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Ankita Sharma
September 16, 2016

How to decide between a specialized and a generic MBA?

Once you have graduated and are contemplating on further education, you are likely to confront a choice between a specialized and a traditional MBA. Here are some facts that will help you decide which MBA will be better for you.

Generalist vs Specialist

The conventional or “generic” MBA normally provides comprehensive knowledge of business disciplines. It will be good for someone who wants to develop general managerial skills and acquire broad-based industry knowledge. But the smarter generation is opting for a specialized MBA that gives an edge over others in a specific field or industry. It teaches you the general management skills while focusing on a specialized sector. These specialized skills will assist in dealing with issues at a deeper level. 

Industry needs

One of the foremost advantages of pursuing a specialized MBA is that it connects students with industry specific employers leading to job offers and training experience. It enhances a student’s employability, job prospects and expertise in the chosen field. On the other hand, a generic MBA degree may lead to a perception of being a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, specialist knowledge can certainly help a student stand out. To meet the increasing demand for an expert/specialist, courses are emerging in an increasingly diverse variety of sectors, including finance, real estate, manufacturing, luxury brands, retailing, medical and healthcare, aviation to name a few.

Theory vs practical

Many students think a master’s degree is good for specializations instead of an MBA. For instance, a Masters in Finance course will focus on the topic more than 90% of the time. But what makes the difference here is the learning approach. A master’s degree is more theoretical (lecture based) than practical. In contrast, an MBA involves plenty of case studies, class contribution, networking, communication skills and teamwork. A specialized MBA is the best of both worlds – it gives in-depth subject knowledge with practical approach resulting in graduates that are job ready. 

Limited career options – a myth

One of the dilemmas, students face is that a specialization might limit their career options. This largely depends upon the chosen industry. For instance, an MBA in real estate and infrastructure equips you to pursue a career in housing finance and mortgages, valuations, business development, sales and leasing, research and advisory, corporate finance, strategic consultancy, asset management, transactions, property/facility management, capital markets, et al.

Another point to consider is the number of generic MBA graduates that are jobless or underpaid. This is because the industry prefers specialized MBAs over generic ones. PricewaterhouseCoopers, for example, says that “it favours MBAs who have specialized in finance for advisory roles in the firm.”

Early bird advantage

 Regardless of the chosen path, it is imperative that you choose early in order to have the best chance of securing a lucrative job and a successful career. 

An MBA degree qualification is known and respected around the world, so you have the opportunity to branch out and to work abroad. A specialist MBA will be more likely to receive a position well up the corporate ladder almost immediately after graduation. Some of the youngest CEOs of major corporations graduated with an MBA degree and quickly rose through the ranks.

Right Institute

Everything boils down to the institute you select to pursue an MBA. An institute that offers a track record of placements and credibility in delivering specialist programs is often the right choice. For more, you can see the brand value of the institute amongst the employers. Linkages with the industry and industry experts visiting as guest lectures are often the right indicator. If it’s favored by the industry, it is likely to be a safe choice.


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