Specialised or general MBA: Is one superior to the other?

The right MBA programme might help you stand out from the competitive workforce.

By U2B Staff 

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An MBA is still seen as an asset in today’s competitive world for employees who want to stand out from the pack. MBA programmes equip learners with leadership skills, increases their prospects of earning higher salaries and helps them climb the corporate ladder, to name a few. It’s popularity has led to a wide number of MBA-related programmes including specialisations in finance, entrepreneurship, Islamic finance, and sustainability, among others. 


The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) salary survey – which contains annual salary projections for the Class of 2020 college graduates in the US – forecast that the average salary for this year’s MBA graduates stands at about US$79,043.

This is more than US$20,000 higher than the projected salaries of business undergraduates at US$57,939. The figure is considerably higher for MBA graduates from elite institutions.

While the monetary benefits of pursuing an MBA are well documented, a common question on the minds of many MBA aspirants is, “Should I pursue a general or specialised MBA?” 

General MBA programme

A general MBA teaches learners the basics in business and management; it teaches you to be an effective leader in addition to exposing you to a variety of subjects, from HR and marketing to entrepreneurship.

A general MBA is usually built around a year of completing a set of core courses and then choosing electives in the second year.

You’ll acquire broad knowledge during the programme, making it ideal for those who want to climb into an upper management role that’s not necessarily tied to a specific industry.


Specialised MBA programme

Specialised MBAs allow learners to deep dive into specific areas of study, such as marketing, finance or human resources, and are ideal for those who want to gain more expertise and learn leadership skills in their industry of choice.

This way, you’re better prepared to enter a field with the necessary knowledge and skills at hand.

The Princeton Review notes that many specialised MBA programmes are only one year, and several allow students to study while they’re still working, giving you more flexibility.     


Is one superior to the other?

A specialised MBA can help you build a skillset in a particular area, which is useful if you wish to build your career in a particular field, but this also means that if you plan to change careers later down the line, your specialised MBA won’t be incredibly helpful as it’s focused on one industry.

A general MBA is a broader education and doesn’t necessarily prepare you for a specific industry, which means you’ll have to put in the effort to get into your preferred industry. For some, the degree might be “too general” and not necessarily set you apart from competition.

Ultimately, which MBA programme you choose rests on your personal and professional goals, so don’t feel pressured to choose a certain programme by following the crowd.