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Choosing the Right MBA Specialization – A Guide

In a 2-year full-time MBA program, the first two semesters help you build a strong foundation of the course. Before the 3rd semester, you’re asked to choose a specialization. This often becomes a critical decision for MBA aspirants. 

Different MBA Specializations

There are MBA specializations for every business function as well as industry. Some of the most popular MBA specializations are:

MBA in Marketing MBA in Human Resources
MBA in International Business MBA in Finance
MBA in Operations Management MBA in Entrepreneurship
MBA in Supply Chain Management MBA in Consulting

Most In-Demand Specializations

When it comes to choosing an MBA specialization, keeping up with the latest trends and market conditions is critical. Let’s look at some of the most in-demand MBA specializations in 2021:


  • MBA in General Management

It is one of the most in-demand MBA programs because it provides a thorough understanding of all aspects of business, including management, accounting, marketing, and finance. This program is for those who want to concentrate on higher-level management problems and business supervision. MBA grads can work in the following roles after completion of MBA in General Management:

  • Sales Manager
  • Marketing Manager
  • Management Analyst
  • Human Resource Manager, etc.

Top B-schools of MBA in General Management

Some of the top US MBA Schools for Management Program are-

Rank B-School Name
1 Harvard Business School
2 Stanford’s Graduate Business School
3 Kellogg School of Management
4 Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
5 Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Source: US NEWS

  1. MBA in International Business

It covers topics related to foreign trade, policies, international business management, export management, forex risk management, etc. It’s ideal for business students who want to work abroad or for multinational corporations handling their businesses at international locations. Graduates can work in the following roles after completion of MBA in International Business:

  • Management Analyst
  • Supply Chain Manager
  • Global Business Manager
  • Risk Management Director
  • Export Coordinator, etc.

Top B-schools for MBA in International Business

Let’s look at top US b-schools of 2021 for MBA with specialization in International Business. 

Rank B-school Name
1 Darla Moore School of Busines, University of South Carolina
2 Harvard Business School
3 College of Business Administration, Florida International University
4 McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
5 Stern School of Business, NYU

Source: US News


  • MBA in Consulting

Consulting firms are one of the most common and high-paying employers of MBA graduates. Thus gaining specialized knowledge in this field can help you land a profitable career. It covers marketing strategy, decision-making, negotiations, and business strategy, among other topics. It’s ideal for students who are adept at making decisions and wish to assist clients with their businesses. The top consulting firms such as McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, PwC, and Deloitte are some of the biggest employers of MBA grads with a specialization in consulting. Students can work in the following roles after completion of MBA in Consulting:

  • Management Consultant
  • Sales Manager
  • Business Development Manager
  • Project Manager, etc.

Top B-schools for a Career in Consulting

Let’s look at the top US b-schools for a career in this field, with most placements in a consulting company.

Rank B-school Name Percentage of Hires in Consulting Companies
1 Tuck School of Business 41.80%
2 Booth School 38.20%
3 Kellogg School of Management 37.60%
4 Stern, NYU 31.70%
5 Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University 29.50%

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek business school ranking


  • MBA in Finance

As it covers topics such as financial accounting, portfolio management, and budgeting, an MBA in Finance opens up numerous prospects in the fields of investment banking, stock management, and corporate accounting. It’s perfect for students who enjoy numbers and are interested in investing, stocks, portfolios, economic trends, and financial reporting. Students can work in the following roles after completion of MBA in Finance:

  • Accounts Executive
  • Financial Analyst
  • Risk Manager 
  • Investment Banking Associate, etc.

Top B-schools for MBA in Finance

Here are the top US B-schools 2021 ranking for MBA in finance 

Rank B-school Name
1 Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
2 Booth School of Business, Univesity of Chicago
3 Stern, NYU
4 Columbia Business School, Columbia University
5 Sloan School of Management, MIT

Source: US News


  • MBA in Marketing

It covers topics such as marketing strategies, advertising, branding, digital marketing, and marketing management, which provides a variety of opportunities because every business requires marketing. It’s great for people who want to work in sales and marketing and are good at communicating and making strategic decisions. Students can work in the following roles after completion of MBA in Marketing:

  • Key Account Management
  • Sales Executive
  • Marketing Manager
  • Business Development Executive, etc.

