Which MBA Concentration Pays the Most?
An MBA concentration can boost your earning potential. Learn more about the specializations that offer the strongest return on investment.
Published August 16, 2022
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- An MBA concentration helps students focus their degree and prepare for specialized career paths.
- The highest-paying MBA concentrations include consulting, finance, and technology.
- Choosing a concentration can give MBA graduates high earning potential.
What Is a Master's in Business Administration Concentration?
When it comes to business careers, few degrees rival the MBA. Professionals with an MBA are in high demand — and they also often benefit from a boost in earning potential. However, some MBA concentrations pay more than others. What's an MBA concentration, and which one should you choose?
During a master's in business administration, graduate students often focus their studies with a concentration. Also known as a specialization or track, an MBA concentration includes coursework and an internship that prepares students for particular industries or career paths.
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The most popular MBA concentrations include:
- Human resources management
Learners can also concentrate in healthcare administration, international business, or technology management. Most business schools also offer a general MBA that provides a balanced curriculum. Before choosing a concentration, consider whether it will add time to your degree, increase the cost of your MBA, or affect your MBA degree salary potential.
MBA Salary Expectations
An MBA prepares graduates for leadership and management jobs, and choosing an in-demand concentration may translate to a higher salary.
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council's 2022 Corporate Recruiters Survey, recruiters plan to offer new MBA hires an average starting salary of $115,000. Those with MBA concentrations may be offered more.
However, prospective MBA students must weigh their earning potential against the cost of an MBA. Before applying to MBA programs, research the earning potential with different concentrations to determine your return on investment.
Highest-Paying MBA Concentrations
A strategy concentration trains students to gain a competitive advantage through strategic decision-making. The specialization emphasizes emerging and established companies, with a focus on leadership or consulting roles.
Students take classes in competitive strategy, negotiation, corporate development, and strategic implementation. The program typically incorporates a strategy-focused internship. Related MBA concentrations include project management.
- Management consultant
- Director of strategy
- Chief executive officer
In the growing tech sector, an MBA in technology management is one of the best MBA specializations for salary potential. During a technology management MBA, learners gain leadership skills with a focus on the tech industry.
- Technology manager
- Product manager
- Technology director
An MBA in finance prepares graduates for roles in the financial services industry. Students explore corporate finance, investment banking, venture capital, and real estate capital. In addition to courses in applied financial management, students examine international finance, entrepreneurial financial management, and financial modeling. Many programs incorporate electives to further specialize the degree.
- Finance director
- Financial manager
- Risk manager
With an MBA in marketing, graduates take marketing leadership positions. The concentration emphasizes marketing strategy, brand management, and data analytics. MBA students strengthen their marketing research skills while also studying product development and innovation.
Common courses include consumer behavior, visual marketing, and strategic brand management. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), marketing managers made a mean annual wage of over $150,000 in 2021.
- Marketing director
- Marketing manager
- Advertising manager
An MBA in healthcare management trains graduates for high-paying roles in the healthcare sector. Students explore management issues in healthcare organizations, healthcare economics, and healthcare financial management. Other topics include services delivery in healthcare, strategic management, and the development of medical devices.
Learners often gain hands-on experience in a healthcare management internship. The degree may lead to opportunities in medical and health services management.
- Healthcare executive
- Healthcare manager
- Healthcare consultant
An economics MBA emphasizes economic theory, the financial system, and fiscal policy. Students explore economic behavior throughout the business cycle and the role of foreign trade. The specialization also covers international finance.
During an economics concentration, MBA students take courses in macroeconomics and international financial policy. They also take microeconomic analysis and competitive financial strategy courses.
- Finance director
- Director of analytics
- Chief financial officer
Entrepreneurs establish new businesses, finance business ventures, and invest in innovation. During an MBA in entrepreneurship, learners gain advanced analytical tools and skills related to entrepreneurship.
The curriculum blends theory and practice to prepare graduates to launch new ventures or grow emerging companies. Common courses include venture capital, acquisitions, strategic partnerships, and corporate development. Students also study new product management and business model innovation.
- Product manager
- Director of operations
An MBA in human resources combines HR training with strategic leadership skills. During the concentration, learners take classes in organizational development, workforce planning, and employee development.
The curriculum covers the best practices in recruiting and retaining talent. Learners also examine common workplace challenges and learn how to enforce employment policies.
- Human resources manager
- Human resources director
- Compensation and benefits manager
How Should I Choose an MBA Specialization?
Choosing an MBA concentration will shape your time in business school and your career opportunities. So how should you choose your specialization?
First, start researching concentration options early. When researching MBA programs, look into their specializations and the requirements for different options. Does the program require a set curriculum or offer electives within the specialization? Do you need to declare a concentration on your MBA application?
Some applicants already know their concentration before applying. If you're less sure, take core classes during your first term to learn more about the specialization options. Research internship opportunities in different concentrations. It's also a good idea to compare your MBA salary potential with each concentration.
The average MBA salary varies by career path. Still, the best MBA specialization in terms of salary might not be the right option for you. Instead of purely deciding based on earning potential, consider your strengths, interests, and program options.
Frequently Asked Questions About High-Paying MBA Concentrations
What is the best MBA concentration?
The best MBA concentration depends on your interests and strengths. However, the best-paying concentrations include consulting, finance, and technology, according to the 2022 Corporate Recruiters Survey.
During a concentration, MBA students take specialized courses. Many business schools also incorporate an internship in the concentration area. For example, students with an MBA in finance might complete an internship at a financial institution. After completing an MBA, graduates pursue roles in their concentration areas. Students can also earn a general MBA for a well-rounded business education.
How can I pay for an MBA?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate tuition and fees cost an average of $19,749 per year in 2020-2021. But many top programs charge more than $100,000 for an MBA.
What's the best way to pay for an MBA? Business students use a mix of savings, scholarships, and loans to cover costs. Learners can qualify for MBA scholarships and financial aid offered by business schools. Many also take out loans to pay for their MBA.
Other options include employer tuition remission programs, which cover some tuition costs, or working while earning an MBA. Online and part-time programs often appeal to working professionals who want to maintain their income source while earning an MBA.
Does MBA concentration matter?
Most business schools offer many MBA concentrations. A concentration signals your strength areas and career interests. Recruiters can use a candidate's concentration when deciding whether someone fits a job opening.
However, a concentration does not limit your job opportunities to a specific field. In addition to taking classes within your concentration area, all business students complete core classes that emphasize strategic leadership and management. And professionals can change industries or specialties after completing an MBA. Still, prospective students should carefully consider their concentration options.
How much does an MBA increase your salary?
An MBA often translates into a higher earning potential. But how much will your salary increase with an MBA? According to the 2022 Corporate Recruiters Survey, recruiters plan to offer MBA graduates a starting salary of $115,000. The same survey reports that those with just a bachelor's degree earn a median starting salary of $75,000 in the U.S.
For many, earning an MBA offers a positive return on investment. Before applying to MBA programs, research program costs and the earning potential with different MBA concentrations.
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