A recent BusinessWeek article explored the growth of specialized MBA programs, especially at schools outside of the top ten MBA programs. These programs are one way for lesser-known schools to stand out from the pack, but are they always a good choice for business school students?
“Not necessarily,” writes Fancesca Levy for BusinessWeek. “While established programs have placement records on par with those of their general MBAs, many newer programs have not yet established the kind of recruiting relationships that guarantee students high-paying jobs at graduation. And graduates always run the risk of getting hamstrung by their specialties later in their careers, when an industry downturn forces them to look outside their specialties for opportunities.”
While specialized programs are often very valuable, their recent growth reminds us of the wave of e-commerce programs that appeared in business schools eight to ten years ago. Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, for example, made a big push with its e-commerce MBA, only to scale back its offering after the dot-com party was over. (A recent search for “e-commerce” on Owen’s site turns up just one Internet Marketing Strategy class.)
We’re not knocking Vanderbilt or any of these schools for rolling out these programs. The market for management education always changes, and it’s often these smaller schools that create real curriculum innovation. Just be careful that you don’t chase any fads or trends that may not suit your goals five years from now, once the next fad comes along (real estate fit that description a couple of years ago, and “green” MBA programs just might be next).
Also, consider what you really expect to get out of your business school education. For many, an MBA is a chance to learn how to think like a CEO, regardless of the industry or function. Other applicants, meanwhile, enroll in business school to learn specific skills that can help them flourish as soon as they graduate. If you’re in the former camp, you may want to skip these specialized programs in favor of a more general management-focused curriculum. If you’re in the latter camp, however, then a specialized program may be a good fit for you.