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How to Select Specialization in MBA Program

By : Ravi Agarwal on 28 March 2012 E-mail Comments     Print Print  Report Abuse

Most of the good B-schools start offering specialization from the 3rd trimester (i.e. the last trimester of the first year of MBA program). Typically specialization is offered in the following domains:


a. Finance (Fin)

b. Marketing (Mktg)

c. Human Resource Management (HRM)

d. Operations Management (GM)

e. General Management (OM)

f. Information Technology (IT)

g. International Business (IB)

h. Popular sectoral specialization (e.g. retailing, insurance, banking, event management, energy, etc.)


Some institutes offer dual specialization with equal weightage, some with major and minor weights and a few offer single specialization too.


Students may appreciate the fact that single specialization is also getting popular, specially among better B-schools. However, I personally prefer dual specialization where students are allowed to choose any two of the above mentioned 'a to h'.


Few B-schools give liberty to their students in the sense that students are allowed to choose a main specialization along with a buckeye of courses to be selected from 2 or 3 domains. This is an excellent practice and is limited to very good B-schools only.


It is observed that students find themselves lost while selecting appropriate specialization. Their selection of specialization is driven by some factors that include the following:


a. Job prospects,

b. Best friend's choice,

c. Quality of available faculty resources, and

d. Institute's own branding


The readers would agree that the above mentioned factors are quite valid, except point no. b. I strongly feel that the selection of specialization should not be driven by the friend's choice. While it must be a function of personal preference and choice, it happens to be driven by point no.b above.


I have witnessed a number of disasterous cases where a specialization is selected wrongly. It is hard to believe but it is completely true that students would ruin their own career due to a wrong choice. Contrary to the popular belief that luck is everything, somebody has said that one's life is not driven by chance but by choice.


An honest introspection will certainly help students decide on this issue. For instance, if a student likes to play with numbers, then finance and operations should be the natural choices. If a student is people's person, then marketing is the best choice. If a student finds himself / herself in solving others' problem too often, then HRM is a good option. It may be noted that IT as a domain specialization should be chosen with utmost care. Since IT will face a severe competition from hardcore techies (B.Tech, etc.), due care should be  exercised before going for this specialization. Incidentally, Finance doesn't suffer from this limitation as it will never have any competition from CA, CWA, etc. Because all these are professional qualifications in accounting, costing and auditing (with very little Finance in it).


Sectoral specialization may be driven by the branding of the institute. There is nothing wrong if a student makes a decision based on the job prospects, if the specialization is a sectoral one. In this case, past placement record of the institute will certainly help.  Besides, students should not lose sight of the current macroeconomic conditions prevailing in the economy.


One of the best ways to decide on the specialization is to have a thorough consultation with the faculty. Choose a faculty member the student is most comfortable with and talk to him/her with an open mind. Explore the potential in terms of learning and job. Take more than one consultation sessions, if necessary. Decide with a cool mind keeping in view all available options. Remember this is similar to marriage - once taken it would need full dedication and commitment; can't be revoked under normal circumstances; and must be made in line with career and life.

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Dr. Anand Wadadekar

Dr. Anand Wadadekar

Wrote on 29 March 2012


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