Is It Better to Get a Specialized MBA or General MBA?

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By Steve Gaffney

Reviewed by Krystal Covington, MBA

Published on August 20, 2021

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When you enter an MBA program, you will likely have the option of choosing between a general master of business administration or an MBA with a concentration or specialization. If you select an MBA specialization, your focus will be on one particular business discipline, such as economics, finance, or entrepreneurship. In a general MBA program, you will study multiple subject areas under the umbrella of business management and administration.


"Specializations have become more popular as accredited business schools expand their MBA concentration offerings."

Each option offers advantages depending on your overall career goals. If your primary interest area lies in a specific business discipline or industry, it may be helpful to gain as much expertise as possible in that particular field or industry. Earning an MBA with a specific concentration or specialization can prepare you to be competitive for niche roles.

Alternatively, if you're looking for an MBA degree that will offer you the most comprehensive business education, then a general or generalist MBA program is the way to go. By pursuing a general MBA, you can develop skills and knowledge that apply to a variety of different industries and business-related fields.

Specializations have become more popular in recent years as accredited business schools continue to expand their MBA concentration offerings, especially by offering online MBA programs. Certain programs even require you to choose a specialization.

With an increasing number of degree options available to students, it's important to have a clear understanding of what your career goals are. Research your desired profession or industry and see what employers are looking for in management and executive positions.

Specialized MBA


"A specialized MBA allows you to align your coursework with your specific career goals and interests."

Most business schools offer a variety of MBA specialties or concentrations. Choosing a concentration is similar to declaring a major. These concentration areas vary by university, but often include options like accounting, finance, data analytics, healthcare management, information technology, project management, human resources, entrepreneurship, marketing, organizational leadership, and international business.

A specialized MBA allows you to align your coursework with your specific career goals and interests. If you have a clear career goal in mind, then choosing a school that offers a formal concentration in your chosen discipline is a good decision.

If you aspire to an executive role, such as chief financial officer, chief marketing officer, or chief information officer, then a specialized MBA can demonstrate your expertise in that field and help you rise through the ranks quicker than you might be able to with a general MBA.

Similarly, if you plan to start your own business, an MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship may be especially useful.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you enter a specialized program, you can still receive a well-rounded business education. Your first-year core MBA curriculum will likely cover topics like finance, business law, analytics, marketing, economics, project management, and leadership.

Additionally, some MBA programs allow you to choose more than one concentration area, which can make you even more marketable to prospective employers.

General MBA

In general MBA programs, students are exposed to a variety of business disciplines to gain a broader understanding of business management, administration, and leadership practices.

A general MBA degree is a good option if you don't already have a career in mind, if you plan to change career fields, or if you want to make yourself marketable to a variety of employers by building expertise across different fields. For example, an IT expert can make themselves more marketable for an executive position by getting a general MBA degree.


"The broad business skills developed in a general MBA program can help make you a stronger candidate for cross-functional positions like chief operating officer or chief executive officer."

However, with a general MBA, you will not gain as much in-depth knowledge in any particular subject area as you would in a specialized program. On the other hand, developing broad business skills can help make you a stronger candidate for positions like chief operating officer or chief executive officer. In these careers, knowledge of multiple areas of business operations is critical.

Keep in mind that if you do decide on a general MBA, you will still have the option to specialize in a particular subject area by earning. For example, many MBA graduates also go on to earn an online business certificate.

Frequently Asked Questions About MBA Vs. Specialized MBA

true Is an MBA with a specialization better?

It depends on your career goals and what type of leadership position you want to pursue. Thanks to globalization and technology, business careers are becoming more specialized. MBA degrees with specializations are in higher demand than ever before. If you have a clear career goal in mind in a particular industry, then a specialization may be your best option.

true What is the best MBA specialization?

Many types of MBA degrees are a worthwhile investment, but the best MBA specialization is the one that best aligns with your skills and long-term career goals. Business schools offer a variety of specializations.

true What's the highest-paying MBA specialization?

The highest-paying MBA specialization varies by industry and position. MBA jobs are in demand across industries. However, the highest-paying careers for MBA degree-holders tend to be in finance, consulting, information technology, healthcare, and accounting. An MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship can also help you launch a lucrative career if you have a strong business idea.

true Which type of MBA is most in demand?

Both general MBA degrees and MBA degrees with specializations are in high demand. MBA graduates can find especially high demand for positions in information technology, consulting, healthcare, finance, and accounting.

Reviewed by:

Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations. Her company, Go Lead Consulting, provides clients foundational tools to build new client and customer relationships.

Krystal founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills, and connect with other high-achieving women. Krystal received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.

Preferred Pronouns: She/Her

Compare MBA and EMBA degree types. Explore the strengths of each option and figure out which one fits your needs best. Elevate your career with a convenient and affordable online MBA. Browse our ranking of the top online MBA degrees of 2021. Test drive a traditional degree or build key skills with a mini MBA. Enhance your resume for a fraction of the cost of a full MBA program. Should you choose a full-time or part-time MBA program? Learn more about the pros and cons of each.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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