A Quick Guide To MBA Concentrations


Jan 16, 2021

Carving out a niche for yourself is easier said than done in the hyper-competitive world of business. Finding a role in an organization can be a real challenge – you need to be able to prove that you have the experience and expertise necessary to offer guidance, advice, and proactive change in your area.

An MBA or Executive MBA is a very popular route by which business professionals develop specialist skills. The first MBA was offered by Harvard University Business School back in 1908. Since then, the business education sector has diversified. It is now common to seek out a specialization to consider before enrolling. In the business education world, specializations are often referred to as concentrations.

Choosing an MBA course that includes a specific concentration is highly advised. A concentration allows you to carve out a niche, making you a desirable hire in many corporations. A huge part of any MBA course is the networking opportunities that it brings. In pursuing a concentration, a student essentially ensures that they can network and collaborate with peers that share their areas of interest. This makes the whole experience much more fruitful.

Knowing which concentration you want to study can also help you when shopping around for institutions to apply to. Do some research on what concentrations the relevant faculty members specialize in, and what concentration modules the school offers. By disregarding offers from business schools that do not specialize in your preferred concentration, you can whittle down your list of potential institutions.

Choosing the right concentration for you can be a bit of a complex task. Schools often have different definitions of similar concentrations, or simply expect you to know what they are before you apply. We have compiled a very brief list of some of the most popular MBA and Executive MBA concentrations to help you out. Each of these concentrations is a broad field in itself, so be sure to research thoroughly before you make a decision.

Most business schools that offer MBA courses provide short guides to the concentrations they offer. Click here for an example. Be sure to contact course administrators with questions that you have about any of the modules they offer.


Finance could be considered a glamorous concentration within MBA study, however, there is more to it than meets the eye. Specializing in finance will allow you to make ethical and profitable decisions in the dog-eat-dog financial world.

Number crunching is the main focus when studying for an MBA with a finance concentration. You will need to learn how to efficiently analyze numerical data to make informed executive decisions. Financial analysts and investment bankers are extremely well paid, but you will need to be able to use your skills wisely. Risk analysis roles have a poor reputation following the 2008 banking crisis. You will need to learn how to make decisions on risk without damaging your company’s reputation or endangering people’s jobs. It can be a tough position to be in.


More number crunching – accounting is a huge part of any successful business model. Financial transparency, HR, and investments all stem from good accounting practices.

It is, however, a very complicated field, and therefore several business schools offer accounting concentrations for those wanting to enter this important profession. Accounting may not be seen as an upper-echelon job in the public eye, but it certainly is. Accountants are well paid and always in demand.

You’ll need to master budgeting practices, financial reportage, and operational cost management to succeed when studying for an accounting MBA concentration.

Business Intelligence

No, studying business intelligence does not lead to a glamourous life of corporate espionage – sharp suits, cocktails, and fast cars aren’t usually part of the package. What it does prepare you for is a very lucrative career in business analysis and consultation. Business data analysis is a fast-growing and completely essential niche.

Taking an MBA with this concentration means that you will be focused on cutting edge data analysis and visualization concepts. You’ll be learning how the collection and utilization of data is one of the key influencing factors on the success of an organization. Of course, you can wear a tuxedo to work if you really want to. Just don’t bring your silenced pistol.

Operations Management

Operations management is a name given to the broad field of managing the design, development, and delivery of products and services. Operations managers need to have a huge variety of skills.

During an operations management MBA concentration, you’ll learn problem-solving skills, how to use micro and macro-financial analysis techniques, and how to draw up plans for operational processes.

Operation managers are the nervous center of any corporate organization. You’ll need to be comfortable making decisions under pressure. This is a great concentration for people wanting to go into the commercial product market, or for those who want to develop a slightly broader range of skills than those offered by other concentrations.

Business Strategy

According to Investopedia, MBA graduates who had a concentration in business strategy are the highest-earning MBA students overall. By mid-career, business strategists were earning an average of $150,000 per year. Part of the reason that business strategists earn so much money is that they have the power to completely change the fortunes of an organization. Business strategists have to learn how to take a step back and see the bigger picture surrounding an organization. They need to be able to think outside the box while making shrewd analytic decisions.

International Business

Business has always been an international affair. In the global environment, business specialists who can successfully operate across national and cultural boundaries are in high demand.

International Business MBA concentrations encourage students to take a global view of business practice. This prepares cohorts of students for work in collaborative multinational companies. The cohort for this concentration is often multinational itself, and the curriculum often involves international travel.

International trips are planned to provide MBA students with the experience of how business is conducted in different cultures. You’ll be provided with lots of opportunities for international networking and collaboration.

Human Resources

Companies, some say, are like people. Not in the conventional sense of course, but companies are essentially made up of networks of people. They are societal constructs that are beholden to group psychology and changes in impetuous.

Specializing in human resources, you’ll be taking an in-depth academic look at how personnel hiring, firing, and interaction can affect the business. You will learn about the complex ethics of human resources, the psychology behind staff motivation, and develop effective collaborative techniques.

If you are a ‘people person’ then this could be the concentration for you. You’ll need to be willing to learn about human behavior in relation to the workplace: a truly fascinating subject.


A marketing concentration prepares students for a career on the public-facing side of business. Marketing graduates will have learned the essential analytical and creative skills necessary to hone their craft. An MBA concentration in marketing will let you in on the many subtleties and nuances of the public relations and advertising industries.

It isn’t quite like the chaos of Mad Men, but modern marketing executives are expected to be creative and willing to think outside the box. You’ll need to carefully analyze consumer trends while driving innovation from within your company. It can be a thrilling role to fulfill.

Marketing is a colossal part of any business. In 2016, $190 Billion was spent on advertising in the United States alone. Marketing is all around us. As a marketing graduate, you’ll be involved in a staggeringly broad industry. Competition in marketing is brutal and cutthroat – be prepared for a life of battle with great reward.

Healthcare Administration

The healthcare industry is extremely complex. Its business success is intertwined with its public utility.

As the current pandemic has shown us, the way in which medical supplies and healthcare solutions are administrated can have a huge effect on society. Studying for a healthcare MBA concentration, you’ll be working on specialist methods of healthcare data analysis, product manufacturing flows, marketing, and human resources.

Healthcare administration courses differ hugely depending on what country you are studying in. Hospital management, for instance, is commonly studied in the United States.

If money is the only thing you are chasing, don’t study for a healthcare administration concentration. You need to have people in mind when utilizing the skills that you have learned. Having said that, healthcare is a very lucrative field for some. Pharmaceutical production and distribution is a multi-billion dollar industry, and innovators in the field are often richly compensated.