Thinking about going back to school? If you’re in the business field, you may be wondering, “what is an MBA degree?” or “what type fo degree is an MBA?” A master of business administration degree, or MBA degree, is regarded by many in the industry as the gold standard for industry professionals. 

What is an MBA?

If you’re wondering, “what is an MBA all about?” you’re not alone. This degree is often seen as the final stepping stone between middle management and upper level management at large corporations. When you earn your MBA, you don’t just earn a master’s degree – you also show your boss that you know how to take your future into your own hands. Many busy professionals go back to school for their MBA while also working full time, making it clear that they know how to manage their responsibilities and use time management wisely. 

While earning an MBA isn’t a requirement for moving to upper level management, it certainly helps. Earning your MBA shows that you’re taking the initiative to learn the latest techniques in business and leadership. As you think about earning your MBA, you’ll also want to think about which MBA specialty makes the most sense for your career goals. While an MBA is a prestigious degree, having a specialty that’s specific to your industry can help set you apart from other people who have an MBA degree. 

While an MBA can help you stand out in your industry, remember that your degree does not take the place of other attributes it takes to make it to the top. You’ll still need to work hard, network, show initiative, and become an expert on the ins and outs of your industry. When you combine these hard working attributes with the power of an MBA, you can become unstoppable in the business world. 

Many schools have competitive MBA programs, and it makes sense to take some time off between completing your bachelor’s degree and applying to business school. Work experience can help set you apart from others who are applying to business school, as can volunteer experience. If you don’t get into your top business school, don’t worry – it happens to many future business leaders. Think about whether you’d be happy with one of your second choice schools. If your top choice is the only way to go, talk with an admissions officer and ask what you can do to boost your chances for the following year, then get to work. 

If you’re still wondering, “what is an MBA all about?” read on. Let’s take a look at some of the specialties that exist within the MBA degree, and how the can boost your chances of climbing the corporate ladder.

Why are there So Many MBA Specializations?

No matter how great your GPA, or how much service experience you make a part of your MBA degree, it can be hard to stand out among the sea of MBA graduates. Learning about types of MBA degrees can help you decide which MBA option makes the most sense for you and your career goals. The type of MBA degrees that you choose for your specialty can be the difference between getting a phone call about a job interview and being set to the side with all the other run of the mill MBA graduates. 

As you begin to apply for your MBA degree, you’ll likely find yourself wondering, “what are the different types of MBA programs?” Let’s take a look at the different types of MBA degrees to help you get an idea of the specialty option that makes the most sense for your future.

Types of MBA degree programs include:

  • General management – This is consistently one of the most popular specialties for MBA programs. Students who specialize in general management learn leadership skills that the can apply to any management situation, from user experience to human resources. Business professionals who have an MBA in general management are seen as a jack of all trades who knows how to tackle any situation the business world throws their way. 
  • International management – MBA students who specialize in international management learn the skills they need to excel as leaders in corporations that function in other countries, or function on a global scale. This specialty focuses on finance, operations, strategy, and other critical business skills and how these skills need to be applied for success on an international scale.
  • Consulting – One of the most lucrative industries in the business world today, students who specialize in consulting will find that they are highly sought after by large firms post-graduation. Students with an MBA specialty in consulting will be able to work with high level management to help them make choices that move their business forward. This specialty is great for professionals who thrive on new challenges, as consultants regularly bounce from company to company, helping upper management improve their business.
  • Strategy – An MBA with a specialty in strategy teaches students how to go through a detailed decision making process to land on decisions that move companies forward. Not only do students learn how to make these decisions on their own – they also learn how to help employees and mid-level managers make tough business decisions. Students in this specialty focus on risk management, consulting, planning, business development, and more.
  • Finance leadership – Students who earn their MBA with a specialty in finance leadership focus on accounting, statistics, analytics, and more. This specialty is common among chief financial officers, financial controllers, heads of accounting, and other high level finance positions. For students who excelled in math and statistics while they earned their undergraduate degree, an MBA specialty in finance leadership can be a natural next step on their career path to upper-level management.
  • Entrepreneurship – Not all students who want to earn their MBA are doing so to benefit a company that already exists. Many students who attend business school do so with the goal of starting their own business from the ground up. Students who specialize in entrepreneurship learn how to get a business up and running, secure funding, work with board members, market their business, and more. 
  • Marketing – Professionals who earn their MBA in marketing are assets to both business to consumer and business to business companies. Students in this specialty learn the ins and outs of marketing and advertising products, developing marketing campaigns, and analyzing those campaigns to find weak spots that can be improved upon. This degree also specializes in communication with customers, a key part of successful marketing in today’s increasingly connected digital world.
  • Operations management – Students who love efficiency and are constantly looking for a way to make things run more smoothly may want to consider an MBA with a specialty in operations management. This specialty focuses on managing production, organizing, and planning in a way that allows all system within an organization to flow smoothly. People who excel in operations are smooth under pressure, and innovative thinkers who are able to develop new and creative solutions to problems. 
  • IT Management – Earning an MBA with a specialty in IT management puts students at the forefront of design, user experience, and the flow of information technology through an organization. This specialty is a great fit for students who already have a background in computer science and/ or information technology. While this specialization is an asset to companies that focus on technology, in today’s increasingly digital world, all companies can benefit from having a technology expert at the top level of management. 

