Choosing the Right MBA Concentration: How Specialty Coursework Can Shape Your Career

Published on: February 28, 2024

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is one of the most respected and sought-after graduate degrees and for good reason: This rigorous yet rewarding program has a strong track record. Ambitious professionals pursue an MBA to develop in-demand leadership skills, including a desirable blend of soft skills and technical acumen. An MBA program is also an excellent networking vehicle, exposing you to some of the best and brightest leaders of tomorrow.

These benefits make an MBA a compelling degree, but graduate decision-making doesn’t end with the choice to enroll in this high-level program. An MBA can take many forms, after all, with concentrations available in everything from finance to marketing and even niches such as disaster and emergency management.

No one path is ideal; much depends on personal career plans and prior professional experience. Because so many factors can contribute to this decision, aspiring MBAs often struggle to select a concentration. To help you decide, we’ve highlighted several of the best concentrations and associated MBA career paths. Keep reading to learn what these concentrations involve, who they appeal to and how they stack up from a salary perspective.

Exploring Popular MBA Concentrations

MBA candidates represent a surprisingly diverse student population, driven by distinct interests, career goals and educational priorities. These distinctions play heavily into which concentrations students seek, although a few specialties have enduring appeal. We’ve highlighted a few of the most popular MBA concentrations below, along with the top reasons why students find these programs so appealing:


Management is a natural fit for MBA candidates with lofty ambitions. This program emphasizes leadership skills and strategic business planning, and its broader scope is a great fit for those who want to keep their options open.  A management concentration could also be an excellent choice for those who recognize they need to improve their leadership skills before moving into middle management or executive positions.

In addition to promoting in-demand business leadership skills, the MBA in Management draws on quantitative methods to explore the implications of compliance concerns, technology and diversity. Students also enjoy exceptional networking opportunities, along with the chance to develop in-demand competencies such as delegation and strategic thinking.


Blending creativity, communication and leadership to great effect, the MBA in Marketing is ideal for future marketing managers and could help prepare students for executive roles like chief marketing officer. Centered around consumer behavior, brand management, web analytics and social media, this concentration equips students with relevant skills that can help them take their marketing careers to a whole new level.

A marketing specialization is worth considering because it provides excellent prospects for securing marketing work following graduation, as evidenced by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) 2023 Corporate Recruiters Survey, which provides extensive insight into “graduates of specialized master’s programs [who] are projected to land jobs in the corresponding job function in 2023.”

Results from GMAC’s survey suggest that MBA graduates who specialize in marketing are more likely to secure relevant job titles than those who earn an MBA but specialize in other areas. Many marketing-oriented MBAs are passion-driven and bolstered by confidence in this field’s strong job outlook and wage growth.

Human Resource Management

The field of human resources (HR) offers numerous opportunities for management-minded professionals to advance their careers while driving positive outcomes in recruitment, hiring and employee benefit programs. HR managers play a crucial role in planning and implementing these essential functions while helping organizations find (and retain) the best and brightest employees.

HR — and especially HR management — has undergone a rebranding of sorts in recent years, and these days, this field is highly compelling to aspiring business professionals who want what Fast Company refers to as “people-facing roles.” The Society for Human Resource Management’s Amber Clayton explains, “People who get into HR have that passion for being able to help people [grow professionally] and also wanting to help organizations be successful.”

While experience in HR can be a valuable precursor to a successful HR management career, specialized training at the MBA level equips future HR managers with critical thinking and problem-solving skills, plus an ability to develop and implement organizational development strategies.

Business Analytics

Data-driven strategies are increasingly prominent across all sectors, and as new technological opportunities emerge, there is a stronger need to integrate technical functions with organizational leadership. This is where business analytics comes into play. Drawing on past business performance to help predict future outcomes and drive advanced business strategies, business analytics represents one of the fastest-growing niches in the business world.

Spurred by increased demand among employers of all types, the business analytics MBA has attracted increased attention, and for good reason: Those “in the know” about the most compelling job opportunities recognize that advanced training in business analytics will make them desirable to employers far into the future.

Project Management

All signs point to the emergence of a project economy, in which organizations increasingly rely on projects to solve challenges and spur innovation, providing a more agile approach to dealing with rapid changes in technology and consumer demand. With this project economy comes the need for highly skilled project managers, who can benefit from training at the graduate level.

Specializations in project management have long been popular, especially as they help students prepare for credentialing opportunities from the Project Management Institute (PMI) and other industry authorities. This surprisingly versatile option can be leveraged to drive career progress in many sectors or niches, including everything from IT to healthcare and even energy management.