Top B-schools for MBA in Marketing

Let’s look at some of the top marketing US b-schools of 2021. 

Rank B-school Name
1 Kellogg School of Management
2 Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
3 Stanford’s Graduate Business School
4 Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
5 Fuqua School of Business at Duke University

Source: US News

Average Salary of MBA Graduates in Different Fields/Specializations

As per the National Association of Colleges report cited in US News, the MBA class of 2021 are expected to get an average starting salary of $87,966. This is about 11.3% higher than the previous batch’s starting salary. 

Let’s look at some of the highest paying MBA concentrations.

Field//Specializations Average Salary
Consulting $101,108
General Management $92,802
Operations $91,119
Marketing $89,505
Finance $88,493
Info Systems $83,200
Human Resources $81,381

Source: Poets&Quants and US News

How To Choose An MBA Specialization?

Although your professional interests and career goals should guide your decision, you should also consider other factors such as job opportunities, salary packages, top universities, and the quality of faculty and pedagogy available.

  • Strengths: Determine your strengths and examine the areas in which you excel. Select a specialization based on your personality characteristics as you will learn that for the next 2 years. Here are a few strategies for identifying strengths:
    • Personality tests and psychometry tests might assist you in determining your areas of interest.
    • To assess your strengths, speak with friends, family members, and teachers.
  • Your Career Goal: When you’re writing your goal statement for an MBA application, it can also give you a good idea of what you want to do post-MBA. Focus on your long-term goals and try to align them with the right specialization that can fast-track your growth.  

[READ: Top MBA Career Goal Essays]

  • Job Opportunities and Visiting Companies: Higher the number of companies visiting for a specific specialization, higher are the job opportunities.
    • Study the university’s placement records to look for recruiters.
    • Talk to the placement cell of the college.
    • Talk to the alumni of the college to understand the track record. 


  • Subjects: Examine the topics covered in each specialization in depth. This will assist you in selecting the appropriate specialization and honing specific talents.
    • Look for university curriculum
    • Research about subjects taught in the specific specialization.

The Debate: General MBA with Specialization VS Specialized MBA

There are two routes you can take when it comes to specialization. Either go for a general MBA and choose your specialization as electives in the field of your choice or opt for a specialized MBA program that provides you in-depth knowledge about a particular field. 

General MBA with Specialization


  • It equips you with a broad spectrum of skills that have wider applicability.
  • You can choose your specialization after exploring the core course for a year.
  • They are a better fit if you aspire to be in a leadership position in the future.


  • They are two-year programs, usually about a year longer than specialized MBA programs.

Specialized MBA


  • Many such programs are only 1-year long and can save some time
  • They provide in-depth knowledge of a particular field.
  • It can give you a good headstart if you already know where your career is headed.


  • Since you only have expertise in one area, your job prospects are constrained to only a few sectors.

So how do you decide?

Look at my video where I answer a similar question for an MBA aspirant.

It is important to select an MBA specialization as it affects the future career, salary packages and job opportunities. So, research about various B-Schools and MBA specializations offered by them and look for specializations that match your skills and interests.

For over 15+ years as an Entrepreneur, and India’s Top Educationist, Jatin has led a range of initiatives in the Education Industry. In this role, he has created many successful educational services and products geared towards generating success for professionals aspiring to join IVY League and global Top Tier Universities for MBA Programs, Masters Programs, and undergraduate courses. He is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education, and has been recognized as a thought leader in the Higher education sector. Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India, India Today, Business Today, Tribune, and many other national newspapers have recognized his work, and have given him numerous opportunities to be a regular columnist. He has also served as a panelist for NDTV, and other national news channels.

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