Not sure which specialty makes the most sense for your career goals? There are a few things that you can do to narrow down your choices. First, look at the specialties offered by your school. Not all specialties are offered at every school. Next, talk to your employer about which specialty makes the most sense for you moving forward in your career. Your supervisor will be able to give you guidance not only on which specialty will be most valued in the future in your company, but also on your own skills and weaknesses. This can provide you with some outside insight on which specialty may make the most sense for you.

Is an MBA Worth It?

If you’re thinking about going to graduate school, one of the most difficult things to cope with is the cost. While the time and workload can be stressful, you know that you’re able to handle those issues – if only you can find a way to pay for the degree. If you’re thinking about going to business school, you may be wondering, “Is an MBA worth it?” Let’s take a look at what people who have been there have to say about what can an MBA do for you. 

Most graduates agree that an MBA can be well worth it if you plan to go on to work in the business field. If you’re sure of your career goals, and you know that you want to work in business long-term, your MBA will likely pay for itself over time. If you’re thinking about starting your own business, an MBA can be especially helpful in allowing you to get your business off the ground. Many corporations require an MBA for leadership level positions. If you’re working your way up the corporate ladder at your job, earning your MBA may be exactly the step to take to show your supervisor that you’re serious about your future with the company. 

On the flip side, if you’re not sure what you’d like to do with your career, it’s a good idea to hold off on going to business school. An MBA can be expensive, and you don’t want to go through years of business school only to discover that you’d rather do something else. While an MBA provides many valuable skills that can be used in any industry, the degree is not as highly sought after by other industries. 

When you’re wondering, “what can I do with an MBA?” or “what is an MBA good for?” the answers are myriad. Most people who are interested in getting their MBA are working toward leadership positions in business, while others are working to start their own business. It’s important to have a career plan solidified before you decide to go for your MBA. If you know that you’d like to work in business long-term, but you aren’t sure about what path to take, talking with a career counselor can be a good next step to help you figure out where you’d like to go. 

If you’re thinking that an MBA is the right fit for your long-term career goals, talk with your employer about whether they offer tuition assistance or reimbursement. Many employers are happy to help employees reach their educational goals. Have a conversation with your supervisor about the type of assistance they offer, and whether you have to make a long-term commitment to the company in order to receive that assistance. Some companies require that you keep a certain grade point average, while others require that you agree to work for the company for a certain number of years after you receive tuition assistance. In addition to employer provided assistance, there are many scholarships, grants, and loans for graduate students. Talk with your school’s financial aid office about how they can help you afford your education.

How Do I Know an MBA Program is Good?

As you delve into the world of MBA programs, you’ll come across many different thoughts on business school accreditation. Business school accreditation means that the school has been found to be rigorous and in line with acceptable educational standards. Many large companies will only accept MBA degrees from schools that have gone through the business school accreditation process.

You’ll find that you encounter two main types of business school accreditation: AACSB and ACBSP. Let’s take a look at the difference between the two accreditations to help you decide which one makes the most sense for your educational and career goals. 

