Choosing an MBA program General or Specialised – how to CLARIFY your priorities
Course: General or Specialised?
This is a detailed look at one of the first elements of our unique CLARIFY headings, enabling you to focus exclusively on MBA programs that meet all your personal needs!
In outlining the types of MBA program available, we consider elsewhere the relative merits of full-time or part-time study. This article focuses specifically on the pros and cons of generalised or specialised provision, with links to features on specialist MBA in Engineering MBA, Finance MBA, Education MBA, Health MBA and Hospitality/Tourism MBA.
The MBA has long been considered a general management qualification, yet there has been huge growth in recent years in the number of business schools offering specialist MBA programs in areas ranging from education or engineering to finance, sport and tourism.
Why should this be? Do we conclude that a drift towards specialisation is simply part of a natural process of evolution or is it evidence of a regrettable dilution of traditional MBA standards?
Breadth before focus?
Purists argue that the whole point of the MBA is its breadth, which is inevitably compromised if there is too much emphasis on one particular sector. Specialist programs, they claim, are little more than marketing gimmicks created by second-tier business schools for second-rate students.
This argument falls flat, of course, when you become aware of the number of elite institutions offering specialist courses!
Another claim from the traditionalists is that a specialist MBA can actually limit your future career progression. The thinking here is that it is very risky to close off career options. Students are exposed to so many new ideas and concepts in the first two to three months of their MBA, the warning goes, that even those who think they have very clear career goals soon start to change their minds.
In the opposite camp, advocates of the specialist MBA argue that, if the die-hard generalists would only climb down from their ivory towers, they would recognise that the specialist MBA is a valid qualification that reflects the changing realities of the business world.
A specialist MBA program, they say, means that you can tailor your qualification to be of maximum practical use to you in the workplace, while simultaneously giving you a broad functional and strategic perspective on general management.
It may mean that you have to accept a narrower range of electives, and there may be some restrictions on the modes of study available, but the program will also contain the classic elements of an MBA. Otherwise, it can't be called an MBA!
In the United States, some schools have taken things ever further. The prestigious Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, for example, offers a dual degree program in which you can combine an MBA with a stand-alone degree in an area such as law, medicine, public health or international relations.
On the downside, this approach means that you would have to undertake anything from three to six years of full-time study.
Combining general and Specialist
A different approach, recognising the need to balance generalist and specialist demand among potential applicants, is to offer a broadly-based MBA but also allow you to follow a specialist pathway.
For example, the Newcastle Business School MBA, at Northumbria University in England, has a core program covering the essential principles of managerial practice, leadership development, strategic management, research skills and an examination of contemporary issues in business management. On top of this, themed options allow you to explore a specialist complementary business area, including marketing, finance, human resource management, tourism, hospitality and operations management.
Only you can decide how far you should go down the specialist track when selecting an MBA program. If you are not exactly sure of what you want, you might do better to ensure that you keep open as many options as possible
Don’t stop now…
We have considered here some of the key issues in determining whether a general or specialised program is the right one for you. Continue to CLARIFY your objectives by working through all the CLARIFY links to identify the best routes to achieving your MBA:
You can proceed in any order you like and take as long as you need to explore each area thoroughly.
- Why do an MBA, Diverse Opportunities, Demand for Training
- Why do an MBA? - Diverse Opportunities. Recent years have witnessed a rapid growth in the UK and international MBA market. The increasing demand for training in what is now routinely accepted as the graduate management degree is in part due to the MBA's growing reputation with senior executives in the business world.
- Distance Learning MBA, Full Time Programmes at all Levels
- Distance Learning MBA. There are various approaches to learning. Full time programmes at all levels require a career break of some sort. This may be acceptable especially for short courses or where you get leave of absence but you also have to consider access, location, timing, the quality of the group and of the deliverer. Local courses may be of restricted quality and you may not be able to afford overseas courses.
- Online MBA programs, The Continuing Development of Internet Technology
- Online MBA Programs. The online MBA is a relatively new development and as such there are very few business schools that are offering an MBA program entirely online. Many online programs still require students to attend mandatory residential courses as part of their syllabus. The length and frequency of these "contact" sessions vary depending on the school and program.
- MBA Rankings, Are a Great Way for Perspective Students to Select
- MBA Rankings. MBA rankings are a great way for perspective students to select between the best business programs offered at reputable universities. With future students in mind four main sources, The Financial Times, Business Week and The Economist publish a list of universities that offer the best program to earn a Master's in Business Administration. Taking the MBA rankings into account, perspective students will have a general idea of the status and value of their future degree in the business world. When selecting a school students should be aware of these rankings, even though they are debatable since they are seen by so many hiring companies.
- MBA Rankings, Business Week and U.S. News & World Report
- MBA Rankings. The ranking of business schools has been a controversial subject for a number of years. It is only recently, however, that they have become popular with the press, publicized and generally accepted. As a matter of fact, one of the principal reasons for the rankings has been the ability of the articles to boost the circulation of the magazines.
- Full-time MBA
- A global MBA with an Asia Pacific focus. Students can choose an Asia specific track such as China, Japan or Vietnam. Hawaiiâs only AACSB accredited MBA program. The cohort format fosters teamwork and peer learning
- Full-time MBA
- The Full-time MBA is an intensive one year programme, which offers a rigorous and challenging process of personal and management development.
- Part-time MBA
- The Part-time MBA is a 3 year part-time programme, designed for those working in a wide variety of managerial, technical and professional roles.