Which MBA Is Right For You? Exploring Top Programs and Concentrations
Published on: September 7, 2023
You have ambitious goals for your career and believe that a Master of Business Administration can help you achieve them. First, however, you need to select the right MBA program. This critical decision can shape not only your experience as an MBA candidate but also, which skills you develop along the way and how (or whether) you are able to apply them in the real world.
There are many types of MBA programs. This diversity is to be admired: no two MBA candidates have the exact same needs or goals, so programs should be varied enough to accommodate their specific circumstances.
Unfortunately, however, this can also make it difficult to determine which program is the right fit, particularly if you have yet to clarify your own goals — or to determine which skills you need to develop to reach these objectives.
To clear up the confusion, we’ve compiled a guide detailing the many types of MBA degrees and programs. You’ll emerge with a better understanding of today’s top graduate opportunities, along with a better idea of which programs are best suited to your unique needs.
What to Consider Before Choosing an MBA
If you are currently toying with the idea of becoming an MBA candidate, it is crucial that you find your ‘why’ before you embark on this challenging journey. From the application process to coursework and graduation, everything you do in pursuit of your MBA will require effort. The payoff can be considerable, but only if your program and personal goals are closely aligned.
Your unique circumstances will also come into play. Certain program structures or setups will make it far easier for you to navigate your MBA program.
For example, you may need a fully-online program to accommodate your current geographic location — or you may find it easier to get invested in your studies if some in-person courses are available. Individual scheduling concerns will also come into play, especially if you intend to remain employed throughout the duration of your program.
Different Types of MBAs
MBA programs are more diverse than many aspiring graduate students realize. These programs come in a variety of formats, with many granting students the flexibility to complete coursework when and where they desire.
Beyond this, numerous specializations exist, including opportunities to explore key concepts as they apply to specific industries or business practices. We’ve highlighted a few of these variations below:
Do you want to reap the rewards of your graduate education as soon as possible? If so, a full-time MBA might be your best bet. This can also be preferable in that you gain deeper and more consistent exposure to key concepts. This level of immersion makes it easier to get invested in your program and may even prove helpful as you strive to build personal connections and expand your professional network.
Many students choose to enroll on a full-time basis while also working full-time jobs, although this approach can be rigorous and calls for a lot of strategic scheduling and skilled time management.
Many MBA programs take two years to complete. This is widely regarded as the conventional MBA trajectory, although a growing number of colleges now offer expedited options. Still, the two-year MBA can be a compelling choice if you need more time to develop critical skills or simply prefer to master these at a slightly slower pace.
These programs typically have higher credit requirements. Before you apply, be sure that you can commit two years to your graduate studies.
The fast track to getting your MBA involves setting just one very focused year aside for intensive coursework. This is an increasingly popular option for ambitious professionals who are determined to quickly gain critical skills and credentials as they climb the career ladder.
Often, one-year programs have reduced credit requirements as compared to their two-year counterparts. A 36-credit curriculum is the gold standard for this approach, often encompassing 24 credits for the core curriculum and another 12 that allow MBA candidates to specialize as they see fit.
Full-time status simply isn’t possible for all graduate students. Depending on your professional workload or your family life, you may find it necessary to complete your program at a slightly slower pace.
Thankfully, many MBA programs accommodate this, allowing you to space out your courseload as you dedicate two or even four years to your studies. This path is especially accessible with a 36-credit program, which, in many cases, can easily be completed within two years instead of one.
These days, it is not necessary to live or work near a college to secure your degree. Online MBA programs can be wonderfully accessible and are especially desirable for working students.
As a fully online MBA candidate, you’ll still enjoy the most compelling benefits of securing your MBA: gaining in-demand skills and a major boost to your resume. As we’ve discussed, however, some students prefer to attend at least some classes in person, so you’ll also want to keep an eye out for hybrid programs that provide the best of both worlds.
If you obtained your bachelor’s years ago and have been fully immersed in the professional world for quite some time, you may be a solid candidate for an executive MBA. This program is tailored to meet the unique needs of working, highly experienced students who can draw on their fascinating backgrounds to bring unique insights and perspectives to the table.
While any professional can benefit from a traditional MBA program, the executive designation is an excellent option when you want your program to meet you where you’re at, rather than requiring you to start from the ground up and rehash skills that you’ve likely already developed.
Completing an MBA can be a tall order if you already work in a demanding field and are unable to set aside an entire year or two to focus exclusively on graduate-level coursework. Add family obligations to the mix, and it’s easy to see why so many professionals hesitate to enter MBA programs — even when they clearly recognize the potential for these programs to move their careers forward.
