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Which MBA Specialization Should I Choose? [List of Factors to Consider]

MBA is one of the most sought after higher education programs by aspirants all across the globe. While millions of students pursue an MBA program, there’s one question that seems to trouble every beginner – “Which MBA stream should I choose?”

The first two semesters of an MBA program are crucial for each student since this is the time they must deliberate and choose a specialization stream. In fact, the institution you enroll in and the specialization you want to pursue are the most critical factors that determine your worth after you earn the MBA degree. 

Most institutes in the country (as well as overseas) offer a host of standard specialization streams as their MBA offerings, including:

  • Marketing
  • Business Analytics
  • Finance 
  • Human Resources 
  • Digital Finance & Banking
  • Business Management 
  • Information Technology
  • Operations Management 
  • Management Information Systems
  • International Business 

Naturally, choosing only one specialization out of so many is an overwhelming decision. And that’s why we’ve created this simple guide to help you with your selection of MBA specialization!

If you cannot make up your mind as to which MBA specialization to select, here are X aspects that you must consider:

1. The institution’s ranking.

The first and foremost consideration for an MBA program must be the school’s ranking. Although there are plenty of institutions that offer MBA courses, it is essential to select one that is both well-established and reputed. This is because reputable business schools usually partner with top players in the industry (IBM, TCS, Mahindra, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, etc.) thereby ensuring placement in top-notch companies in the country. 

2. Identify your strengths and interests.

The second most important thing on the list is self-analysis. Look within yourself to figure out what are your core strengths and identify the areas where you excel. Club it along with your interests and long-term career goals to get a more comprehensive picture. Once you get a clear idea of what you want in life and what you wish to achieve through an MBA degree, it will become much easier to choose a specialization.

The key is to select a stream that will not only help you grow as a professional but also ensure long-term employability and relevance in the fast-changing industry. 

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3. Evaluate the salary figures. 

When choosing an institution, carefully assess and evaluate their offerings, placement partners, and the average salary package promised. Try to find out the minimum and maximum placement package for the past year (for different specializations). This will give you a fair idea of what you can expect after completion. While the salary package is not the sole criterion, it is a pivotal one nonetheless. 

Getting all the necessary information about offered salary packages for each specialization from your preferred MBA institute is vital. Remember that salary must not be the only aspect to consider. The salary packages for a specific specialization may be high. But if you are weak in a particular area, make sure not to choose it.

4. Take a close look at the faculty.

Make it a point to learn about the faculty members of different institutions. Look at their educational background, their qualifications, and their experience. After all, you have the right to know who your mentors will be and what fields they’ll teach you. By assessing the faculty profile of different institutions/schools, you can narrow down your choice to a select few institutes that have the most qualified and experienced faculty.

5. Number of companies:

You can go through the statistics on the number of companies that visited a particular MBA institution to recruit MBA graduates. There are higher chances of obtaining a job in a specialization in which more companies have visited.

6. Subjects in Specialization:

Before selecting any specialization, make sure to do a comprehensive analysis of each specialization’s curriculum. It helps you to select the most appropriate specialization and develop the required skills.  Each MBA specialization comes with its benefits, so choose the best specialization in MBA depending on your skills and interests. Remember that any specialization you select will need significant hard work to excel and be a successful business leader.

Acknowledging the fact that the modern industry is pro-digitalization and highly data-centric, it makes sense to choose streams that are the most relevant in the present scenario. Thus, mainstream MBA specializations aside, here are the two most unique and promising MBA specialization streams that you should consider:

MBA in Business Analytics

The extensive adoption of Big Data tools and Data Science technologies across all parallels of the industry has made Business Analytics (BA) a vital component of business infrastructure. As a result, companies and organizations are always on the lookout for skilled and qualified professionals who are well versed in Big Data and Business Analytics.

An MBA degree in Business Analytics will introduce you to core management skills and teach you how to use business data effectively. Furthermore, you will learn how to apply Data Analytics in diverse areas like Finance, Marketing, Human Resources, Operations & Supply Chain, Machine Learning, and Big Data Technologies. 