Highest Paying MBA Concentrations

No single degree or concentration can guarantee a strong income in the future, but certain career tracks and niches tend to lead to higher pay — and these opportunities are more attainable for job candidates who bring targeted academic experience to the table. For this reason, many aspiring MBAs select their concentrations with future earnings in mind.

It’s worth mentioning that, in general, an MBA produces a strong likelihood of securing higher earnings as evidenced by consistently positive findings from the previously mentioned GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey. In the 2023 survey, employers anticipated paying MBA-trained professionals an annual $125,000. What’s more, over half expect to provide signing bonuses.

Management Accounting

Not to be confused with the MBA in Management, the management accounting concentration provides a thorough overview of internal auditing, including extensive coverage of critical concepts such as risk assessments and governance. Data analytics are also covered in depth, along with tools such as activity-based costing. Required courses may be rigorous, but graduates emerge with a targeted skill set that is highly valued by many top employers.

Managerial accounting is a quickly growing field, and there is a strong demand for professionals trained at the graduate level. The MBA in Managerial Accounting provides excellent preparation for this field’s most elite roles, such as chief financial officer (CFO), which commands an impressive median salary of $436,636. On the path to attaining this elite position, many MBA graduates score lucrative positions such as controller.


Centered around the management of money through strategic investing, lending and forecasting, finance is a long-sought-after field for ambitious professionals who prioritize lucrative job prospects. The MBA in Finance prepares students to take on the most compelling finance roles through concentrated coursework that delves into complex topics like corporate liabilities and exchange rate fluctuations.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data indicates that financial managers earned a median of $139,790 per year as of 2022, and with a job outlook of 16 percent, this is an excellent option for MBA candidates who prioritize job security and room for advancement. Many finance professionals far exceed these earnings, however, and like the concentration in management accounting, a finance-focused graduate degree can be a powerful vehicle for moving into high-paying executive roles.

Information Systems

Information systems or information technology management provide an excellent opportunity to integrate advanced technological skills with managerial know-how. The right concentration can prepare MBA candidates to enter this fast-paced field and secure lucrative positions such as IT director, IT project manager or even chief information officer (CIO).

Data compiled by the BLS indicates that computer and information systems managers earned median annual wages of $164,070 in 2022, with the highest ten percent exceeding annual earnings of $239,200. These positions are demanding but often offer huge bonuses and even equity compensation in addition to impressive pay. Demand may be even stronger moving forward, as research indicates that a significant subset of IT managers are nearing retirement.

Emerging Trends in MBA Specializations

While some MBA concentrations have clear staying power, others emerge in response to developments in the business world. With new technologies and related job opportunities, new skills gaps must be addressed. Updated specializations provide excellent opportunities to develop targeted skill sets that will be relevant both in the current job market and in the business landscape of tomorrow.

Research presented by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) predicts a higher demand for “customizable, skills-based programs,” including “training in specialized skills.” The MBA candidates of tomorrow will gravitate toward business schools that provide the widest variety of concentrations — particularly those aligned with desired career outcomes.

The Impact of Concentration on Career Opportunities

Although personal interests can certainly play into specialization selection, many MBA candidates tailor their coursework to reflect their career goals. This approach provides the comprehensive skill development of the MBA with the more curated addition of concentration coursework. Specialty coursework should not stand in the way of career flexibility, as the MBA’s foundational classes still provide the comprehensive skill set needed to succeed across many fields.

By covering diverse topics such as global business management, strategic marketing and managerial finance, MBAs gain a vast array of in-demand skills that will prove beneficial in any career path they ultimately pursue. Among choosy employers, however, a career-focused degree can make a world of difference.

Balancing Passion and Practicality

Passion and practicality may seem as if they’re on opposite sides of the graduate school spectrum, but there is certainly room for both. For many, finding the right balance begins with determining personal priorities and researching career opportunities that align with those goals.

What if you have yet to discover your calling? No worries: Many of the specializations mentioned previously can be applied across numerous sectors and within organizations of all types. As you dive into relevant coursework, you may discover new interests or opportunities worth pursuing.

If you feel unsure about your career path, concentrations such as management or project management are worth considering. You will emerge equipped with both soft and technical skills that are valued in every facet of modern management. Otherwise, think about which professional experiences or courses have ignited your passion in the past. These could form the basis of a career you love.

Pursue Your Passion With Park’s MBA Program

On the hunt for a student-centered MBA program? Look to Park University for a curated and compelling MBA experience. Available fully online or in a blended learning format, our MBA opportunities encourage you to pursue your education and career as you see fit.

At Park University, we are here to support you through every step of your business school journey — especially as you select a concentration that aligns with your interests and plans for the future. Take a closer look at our available MBA concentrations or reach out to learn more.

Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Park University is a private, non-profit, institution of higher learning since 1875.