General vs. Specialized MBA: What to Opt For

Business-related degrees are among the most popular ones, with employment expected to grow by 8% in the coming decade. Given the fast market growth and the ever-present need for management, an MBA degree is invaluable in the skillset it can provide to individuals. 

As employers realize the need for specialization and individuals build more specific career plans, business schools have diversified their approach to Masters in Business Administration degrees. You now choose whether you’d prefer a general master’s degree or one of the many MBA specializations educational institutes offer. Let us help you make up your mind.

Differences Between General and Specific MBA Programs

A general MBA is broad in the knowledge it covers. It caters to various business needs and suits entrepreneurs to marketing experts alike. A general MBA is often a two-year program that will result in flexible job opportunities and career choices. 

On the other hand, a specialized MBA focuses more on one aspect after covering the core business concepts. There are multiple concentrations to choose from, ranging from environmental studies to finance. These programs are designed for individuals to want in-depth knowledge in one key area while minimizing their time on unrelated sub-branches. The job options are not as broad as those of a general MBA, but specialized expertise pays for its value in giving individuals a competitive edge in the work they want to do. 

What Suits You Better?

Both the options come with their own sets of pros and cons, and their value is subjective to the priorities of the individual applying for them. If you’re wondering what option to go for, ask yourself the following questions:  

  1. What Are Your Career Preferences?

Career preferences are among the significant factors which will help you determine which option suits you better. You may not want to tie yourself down to one specialization if you’re prone to exploring more career avenues. If you’re going to keep your options open, a general MBA will be our best choice. 

In contrast, a specialized MBA is optimal if you’re sure of the field you want to dedicate yourself to. For instance, if you are into environmental consultancy, an MBA degree concentrating on the area will save you time and let you hone your skills in a way a general MBA won’t. A specialized MBA will also give you a competitive edge in your field.

Keep in mind that these options are not exactly mutually exclusive and share standard courses. Just take your time to analyze your career preferences to optimize your efforts.  

  1. What is Your Personal Timeline?

General master’s programs are often longer than specialized ones. If you are into academics and want to gather maximum skills before entering the industry, opting for a general master’s program may suit you more. 

On the other hand, if you do not want to spend two whole years on a master’s program, consider a specialized degree. Such degrees often take a year only and can boost your educational skills in a shorter time. They are also a more feasible choice if you are already in the industry and want to work and study simultaneously.

Institutes are increasingly offering online programs, so keep in mind that you may be able to adjust your work-life with a general MBA as well. Research your preferred programs and universities thoroughly before making a decision. 

  1. Would You Want a Focused Skillset or a Broader One?

How we invest in our skills is often a personal preference that goes beyond tailoring skills to a career. If you want to gain knowledge in a broader area and maybe go for a more specific Ph.D. degree later, a general MBA will be more suitable. In contrast, if you’re a person who has particular interests and would prefer collecting and polishing skills in one area, a specialized MBA is better.


There is no degree inferior to others. Everyone has unique preferences, and taking care to stay honest with one’s own style of learning is the best way to move in life. If you’re wondering how specialized your education should be, keep your career choices, learning style, and timeline in mind to make the best decision for yourself. 

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.