA Specialisations Women Are Choosing in 2021

By Niamh O

Updated March 10, 2021 Updated March 10, 2021

More and more women are choosing to attend business school, paving the way for a more fruitful future in business. Some of the main takeaways from our data found:

  • Marketing was the most popular specialisation
  • More women are choosing STEM specialisations

Women are making moves in the business world. MBA admissions teams are making a conscious effort to recruit more female students – moving towards a more diverse, inclusive MBA experience.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, TopMBA wanted to take a closer look at the motivations and choices women in higher education are making.

QS’s International Student Survey Report (ISS) 2020 surveyed 78,578 participants – all of whom are prospective students at business school.

50 percent of the total MBA applicants in the survey were female. When asked which three master’s or MBA specialisations they were most interested in, this was what we found:

Which MBA specialisations are women choosing in 2021?

Rank Specialisation Desire to study the specialisation (%)
1 Marketing 62
2= Human Resources 58
2= Health Care 58
4 Law 56
5 Accounting 54
6 Sustainability Management (CSR) 53
7 Management 50
8 Analytics 49
9= Leadership 47
9= Technology 47
11 Strategy 46
12 Finance/Economics 44
13 Entrepreneurship/Innovation 42
14 Operations Management 40
15 Real Estate 19

As you can see from the above data, marketing was the most popular specialisation among prospective female MBA and master’s students, with human resources and health care both coming in joint second at 58 percent, and law following suit at 56 percent.

Interestingly, if we were to look at the specialisations prospective male students are choosing - it's a complete 180 swap, with real estate being the most popular specialisation at 79 percent for men, followed by operations management in second at 59 percent, and entrepreneurship/innovation following closely in third at 58 percent.

If we were to look closely at the above data, it seems apparent the females are choosing the MBA specializations with a greater element of human connection, or subjects that may benefit/help people long term.

On the flipside, men are choosing subjects that tend to reap big rewards - with real estate known to be a lucrative industry, as well as entrepreneurship and innovation for ROI (if successful of course).

But which subjects are women interested in pursuing this year?

Which subjects are women interested in studying in 2021?

Subject Percentage of women interested in studying the subject (%)
Business Management 26
Creative Arts and Design 8
Engineering and Technology 7
Medicine and Dentistry 6
Social Sciences 6
Education and Teaching 5
Psychology 5
Subjects Allied to Medicine 5
Law 4
Computing 4
Communications and Media 3
Architecture, Building and Planning 3
Biological and Sport Sciences 3
Humanities and Liberal Arts (non-specific) 3
Language and Area Studies 3
Agriculture, Food and Related Studies 2
Geographical and Environmental Studies 2
General and other in sciences 2
Physical Sciences 1
Mathematical Sciences 1
Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies 1
Veterinary Sciences 1

We found that 26 percent of female participants in the survey hoped to study business management (which isn’t surprising considering the demographic) followed by eight percent hoping to study creative arts and design, and engineering and technology following closely behind at seven percent.

And finally, we asked which postgraduate degrees prospective female students hoped to earn.

Which postgraduate degrees have women applied to study for in 2021?
Rank Postgraduate degree Percentage of female students hoping to earn degree (%)

Master's in Healthcare


Master's in Marketing


Master's in Accounting


Master's in Human Resources


An MBA with a non-business master's programme


Full-time MBA


Master's other


Master's in Management


Master's in Finance


Master's in Data Analytics


Online MBA


Part-time MBA

13 Master's in Entrepreneurship/Innovation 39

Executive MBA


It was a close call at the top of the list, with master's programmes seemingly being the most popular postgraduate degree courses for prospective female students. 

The top three postgraduate degrees prospective female students had/considered applying to were once again subjects that incorporated connections with other people - with a master's in healthcare being the most popular option.

For prospective male students, the most sought after postgraduate degree programme was an executive MBA at 70 percent - which follows the same pattern as the most popular MBA specialisation with men and women being on completely opposite ends of the spectrum when choosing this particular advanced degree.

Once again, men placed major importance on entrepreneurship - with 60 percent of participants stating they had applied for/considered a master's in entrepreneurship.

The above data offers a snapshot into the priorities and mindsets of both female and male students. Male students seem to be choosing the programs that could potentially offer the greatest level of ROI post-graduation, whereas female students have chosen subjects that offer the opportunity to network, build connections, and help people.

This article was originally published in March 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (;, creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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