The solution may be a flexible MBA, which is tailored based on the unique needs of today’s busy, working students. This may overlap with part-time or executive programs, but flexibility is clearly at the center of how this program is structured.
Flexible programs give MBA candidates ample control to direct their graduate school journey. This might mean determining not only when they take courses or how many at a time but also, where they occur and what format is used. To that end, flex programs nearly always offer hybrid formats that accommodate each candidate’s unique needs and preferences.
Candidates interested in entering management in an international or multicultural capacity may benefit most from a global MBA program. An international perspective is built into the very fabric of this program, with differing cultural concerns addressed along the way.
A global MBA can also be advantageous from a networking perspective, as it will introduce you to a broader range of contacts that might not be as easy to reach within other types of MBA programs.
Even if you don’t ultimately enter a program marketed as ‘global,’ it’s worthwhile to seek a college that emphasizes cultural competency while helping you build a global perspective.
Does MBA Specialization Matter?
Every MBA program incorporates foundational coursework that introduces you to core concepts while also allowing you to build essential leadership skills. If you have specific plans for your career, however, you may realize that a more targeted approach is required.
With the right specialization, you can take a deep dive into the topics that will be most relevant to you as you pursue ambitious career goals.
Specialization is also advantageous in that it can boost your resume — and it might even give you an edge while networking or during the interview process.
As you consider whether (or how) to specialize, remember: the MBA is far from rare these days, as evidenced by data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). These findings reveal that, while postsecondary institutions in the US awarded over one million graduate degrees during the 2020-2021 term, over one in five of those involved business degrees.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid earning an MBA, but it may underscore your need to make an extra effort to stand out.
Specialization provides an excellent opportunity to get an edge as unprecedented numbers of students seek the benefits of MBA programs. Many employers regard an MBA as the minimum barrier to entry for the most desirable positions, and while they appreciate it when applicants possess these in-demand degrees, they increasingly look beyond the degree alone to determine whether a candidate possesses any niche skills or knowledge.
If nothing else, specialization is worth pursuing because it helps you align your graduate education with your personal interests, skills and passion projects. This is especially important if you have already gained some experience in the field and want to build on that with an executive MBA — or if you want to switch to a new niche but need to address gaps in your skill set.
In-Demand MBA Concentrations
While any type of MBA specialization can be valuable if it is relevant to your passion and career goals, specific concentrations tend to attract more attention among today’s ambitious MBA candidates. These often provide access to the broadest range of job opportunities while still allowing students to develop a targeted skill set and narrow their focus. Favorites include:
- Finance. Intended to prepare students for positions at a variety of financial institutions, this program delves into mergers and acquisitions, risk management, taxation and financial reporting.
- Global Business. Largely echoing the Global MBA described previously, this concentration reveals how globalization has impacted the business world while preparing students for success in multinational conglomerates or foreign organizations.
- Marketing. Offering a deep dive into consumer behavior, branding and market research, this popular concentration is a great option for marketing professionals eager to take on leadership positions.
Different Types of MBA Concentrations
There really is something for everyone within Park’s diverse MBA program. We’re pleased to provide a wide range of concentrations that appeal to all types of MBA candidates.
We’ve highlighted a few of the most popular options above, but we also have several targeted concentrations that can help you focus on your passion areas and achieve your highly specific career goals.
- Disaster and Emergency Management. From homeland security to technological failures and, of course, natural disasters, this much-needed concentration will prepare you to seamlessly handle the catastrophic events that could otherwise throw business operations into complete chaos.
- Human Resource Management. An excellent option for current HR employees looking to take a step up, this program examines evaluation methods, conflict resolution and compensation concerns.
- Quality and Innovation Management. This concentration is all about process outcomes. You’ll learn how to diagnose complex process problems and stage impactful interventions.
Choosing a Specific MBA Path
With so many concentrations available, you might initially feel overwhelmed as you attempt to narrow your options. Begin by considering which direction you want your career to take — and determining which concentration is most relevant to your personal and professional objectives.
Beyond this, simply browsing course offerings should provide insight into which topics you find compelling. Narrow your list to a few top options, and if you still struggle to decide, don’t hesitate to discuss these programs with admissions or academic advisors.
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At Park University, we truly offer something for everyone. Our flexible, career-oriented MBA business program includes many opportunities for specialization. You can attend courses in person or pursue your degree online. Take a look at our MBA specializations list or get in touch to learn more.