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Which MBA Specialization to Avoid?

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

Shatakshi Sharma, St Stephens College, University of Delhi Graduate, ISB MBA, strategist to government of India, former BCG management consultant, advisor to tony blair institute, ivy league exchange student, LinkedIn Top Voice and co-founder of Global Governance Initiative

Career insights by GGI is a new series by GGI sharing hacks and tips around management consulting, MBA, product management and public policy.

In this GGI career insight, we will be sharing insights into: MBA specialisations and their relevance in the 21st century.


Are you someone who is considering doing an MBA? Or are you worried about choosing the wrong specialisation for your MBA?

This is a very interesting topic since your specialisation can impact your career opportunities and salary.

In this career insight, we will discuss what specialisation might be the right fit for you depending upon your interests.

1. Best options in specialisations

Specialisations are offered in a number of fields such as HR, Marketing, Strategy, Finance, Operations and Technology. I was offered these specialisations during my time at ISB Hyderabad.

Similar specialisations are offered abroad as well.

1.1 Niche Roles

Working in niche roles includes fields like finance, marketing and HR.

If you are a people person and enjoy being a part of the machinery of organisations, then HR could be a good option for you.

Similarly, if you like sales, marketing and crunching numbers for product launches then you should specialise in Marketing.

People are often mistaken that marketing only involves creating a message or an advertisement. In reality, marketing jobs post MBA requires a lot of number crunching and understanding data. It is actually the ad agencies which largely work on the creative side.

MBA teaches you analytical decision making tools to help organisations reduce the chances of failure.

Now, if you want to work in investment banking or corporate finance then you should go for Finance as your specialisation.

1.2 Generalised Roles

If consulting or product management excites you, then you should finance.

This is a mistake I made as a graduate student by choosing strategy as my specialisation. It was an abstract course. It provided an intersection between hard and soft skills, rather than core hard skills.

Another good option could be operations. This is where another misconception arises, where people see operations as clerical work. In fact, when Rajat Gupta, former global CEO of McKinsey, taught at my education venture, he chose an Operations case. It had involved a lot of optimisation exercises.

These are largely my views.

Your decision must be based on what excites you.

Your career path should not primarily be focused on generating a large income. As you must know, consulting and banking generate high salaries. I have made a comparison between the 2 here.

2. Are these specialisations the suitable model?

Now if you go back to the history of MBA, you will realise that these specialisations are largely outdated.

Back then, MBA was focused on industrial goods firms and consumer goods firms. Though, people join these programs to build their profile and advance their careers. That is why I believe these specialisations are not in sync with the times.

Thus, at my own education venture, we have electives around management consulting, product management and impact investing.

These specialisations are based on job profiles rather than functionality.

If this makes you wonder whether MBA is the right fit for you, you can check out my opinions here.

If you need more help getting into management consulting and product management, feel free to check out my education venture- Global Governance Initiative. We invite industry leaders to host Masterclasses and teach our students the hard and soft skills required to excel in their careers.


Author: Shatakshi Sharma, Co-CEO Global Governance Initiative, Ex-BCG Management Consultant, Former Policy Advisor, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

If you are interested in learning about GGI's MBA Scholar program, you can learn here.

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Quite Insightful!

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