How to choose your online MBA specialization

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Online Master of Business Administration

Woman works on her laptop in a library.

You don’t need a Master of Business Administration degree to understand that those with an MBA go on to pursue highly successful careers in a variety of industries. As it equips graduates with critical thinking skills, leadership qualities and a solid foundation in fundamental concepts, you can understand why an MBA is one of the most sought-after degrees among all higher education institutions.

With an Online MBA degree from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, you’ll not only optimize your overall business acumen, but fine-tune your skills in a specialty area. The Smith School of Business offers six Online MBA specialization options: Accounting, Finance, Information Systems and Business Analytics, Marketing, Supply Chain Management and General Track. Each track offers a deeper dive into the curriculum than what’s taught in the foundational course load.

If you’re someone who has trouble narrowing things down when given several choices, here are a few tips that can help you pick the specialization that speaks to you:

Define your goal

Everyone who pursues a graduate degree does so for his or her own reasons, whether it’s to establish new capabilities, improve their resume or advance their careers. Ask yourself, “Why am I pursuing an MBA degree?” By being truly open and honest about your thoughts, and perhaps bouncing them off a close friend or family member, you can get a better idea of the specialization that speaks to you the most.

Know where you thrive

Are you good with numbers and communicating financial information? Do you have a way with words, thereby helping boring or hard-to-describe concepts become exciting or more readily understood? Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Those who are great at math often thrive in accounting, while wordsmiths tend to be particularly adept at marketing. Thinking and actively contemplating about the capabilities that come the easiest to you can provide a better sense of direction.

Do what you love

It’s often said that when you are in a career that you truly enjoy, you’ll never work a day in your life. It can often be a difficult decision when what you love to do may not be as financially rewarding as you would like, but according to several polls, many Americans say that if they were to do it all over again, they would pursue their passion rather than the career that paid well. Consider choosing the specialization that gives you the greatest satisfaction.

The fact that you’re pursuing an MBA degree can pay off. Based on the most recent statistics available from the Census Bureau, the average person in the U.S. with an advanced degree typically earns more over his or her lifetime than those with only a bachelor’s.

Be mindful of your surroundings

If you have an idea of where you’d like to settle down for good, do some research into what industries are thriving in your region. For example, if you expect Maryland to be your eventual landing spot, the broadcasting and telecommunications industry is the state’s largest, contributing an estimated $12.7 billion to Maryland’s annual gross domestic product, according to USA Today. Marketing is a specialization that goes well with broadcasting and telecommunications, although the same can be said for accounting and finance, as virtually every industry requires wise money management.

Assess your comfort level with change

Change is part of life and embracing it allows most people to grow and develop, both personally and professionally. However, some professions involve adaptation more than others. Some of the curriculum in the Smith School of Business Online MBA program — such as Organizational Change — speaks to change management and how successful entrepreneurs adopt change into their business strategies. However, if you’re someone who thrives on routine and predictability, you may find certain specializations that are more to your liking. Speak to an advisor for guidance on the specializations that are more process or procedure-oriented as opposed to those that are more dynamic or unpredictable.

Select the specialization that builds on what you know best

The great aspect of an online MBA is that it can be leveraged into a host of new and exciting industries that you’ve always wanted to get into but didn’t know where to begin. However, entering an entirely new profession can be a major undertaking that, depending on where you are in your career, may not be feasible. If you like the industry that you’re in now, consider selecting the specialization that will allow you to build upon what you already know so you can advance your career. Much of this depends on what your ultimate goals are, but choosing the path of least resistance may make the most sense.

What distinguishes Robert H. Smith School of Business?

We know you have a lot of online MBA programs to choose from, but with world-class faculty and research that’s been recognized by a host of publications — including Financial Times, The Economist as well as U.S. News & World Report — the MBA specializations available at the Robert H. Smith School of Business are unparalleled.

Talk to an academic advisor to learn more about the Online MBA program curriculum and learning outcomes.


Recommended reading:

What is the online MBA finance specialization at the University of Maryland?

What is the online MBA accounting specialization at the University of Maryland?



USA Today

Online Master School of Business Administration – University of Maryland

Pew Research Center

U.S. News & World Report