Business Intelligence (B.I.) focuses on the strategies and tools used to recognize, obtain, and classify raw data on previous or current events. Essentially, it is a process that reviews historical data to infer how a department or product line in a business performed over a particular period. A few of the best practices in this domain include inquiring, reporting, and online analytical processing (OLAP).

The students of MBA business analytics should learn concepts like marketing intelligence, predictive analysis, data and text mining, data visualization, econometrics, and more. It is the best specialization in MBA for marketing managers acquiring data about customers and financial analysts making investment decisions.

Many businesses have realized the significance of data and are searching for professionals familiar with the usage of analytical tools and data science theories.

There is a rise in the number of employers recruiting candidates skilled in business analytics and a shortage of data-savvy analysts and managers. So, many business schools have now included MBA in Business Analytics courses. It is one of the valuable fields in MBA because it helps students to learn how to sort, gather, and recognize data inferences. Moreover, it teaches how to leverage it to fulfill strategic objectives.

On completion, you can aim for well-paying job roles in like Business Consultant, Management Consulting, and Growth Manager. An MBA in BA will equip you to take on managerial and leadership roles in areas like Data Analytics, Marketing & Finance, Sales, Human Resources, and Business Development. 

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MBA in Digital Finance & Banking

Much like any other industrial sector, the BFSI sector is also undergoing a digital transformation powered by new-age technologies like Big Data, AI, ML, and Blockchain. These technologies are rapidly taking the place of traditional processes and technologies and encouraging the creation of innovative banking and financial solutions. The influx of modern technologies and tools in the BFSI industry demands a transformation of the workforce as well.

The new workforce must be proficient in disruptive technologies like AI and Blockchain and most importantly, know how to work with them. This is why an MBA program in Digital Finance & Banking can be super beneficial for aspirants who wish to build a career in banking and finance. 

The MBA course Digital Finance & Banking covers issues that are highly relevant to the BFSI sector such as Artificial Intelligence in Business, Data Visualization in Finance, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, Fintech Ecosystems Management, Digital Fraud & Risk Analytics, Financial Management & Valuation, and Design Thinking & Leadership for Business. Students also get to expand their knowledge base and sharpen their skills by working on live industry assignments and case studies.

This specialization offers a solid foundation in finance and accounting. It is primarily intended for those willing to get a professional accountant-related qualification or a postgraduate degree in relevant areas.  Its curriculum trains candidates on how to use financial information and accounting statements to simplify decision-making.

There is a growing need for expert professionals who can use advanced technologies in this field to create inventive financial and banking solutions. So, it is one of those fields in MBA that can facilitate value addition in the BFSI sector.

Who can pursue MBA in Banking and Finance?

It is one of the best fields in MBA for the following types of candidates:

  • Candidates interested in banking and finance and its associated areas.
  • Candidates equipped with a mathematical aptitude, logical & analytical skills, and knowledge of the banking system.
  • Candidates knowledgeable in solving accountancy issues.
  • Candidates with leadership abilities, interpersonal skills, communication skills, and knowledge of computers and related technology.

What is the right time to do an MBA?

Enrolling in an MBA immediately after graduation may seem alluring, but it’s not always recommended. The greatest benefit for somebody who joins an MBA course immediately after graduation is that they may complete it at a young age. So they can enter the job market early, increasing their chances of success.

Many people decide to prepare for an MBA entrance examination after a few years of work experience. This is because gaining a few years of work experience makes it simpler to know the theoretical concepts of the chosen specialization. Furthermore, it boosts the individuals’ confidence when they study various challenging concepts of its curriculum. The only challenging thing is to choose one of the best fields in MBA that matches your interest.

One of the drawbacks of pursuing an MBA after gaining a few years of experience is that you may miss some great growth opportunities that may not come in the future. Some MBA aspirants believe fewer opportunities exist for candidates with more experience. There is a smaller space with each higher step on the corporate ladder. So, gaining more experience may prove to be a limitation for certain MBA specialization courses.

