Find Out if an MBA Concentration is Right for You

Is there any benefit to choosing a concentration in business school? Is it just the same as choosing an undergraduate major? Today, our friends at Stacy Blackman answer these and other questions you’ve probably asked about MBA concentrations!


The MBA degree is general by nature, as its purpose is to train students for careers managing any area of business. Students typically spend the first year of business school studying a core set of courses that provide a strong foundation in accounting, finance, statistics, marketing, management, leadership, and more, so that all graduates walk away with the same solid, comprehensive knowledge.

Offering concentrations where students can hone their skills according to their career interests is a relatively new and popular concept at many business schools. University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, a top-ranked MBA program in general management, introduced optional concentrations to the curriculum for the first time in 2010. Adding a concentration to your MBA is a good move for people who know exactly what they want to do career-wise and want to build a stronger skill base in that area.

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You don’t have to specialize your MBA degree, but it is highly recommended for landing a job or internship in your chosen industry as recruiters want to see demonstrated focus in a particular field or functional area.  In today’s competitive job market, listing a concentration on your resume helps you stand out from the crowd and shows a keen interest in that specialization, which you’ll ideally also bolster through your internship or other extracurricular activities.

The only case where a concentration may not be necessary is if you already have extensive work experience or another degree in that function area prior to pursuing your management degree and you plan to continue in it after graduating.

While it sounds like selecting a concentration is like having a major, it differs in that students typically choose more than one area in which to focus. In fact, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business notes that most of its students pursue three or four concentrations as part of the Tepper MBA program.

To determine which areas you’ll want to concentrate on, first do a bit of self-reflection to help you understand not only your interests, but your skills as well. Think about what aspects you enjoyed, or disliked, most in your previous jobs or internships; what kind of work environment you’ll thrive in; how your career will fit in with other aspects of your personal life; and, be honest about how important salary is in your decision-making process.

Once you’ve settled on a few areas of interest, it’s time to align your school selections with those post-MBA goals. There are so many unique concentrations these days that go beyond the traditional accounting, finance, management and marketing tracks.

If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, look at programs offered at Stanford, Wharton, Babson or MIT Sloan School of Management’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Track, which is unique because its classes comingle scientists and engineers to maximize the intellectual experience. If finance is your thing, you probably already know that Chicago Booth, NYU Stern, and Wharton are powerhouses in this area. Students planning to pursue a career in information technology should take a look at the concentrations available at Tepper, MIT Sloan and Cornell’s Johnson School. Professionals interested in the energy sector can check out the energy and environment concentration at Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, and the energy finance concentration at UT McCombs School of Business. In short, there’s a specialization for everyone.

Even if you’re not one hundred percent certain of your post-MBA career plans, you’re bound to find multiple areas of interest that will round out your general management education. However, if you travel down one path during your first year but your summer internship experience convinces you that you need to change course and focus on another function or industry all together, don’t fret. You still have a whole second year to redirect your energies and find the right concentration for you.

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This article originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on


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