The Best MBA and Masters Programs by Specialization

The Best MBA and Masters Programs by Specialization

In some of my previous blogs, I have touched upon the importance of specializing.  With that, I am saying that in the current times, it is better to build depth in a certain function or industry.  Years back, the MBA program was introduced to provide breadth to corporate employees who had limited exposure to work outside of their own departments.  At most schools, the MBA started out as a ‘general management’ program that would give these candidates an appreciation for all business functions. Things are very different today – the speed at which work is executed has increased significantly, boundaries are no longer the same, and learning options are aplenty.  Today, high school students can create solid digital marketing campaigns.  By the time they are out of college, they have acquired exposure not only to best practices, but also to a number of industries.

So why go ahead and get an MBA?  Well, for starters, the MBA has also evolved.  At most of the top schools, it is a very flexible program in which you can build depth in case you are generalist, and acquire breadth in case you are a specialist.  Also, academic content is not the only reason you go to business school – you go to b-school for the ecosystem it provides, and access to outside of class opportunities that you otherwise will not find easy to get.  The right MBA will provide you with enough opportunity to explore an industry or function in detail.

But there are also some top programs that we don’t look at – programs that are more focused and that are a great alternative to the MBA. Most of us are somewhat familiar with category rankings. In this blog, I am sharing some specialised master’s programs that are very well known in the industry, and provide the same opportunities that an MBA does.

Finance – Besides the heavyweights Wharton, Chicago and NYU, consider the Master of Finance program at MIT Sloan, London Business School and Cambridge Judge. These programs are feeder programs to the best of best in the banking space.  If you want to work in Financial Engineering and risk, look at the Master of Financial Engineering program at UCLA Anderson and Berkeley Haas. If you want to complete your CFA while getting your master’s, consider the finance program at Rutgers University. The school’s proximity to New York makes it an attractive proposition for recruiters in the area.

Supply Chain Management and Operations – Both Georgia Tech and MIT have specialized master’s programs in supply chain management, and both are really well known in industry. The MIT program is a standalone program while GATech’s is housed within the department of Industrial Engineering. Also consider Michigan State University’s Master in Supply Chain Management. It is housed within the College of Business, and many consider it to be the No. 1 program in the US.

Consumer Products and FMCG – This is a no brainer. Go to Kellogg if you get in.  Consumer products account for about 14% of the total hiring at Northwestern – this figure is much higher than that of any other school in the top 25.

Luxury and Fashion – If your heart is set on working at LVMH, you will have to apply to HEC in Paris. If you want to work at Bulgari, go to Bocconi in Italy.  Many of the executives in the luxury, fashion and beauty space have advanced degrees from these schools. Both schools offer specialization in fashion and luxury, and both schools are very strongly connected to industry. ESSEC in France is also very well known in this space.

Sport Management – Ohio University has a world-renowned Master of Sports Administration program.  Equally well known is the Sport Management Program at Columbia University. If want to work at a sports league such the NBA or NFL, or if you want to work as a sports agent – look no further.

Music Business – Music business majors understand both music technology and business. Today graduates of the Berklee College of Music and the Steinhardt School at New York University are working in companies such as Apple, Sony Music and Google.  Both schools offer a master’s degree in music business. At Berklee, you can also do an MBA in Music completely online.

Entertainment – For film and television, the top schools are USC Marshall and UCLA Anderson. Every year graduates from these schools head to the studios, agencies and tech firms such as Netflix. This is a highly competitive field, and not for the faint of heart. But if you have the passion and are willing to persevere, you could be rewarded with an exciting career. NYU Stern also offers a major in Entertainment.

Hospitality – There are not many schools in the US for this specialization. But the one school that is there amongst the few is arguably the best in the world – the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. If you want to interview with hotel chains and Casinos, you’d have better odds if you went to Cornell. There are other very well known programs in the EU. Amongst them is the Master of Management in Food and Beverage at Bocconi, Italy.

Real Estate – Incidentally, Cornell’s Hotel School also houses the top ranked real estate master’s program in the nation. Take a look at it if you are interested in real estate finance and investment. Also look at MIT’s Master in Real Estate Development Program. Both these programs are in the top 2 in the US, and with such brands attached to your CV, be rest assured that you are on your way to a great career.

Airline Management – If the airline industry interests you, and you want to travel the globe, look at the following world famous programs – MBA in Aviation at Embry Riddle University, Florida – USA, and MSc in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University, UK. These schools are feeder schools to pretty much all the airlines in the world.

Human Resources – Cornell is a powerhouse in the field of Industrial and Labor Relations. The ILR School offers a world-renowned master’s program for those interested in Human Resources. The Ross School at University of Michigan is also known to be strong in HR.

Public Administration – Harvard Kennedy School’s MPA degree is one of the best there is in Public Management.  The program is much easier to get into than the university’s MBA program. Given Harvard’s strong brand, the MPA is probably a better bet than many other MBA programs.

So go ahead and specialize. I firmly believe that we are in an age in which specialization is key. Breadth can be built and generalist skills can be acquired at any stage, but after a certain point, it is difficult to specialize. And if you have lost that boat, you are likely to not develop skills that will allow you to stay on top of the game. The programs that I have mentioned are business specializations – you could, on the other hand, opt for specializations outside of business.  Advanced degrees in User Experience, Cognitive Psychology, Statistics, Computer Science, Ergonomics, Robotics, and Urban Design, to name a few, are examples of programs that are likely to give you the same opportunities.

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