MBA programs today reflect a global, sustainable and data-driven workplace. And, while the fundamental skills required for landing high-paying leadership positions still form the foundation of every MBA program, students have much more freedom to explore their passions, learn at their own pace, and do a deep dive into an area of specialization than in the past.
What are the most popular MBA concentrations?
“Business analytics has been really popular for us,” notes Dr. Joyce Strawser, Ph.D., dean and associate professor, Department of Accounting and Taxation, Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University. Dr. Strawser notes that the analytics concentration “allows students to develop an understanding of how to use data in an effective way to drive decision-making in business.”
“Analytics is hot right now,” agrees Jennifer Maden, assistant dean and director of graduate studies for the Rohrer College of Business at Rowan University, who cautions potential students: “Analytics can mean many different things. Rowan students are interested in getting into the system side of things such as data mining, software and statistical analysis.”
At Rider University, the most popular concentration, according to Eugene Kutcher, dean of The Norm Brodsky School of Business, is also the MBA in Business Analytics. “Most people recognize the critical nature that data analysis plays in business today,” Kutcher notes, adding, “It’s not just about people in a back room developing statistics.”
Beyond analytics, other interesting MBA paths are gaining in popularity at New Jersey’s universities.
At Seton Hall, for example, supply chain management is in growing demand. “Supply chain management involves a much more specialization of analytics,” Dr. Strawser notes. “Since the pandemic, students have really seen how important supply chain issues are in business,” she observes.
Not so surprisingly, another popular MBA concentration at Seton Hall is marketing. “Marketing is really a traditional MBA area. Students today are drawn to social marketing, digital marketing and influencer marketing,” Strawser explains.
At Rowan University, the new program in entrepreneurship is one of the institution’s most popular MBA choices, according to Maden. The university recently launched a school for innovation and entrepreneurship, which resides within the College of Business.
“The entrepreneur concentration is a robust program; we have a unique incubator space as well as business plan development and new venture competitions,” Maden explains. “The school has developed a dedicated set of resources for young entrepreneurs to access. What makes this track particularly interesting is that it is all about the entrepreneurial mindset; it’s not just for learning how to create a business start-up. It is, in fact, attracting employees who currently work for a large organization, but want to learn the skills to think and operate like an entrepreneur within a larger enterprise.”
Rowan University also has emerging MBA concentrations in Sustainability in Business as well as in Cannabis Commercialization. The cannabis concentration is a very new (first-year) program, but the school is seeing a great deal of interest.
In Lawrence Township, Rider University offers five MBA concentrations: Finance, information systems, fraud and forensics, sports management, and data analytics. However, the traditional MBA is still the most popular. “Traditional MBAs are generalized programs that prepare people to make responsible decisions,” notes Dean Kutcher. “Learners want to become better at decision-making.”
At Rowan University, the traditional MBA is also a perennial favorite. “Our management concentration remains one of our most popular MBA concentrations, as well as the finance MBA,” Maden says.
Since most MBA students are employed full-time, online study programs have become a popular choice. Online and hybrid study options provide much-needed flexibility for adults with work and family obligations. However, they do require discipline.
“It takes self-discipline to pursue the online degree,” Rowan’s Maden offers. “You have to build excellent study habits. If you are not consistent with your studies, it is extremely difficult to succeed.”
Since online semesters are only seven or eight weeks, study demands are also compressed. “People who take online classes should be prepared to dedicate 15 or more hours a week per class,” Maden suggests.
“A unique aspect of Rowan’s MBA program is our flexibility,” Maden explains. “Students can study full-time or part-time. They can take one year to complete the program or six years. Most important, 50% of our MBA program can be customized.”
Students may either complete two areas of concentration or focus on one area of concentration and three elective classes. “These options are quite unique,” notes Maden, adding that “most MBA programs in the US only allow one area of concentration. Very few allow two areas of concentration. Students are really excited about the ability to tailor their studies.”
At Rider University, students have the option to choose a fully online study plan or a blend of in-person and online. Since most of Rider’s students are local, many take advantage of in-person and hybrid courses when they can, according to Dean Kutcher.
All the schools recommend that potential students take the time to interview potential schools carefully before selecting a program. For employees looking to expand their skillsets, Dean Kutcher suggests that students might want to start with a non-degree certificate course to test the waters.
Rowan’s Maden suggests that students start with the core classes and leave electives until later, in order to develop the study discipline. “We also encourage students to speak with faculty, students and even professionals currently employed in their intended career job in order to understand what skills will be demanded of them in the workplace,” she says.
“We ask students how they want to leverage their degree.” Seton Hall’s Dr. Strawser, notes. “If a student is coming back after a while in the workforce, they may not want a degree. However, a more seasoned student may want to put together electives that support their interests and their career, such as marketing, or negotiations. Recent undergrads, on the other hand, might want to start with core courses first to have more time to decide their areas of specialization. Selecting an MBA is a very individualized process.”
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