As I mentioned in a previous post, there is evidence that suggests specialists earn more than generalists. On another note there is also evidence that specialized masters have experienced an accretion in the number of applications per year. If you want to specialize then, should you do an MBA or a specialized master?
Specialized masters have thrived because of manifold reasons. The most prominent reason could be attributed to impediments in pursuing an MBA degree. The biggest encumbrance to MBA programs besides tuition fees is time. Firstly, most MBA programs require two year investment in a candidate’s complete time. This is important since you will have to wait more time to get a return on your investment. Secondly, the candidate must also accumulate some years of work experience. In any AMBA certified business school students require 3 years. It is not surprise that most schools in the US disregard this certification.
An MBA does provide certain advantages. Firstly, it is more pervasive so employers know the expected value of a candidate, and this increases a candidate’s chances to be employed after graduation. Secondly, in the long-run an MBA provides a very high increase in salary. Content-wise, an MBA provides general knowledge in most of all business related fields. Also an unspecialized MBA is a better ground for entrepreneurship than a specialized one.
In juxtaposition, the comparison becomes a little harder to evaluate since they offer rewards at different points in time and the knowledge and skills received are different. In an ambivalent scenario, if you have more than the required years of work experience the safest path might be to opt for an MBA. However, even if you have the required amount of work experience, you should not discard a specialized master if the following scenarios apply to you:
1) You already posses general knowledge in the core areas of a business: If you have an existing degree in economics or business administration. You will experience a great deal of redundancy in core courses. The core courses take place in the first year of an MBA. Usually MBA programs include the following core courses: Economics, Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Statistics, Strategy, Entrepreneurship, Operations Management and Organizational Behavior. In my opinion if an MBA candidate wishes to specialize then core courses are important to know at general level. How much of a general level is required? I would say sufficient enough know the major vernacular of each field. Candidates coming from a business administration degree will probably already possess a general knowledge in most if not all of these subjects. Candidates coming from an economics background will be very strong in half or most of these subjects. On the other hand, engineering and humanities major might require this general knowledge. For this subgroup, an MBA is strongly preferred based on this criterion. For a business administration degree the MBA is strongly discouraged. Anything else is debatable.
2) You need specialized knowledge within a particular specialization: Some specialized programs offer even deeper knowledge in a particular area or industry beyond an MBA.
There are jobs requiring deep maybe even esoteric knowledge in a particular area of expertise. That is why some programs allow you to delve deeper into your favorite area of expertise. If you are specializing in Marketing you could specialize in services and customer experience. If you are specializing in Strategy, you could specialize in mergers and acquisitions. Evidently, in order to be significant a sub-specialization would require directing all your electives at a particular field of study or industry. While I am not suggesting that MBAs are deprived of these options, they might be less prevalent.
3) You need to get your money back fast: If you compare top MBAs with top business specialized masters, you will find that the ROI (Return on Investment) of specialized masters is not only larger, but also faster. Why? Going back to my previous point, the answer is time. In a specialized master, you get your money back faster because you finish your studies faster. Thus, if you are in dire need of getting your money back for whatever reason a specialized master might be better for you.