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Online MBA Program Specializations and Concentrations

25 Jul
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Business is a vast discipline that covers many subjects, from accounting to communications, economics, ethics, project management, and beyond. Master of Business Administration (MBA) students often focus on a particular area by pursuing a concentration or specialization. MBA concentrations typically consist of electives that enable students to gain advanced expertise and develop new skills. Specializations may include areas such as finance, leadership, data science and business analytics, and marketing.

Pursuing a specialization or concentration while earning an online MBA has many advantages. They enhance one’s understanding of business subfields and may open new career opportunities. This article explores popular MBA concentrations and specializations and their benefits and curriculum requirements.

What are MBA concentrations and specializations?

MBA concentrations and specializations refer to clusters of elective courses related to a specific function or industry. These classes supplement the overall MBA curriculum and allow students to focus on areas related to their career goals. Graduates can highlight their concentrations to make their resumes more appealing to potential employers.1 For instance, a student who wants to work as a business analyst could develop relevant analytical and programming skills by specializing in data science and business analytics.

Research shows that 49% of millennial MBA candidates prefer a concentration-focused curriculum over an interdisciplinary program. Specializations give students more flexibility to tailor their studies and focus on topics that interest them personally and professionally.1

How do concentrations fit into MBA curriculum requirements?

MBA programs have general education curricula that all students must complete. The specific coursework varies between programs, but most cover the same foundational topics and skills. Examples of common core topics include:2

  • Accounting
  • Business ethics and accountability
  • Economic statistics
  • Finance
  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Organizational behavior

These broad-scope requirements enable students to develop fundamental competencies across business disciplines. They teach essential skills such as communication, critical thinking, leadership, and teamwork. Graduates who earn an MBA without a concentration can apply their knowledge in a wide range of entry-level or middle-management positions.3

Concentrations build on the MBA curriculum by emphasizing depth over breadth. Students enrich their knowledge of a specific area by taking related elective courses alongside the general curriculum.1 The specific number of required courses depends on the program, but many MBA specializations include at least 12 credit hours.

Online MBA Concentration Options

The concentrations offered in online MBA programs can help students stand out to employers. They include:


This concentration prepares students for careers improving the productivity and output of businesses. With enhanced understanding of consulting methods, business intelligence, and integrated marketing communication,4 MBA consultants work with clients to assess their operations and suggest more effective ways to manage organizations and teams.5

Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation

Many MBA students want to learn skills that will help them start their businesses. This concentration covers topics related to business development and critical management, examining the tools needed to develop ideas into businesses and to stimulate entrepreneurship activities in existing mature businesses. Additionally, students become adept at writing business proposals and securing venture capital from investors.5


This specialization prepares students for leadership and management positions in the finance industry. They learn to evaluate and manage financial securities such as stocks, bonds, options, and futures, becoming familiar with key financial markets. Courses instill proficiency in applying financial principles in corporate settings, such as choosing and managing investment projects; and in investment settings, such as by constructing investment portfolios. Finance students develop knowledge of the links between finance and other business functions such as marketing and operations.


Marketing students gain a comprehensive understanding of the development, management, and marketing of products, brands, and services in contexts including high tech, business-to-business, services, and more. High-quality curricula will focus on state-of-the-art quantitative and qualitative tools and techniques that are utilized by innovative companies across their marketing applications.

International Management

This concentration prepares students to work with people from diverse cultures and locations. Curricula may include the study of other nations' laws and customs, international markets, currency exchange, international logistical issues, and marketing to foreign demographics.6 Graduates may use their specialization to pursue careers in government, business, the military, and not-for-profit organizations, domestically and abroad.

Data Science and Business Analytics

These MBA students become proficient in cutting-edge analytical and data skills as presented in a context of essential business knowledge. They graduate knowing how to synthesize company data resources with broader knowledge of markets to address diverse business problems, offer market-based perspectives and solutions to help business intelligence drive corporate value, and work directly with engineering and technical teams to deliver data-driven solutions.

Leading Innovative Organizations

This concentration is suited to students who aim to ​​create, organize, and sustain organizational systems and processes–effectively and successfully–in rapidly changing environments. They gain a deep understanding of the innovation context, leadership in complex situations, team and project management, and agile decision-making.

Benefits of MBA Specializations and Concentrations

MBA concentrations and concentrations can help graduates kickstart or advance their business careers. The professional benefits include:

MBA Career Focus

The versatility of an online MBA enables graduates to pursue a wide range of leadership and management careers. With a general MBA, for example, you might work in entertainment, food and beverage, higher education, or retail, among other areas.7 With so many options, it can be challenging to choose a career path.

A concentration allows students to clarify and narrow their career focus. They can explore a specific subfield to learn about career opportunities and build a professional network.

MBA Skill Development

Specializations play an essential role in MBA skill-building programs. For example, a concentration in entrepreneurship and new venture creation teaches aspiring or current business owners strategies to build a startup and overcome challenges in high-technology sectors. Similarly, a data science and business analytics concentration enables students to sharpen their critical thinking and data visualization skills.

MBA Career Opportunities

An MBA concentration allows students to pursue more specialized management roles. For instance, students who specialize in finance leadership can become chief financial officers and financial controllers.5 Likewise, a concentration in data analytics could prepare students for careers as analytics managers and senior data analysts.8

MBA Concentration Job Outlook

Today's highest paying MBA concentrations can unlock many lucrative careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salaries for several business careers related to MBA concentrations include:9

  • Accountants and auditors: $77,250
  • Budget analysts: $79,940
  • Financial analysts: $95,570
  • Logisticians: $77,030
  • Management analysts: $93,000
  • Project management specialists: $94,500

These numbers notwithstanding, no MBA concentration guarantees a specific career or salary. Many factors–such as experience, geographic region, MBA program reputation, and an individual’s skills–influence earning potential.

Heighten your expertise. Empower your career.

If you're considering earning an MBA, give careful thought to MBA concentrations. These tracks allow students to immerse themselves in a business subfield and gain advanced interpersonal and technical skills.

Each of the concentrations in Santa Clara University’s Online MBA program–data science and business analytics, leading innovative organizations, marketing, finance, and entrepreneurship and new venture creation–is led by experienced faculty with extensive industry connections. This esteemed online program provides the flexibility and convenience of learning from anywhere, on your schedule, without any interruption to your professional or personal commitments.

To find out more about how the Santa Clara University online MBA can expand your network and enrich your career, make an appointment to talk with an admissions outreach advisor today.