We’re long past the days where a generic MBA opens the door to a career in management. There are so many people with MBAs that you need to specialize to stand out. Picking the right MBA concentration can also teach you valuable skills information that can further your career, whether you want to update your skills or pivot in a new direction. But with all the different options out there, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Here’s how to find the perfect MBA concentration for you in 5 steps.
Consider Your Career Trajectory
While it is true that the average MBA graduate doubles their salary by the middle of their career, that may not be true for you if you choose the wrong degree given your career aspirations. What are your career goals? Do you want an MBA so you can move into management or start your own business? Do you want to become a marketing analyst or financial analyst?
The first thing you have to do is take stock of your career goals. Know whether an MBA will help you further your career in the direction you want to go. You can learn this by asking people working in the job you’d like to hold about their education level, or you can research the job qualifications employers list on the job postings you’d like to eventually interview for.
Think about What Skills Employers Will Value in a Candidate
If your goal is to earn a higher paycheck and not have to think about finding a position, know which MBA concentrations pay the best and are in the highest demand. Some of the highest paying MBA concentrations include technology management, strategy, finance, and marketing. If you want to learn more about which concentrations will score big in business, click here.
For others, the MBA is a way to gain soft skills and hard skills that are otherwise hard to get. In this case, ask people in the industry or companies you’d like to work for what skills help someone get a job there. Compare this to the skills you already have, then start at which MBAs are teaching the skills that you may be missing. Any MBA program you take should fill in these gaps.
Note that you shouldn’t simply choose a degree based on what employers value, however. Make sure that you’re picking a degree program that helps you do work you enjoy. Use the MBA to move into a better paying job in a career or field you love.
You also have to go with an MBA that complements your natural skills and inclinations. If you’re more interested in people than numbers, then it would be wiser to go for a concentration like HR or marketing over business intelligence, even though the demand might be higher.
Do Your Homework
Earning an MBA requires a massive investment of time and money, though an online MBA program may make that more manageable. Do your homework before you sign up for a school. You have to make sure you aren’t signing up for a diploma mill, as these still exist. You also have to make sure that you choose a well-respected program.
Verify that the program has a reputation for teaching the cutting-edge skills you’re seeking. Review the courses that they teach and read the details about each course. For example, do they have the classes on customer relationship management software or online marketing that you want to take? Not every marketing MBA will teach this sort of thing.
On the other hand, you may learn that they require you to sit in a lot of classes that are of no interest or no benefit to you. These are things that will allow you to make a shortlist of concentrations you could consider and those that aren’t a proper fit.
Research the Long-Term Benefits
Don’t choose an MBA program because the school is famous, however. Learn whether or not the school has a history of helping students get good jobs after graduation. Get information on the salary boost that graduates of that given program see after they complete their degree. You also need to determine the quality of the alumni network. You need to remember that the MBA is not simply about learning skills.
Do graduates often hire their peers? Will faculty members be willing to advise you after you graduate? Will the school help you land internships? While it’s nice to have well-rounded expertise, you also want a school that will make it easy to transition into the workforce.
A school that will allow you to get a wide variety of internships should be on the top of the list. This can be a great way to test the waters in a new industry or career. For example, you could work for a few weeks in business intelligence, online marketing, or cybersecurity. Do this early in the MBA program, and you have time to change course if you find that the current one isn’t a good fit.
Know What to Expect
Know what to expect in the MBA program so that you can plan for it. For example, you’ll need to know if you need to take the GRE or GMAT to qualify for admission.
Research the degree plan. In the average MBA program, you spend a year in introductory classes. Then you spend a year on the specialized courses related to your MBA concentration. Some degree programs are faster than this, especially if they give you credit for your work experience or prior coursework.
Understand the demands on your time, so that you can ensure that you have enough time to do well in your classes. Have an idea of when you can use the information you learn in school at work. Know when you’ll graduate, so you know when you can apply for a promotion.
The right MBA concentration will yield a significant return on the investment. The only question is which one is right for you.