AACSB Accreditation Standards

As you’re trying to find the best business school for your MBA, you may find yourself wondering, “What does AACSB accreditation mean?” The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) was founded in 1916, and provides business schools with accreditation, signifying the rigor of their programs and the quality of the research the school produces. Since this standard has been around for more than 100 years, it’s incredibly well known in the business world. 

With locations in Tampa, Singapore, and Amsterdam, AACSB is the worldwide leader in business school accreditation. If you’re thinking about attending business school, it’s incredibly important that the school has been through the AACSB accreditation process. The AACSB provides standards for both business and accounting programs, and prides itself on accelerating innovation, amplifying engagement, and fostering the possibility of worldwide impact. 

While the AACSB has always held rigorous standards for accreditation, the Association is constantly revisiting it’s standards, improving them to keep business schools at the forefront of innovation. Schools that have been accredited by the AACSB allow employers of graduates from these programs to rest assured that their employees have received a premium MBA education.

ACBSP Accreditation Standards

Developed in the 1970s, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) is another organization known for providing rigorous standards for accreditation of business schools. This newer standard of education focuses less on the research side of business school and more on the quality of the educational program provided to the students. 

The ACBSP typically works with small and medium sized schools, and focuses more on excellence in teaching from business education instructors than on the quality of research that the instructors produce. If you’re wondering, “Is ACBSP respected?” the answer is yes – but it’s even more respected when it’s found in combination with AACSB accreditation.

Which accreditation is better?

After gaining an understanding of both types of accreditation, you may be wondering, “Is AACSB accreditation important?” or “Is ACBSP accreditation good or bad?” According to business school experts, both accreditations are a sign of a great program. Students who are working to choose a business school should first ensure that the school is accredited by the AACSB, and if the school is accredited by the ACBSP, know that it’s an even more rigorous program that a program that has just an AACSB accreditation. Both accreditations are respected, but the AACSB is still the gold standard among business professionals. 

Now that you have an idea of what accreditations you need to look for in your MBA program, let’s take a look at how to go about choosing your specialty for your MBA.

How Do I Choose an MBA Specialization? 

Now that you have some more information about earning your MBA and whether the degree is a good fit for you, it’s time to think about the best MBA specializations for your needs. When you’re working to answer the question, “What MBA specialization is best?” the answer depends on your individual interests and needs. 

For many people who are diving into the business world, the answer to “what MBA specialization is the best?” is the general management specialization. This is an especially great choice for anyone who is not completely sure of their long-term career goals, but is sure that they want to go on to excel in the business field. A general management specialization allows you to keep your options open, while also allowing you to become a leader in your field. As you progress through your general management specialization, you may find that you’d like to narrow in on a portion of the program that captures your interest. You’ll be able to choose project and research topics that allow you to focus on these areas, making your general management specialization more specific to your needs. 

If general management isn’t a good fit for you and you’re still wondering which MBA specialization is best, you may move on to focus on marketing. For many people who thrive in the space of social media and digital advertising, the answer to the question of what MBA specialization is best is marketing. The world of advertising and marketing is ever changing, and corporations need people who are up to date on the latest changes in how to reach customers today. Many companies are thriving by creating social media campaigns that allow them to directly interact with consumers through live videos, comments, and messages. Companies need marketing experts who know how to use these tools to reach customers in a real, authentic way. For people who thrive on social media and love consumer interaction, the answer to “which is the best MBA specialization” may be an MBA with a specialization in marketing.

Still wondering, “What is the best MBA specialization?” An MBA with an IT specialization may be a great fit for you. As companies move more and more into the digital space, it’s essential to have leaders at the top of the management chain who understand the ins and outs of technology. While IT professionals are incredibly helpful in their own space, having IT experts who are also leaders in business can help a company excel. If you’re passionate about technology and you’re ready to become a leader within your company, you may want to think about earning your MBA with a specialization in IT.

If you’re still stuck on trying to figure out which MBA specialization is the best for you, do some research on yourself. Look at your undergraduate transcripts, and think back to which classes challenged you in a way that you enjoyed. Think about your current job and what you’d like to be better at. Think about the aspects of your job that you don’t enjoy. Take an inventory of your personality, and use that to help inform what you choose to do next. Your MBA specialization can help you to determine your career path all the way to retirement, and you want to make sure you’re choosing a specialty that makes sense for your interests and career goals.

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