Importance of specializing in MBA

Some of the key reasons justifying the importance of specializing in an MBA are:

  • All industries demand knowledge of a specific domain and a decent theoretical knowledge of industry dynamics. MBA, in general, is about the development of soft skills. But specializing in a specific domain effectively trains students to survive in their chosen career field.
  • All management graduates have their aspirations, and the same defines their choice of MBA specialization. It significantly depends on personal attributes too.  For instance, an introverted graduate is inappropriate for marketing specialization. So, choosing the most suitable one from the best streams in MBA is inevitable.
  • Many domains in MBA have evolved in the last two decades. This has extended the subject base of MBA specializations. Almost all MBA institutes have added new specialization subjects to fulfill the demand for hiring talented management professionals.
  • Certain MBA specialization courses provide dual specializations. They are beneficial for students because dual subjects are complementary to one another. Consequently, it provides a good career push at the start and later stages.
  • The subjects in the best streams in MBA specialization are constantly evolving.  They will determine the need of the corporate sector in the future.

Wrapping up

So, that’s our little effort to help ease your tension and confusion while choosing an MBA specialization!

If you are keen on upgrading your career with an MBA Degree, upGrad is offering an MBA in Digital Finance & Banking in collaboration with the Jindal Global Business School and the Jindal School of Banking & Finance. The program has been designed to Future-oriented content suited for those working in or aspiring to work in finance across domains. Be a JGU alumnus and take advantage of continued engagement and networking with the world of academia, policy, and industry

Is an MBA in Finance better than Marketing?

It depends on your interest. If numbers and money excite you, then an MBA in Finance may be the better choice. The same is also applicable if you wish to pursue a career in finance dominated fields such as banking, trading, and so on. On the other hand, if you are a creative person and love selling ideas as well as products and services to people, an MBA in marketing would be a better choice. Rather than choosing a specialisation which would bring you a better income in the short term, it would be better to choose one which matches your skills and interest to develop a successful and fulfilling career.

Which MBA specialization will give me a better paying job?

There is no such guarantee. An MBA specialization is only a tool which enables you to narrow your focus in developing your career path. Hence, it should be chosen carefully – keeping in mind your existing skills, level of interest, and goals. For instance, an MBA in Finance or Business Analytics is usually one of the best paying MBA options, but if you do not like number crunching or data interpretation, then you may feel frustrated after a few years and yearn to switch profiles. Similarly, the glamour and lucrative income of marketing managers should only be pursued by those who enjoy selling and interacting with clients.

How to choose an MBA specialization?

An MBA specialisation should be chosen keeping in mind a few key factors. The most important is your existing skill set. Next comes your area of interest. Your comfort level with technology and interacting with new people is also an important factor. For instance, if you love technology, but are shy and are not comfortable in unexpected social situations, an MBA in Operations or Business Analytics would probably be a better fit for you. Similarly, if you are interested in business strategy and/or wish to pursue a global career, an MBA in International Business or a Global MBA program would be the better choice.

What are the advantages of doing an MBA?

An MBA is a fairly lucrative career option. It helps you increase your professional network and also enhances your marketability as a prospective candidate for jobs. The soft skills you learn during an MBA are useful in other parts of your life as well. For example, communication and interpersonal skills are important no matter what you do. With an MBA, you gain the knowledge to be able to run your own business venture, so choose your specialization wisely. Additionally, there is no right or wrong time to pursue an MBA. It is definitely a good way to revive your career and learn a new aspect of your discipline.

Can I pursue an MBA without having a background in business?

Yes, absolutely. The best part about MBA is that there are no prerequisites to pursuing it. Any person from any academic background can decide to do an MBA. The knowledge and skills you learn are standardised for multiple disciplines and industries. The business knowledge taught can be applied across industries. While having some study experience in business helps you get a head start for an MBA, it is not necessary for you to be able to understand what is taught in an MBA. A good foundation for an MBA is a curiosity for learning new concepts and the willingness to put in dedicated study hours and hard work.

How does a specialization help my professional prospects?

Having a specialization lets your employers know exactly what you are interested in and are good at. This reduces your effort in terms of the time spent looking for the right job opportunities. With a specialization, you can also concentrate on a particular field within the broader domain of an MBA, so your time, understanding, and general working bandwidth are put to use more efficiently.

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