Tailor an MBA to your career goals

An MBA gives you a distinct advantage over those in the workforce without it: According to the Graduate Admissions Management Council (GMAC) 2018 Alumni Perspectives Survey, those with a graduate business degree indicate that their careers progress faster than their non-MBA colleagues, and they report a median income of $115,000.

Having an MBA is definitely a plus, but building an MBA around your strengths and where you want to go can help you even more. Here are some ways you can customize your degree to the career you want.


Some business schools call concentrations ‘specializations,’ but it’s usually a distinction without a difference. A concentration (or specialization) just means that beyond your core curriculum, you devote the most amount of time and course credits to a specific discipline. For an MBA, it usually begins with the core business functions — finance, management, marketing, supply chain management — and depending on a school’s strength (e.g., some are excellent accounting schools, others excel in information management), you’ll see a few more options.

Choosing the right concentration is important: If you want to go into logistics and operations, you would obviously rather study more supply chain than marketing or finance. If you’re looking to change careers with your MBA, ask yourself what you want to do during the decision-making process. Because certain schools excel in supply chain, those schools might need to be at the top of your list if you want to work in that field.

In addition to concentrations — or instead of, depending on whether you’re a full-time or part-time student — many MBA programs offer areas of emphasis. It’s the same principle, but usually fewer courses. Some students can earn multiple areas of emphasis, giving them strength on top of a core curriculum in areas with synergies, like marketing and analytics, or management and human resources.

Concurrent or dual degrees

It takes a lot of focus and obviously a lot of determination, but many MBA programs allow you to earn two degrees at once. In many cases, the degrees will share credits as part of an overall plan. This takes more time than earning one degree on its own, but it can ultimately save you money in comparison to earning two degrees separately.

Despite the effort required, concurrent degrees are extremely popular. They give you an extra layer of specialization on top of your MBA and two deep foundations of knowledge and well-developed skills for the future. Common MBA concurrent degrees include engineering, law, information management, medicine, and architecture.

Certificates and electives

If a concurrent degree seems a little too aggressive, you might find that a certificate — many are actually certifications in the engineering space — can address the same needs with a lot fewer credits. This can be especially helpful if you’re already working in an environment where certifications are required or at least are very beneficial. In terms of coursework, certificates are roughly the same as concentrations or areas of emphasis, usually 9-15 credits.

If, on the other hand, you don’t want to go all-in for a specific discipline but want a broader view of business, most programs allow you to complement the core MBA curriculum with an assortment of electives that work best for you.

The bottom line

Customizing your MBA to your specific goals can help you get an even bigger edge in the marketplace, so make sure you choose a program that will get you where you want to go. Complete the form on this page to learn more about the highly ranked Full-time, Professional Flex, Online, and Executive MBA options from Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business.

B-school tips

Learn more about top-ranked programs from ASU's W. P. Carey programs and get tips to help you succeed.

Request info