Specialised MBA: A Growing Trend Among Students

MBA aspirants are often confused about choosing between General MBA and specialised MBA. To guide students,  Dr. G. Revathi, Dean – Academics and Professor of HR at Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA) Chennai writes an exclusive column for Careers360. In this column, Dr. Revathi shares insights about the significance of choosing the right specialisation, some of the top specialised MBA programmes and management institutes offering them. She also mentions the career opportunities one can opt for along with the probable challenges.

Read the full column by Dr. Revathi below.


The conventional Master of Business Administration degree that most of us are familiar with, is a General MBA with specialisations in specific business functions like Finance, Marketing, HR etc. On the other hand, a Specialised MBA is a management degree that is focused on an industry sector (E.g., Aviation or Oil & Natural Gas), a field of work (E.g., Industrial Engineering or Analytics), or like the General MBA, on a business function (E.g., Finance or Operations).


Also, in a General MBA the number of credits for a specialisation or area of concentration would be much less than in a Specialised MBA programme. For instance, at the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA), Chennai, students need to have a total of 135 credits, of which the minimum number of credits required for a specialisation such as Marketing or Operations is only 15; even for Business Analytics, a new area of concentration introduced this year in collaboration with Tata Consultancy Services, students need only 24 credits to specialise. (A credit is the equivalent of 10 hours of class.)


In contrast, in a Specialised programme the bulk of courses would concentrate on the area of specialisation, while the remaining papers (both core and elective) would be from other areas and thus ensure General Management awareness. For example, the Master of Arts in Human Resource Management & Labour Relations programme being offered by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai aims to create corporate-ready Human Resource professionals with a sound knowledge of business. One can see from their syllabus that most of the papers focus on People Management supplemented by a healthy sprinkling from General Management as well as other business functions.


These specialised management degrees are not new, with some of them running for several decades now. Among the earliest were the programmes in Human Resource Management offered by TISS as well as the Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), Jamshedpur, and Forest Management by the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal.


There are, however, several reasons for renewed interest in them: For one, there is a growing demand for higher education and skills across the globe. Secondly, the recurring complaint of recruiters during campus placement drives is that students lack practical knowledge. Thirdly, the management education segment is seeing an increasing number of players. Hence, both Institutes and students wish to create a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) for themselves.


These issues can be addressed by the Specialised MBA programme whose students would be industry-ready in every sense of the word, their skills being more practical and application-oriented than a General MBA, and customised to a specific industry sector. 


Interestingly however, some industry watchers are of the contrary view that this is only a passing fad, and cannot hold out in the long run against the broader and more rooted appeal of a General Management degree.


 Career prospects for Specialised MBAs: Opportunities and Threats

Many recruiters like Banking Financial Services & Insurance (BFSI), Telecom, and Retail would be happy to hire Specialised MBAs since they can hit the ground running.


However, it is very important that the college has a strong Placement department. Otherwise, students would be stuck with a narrow set of competencies and thereby limited job options. Also, if the curriculum concentrates more on the sector or industry, and less on business fundamentals, growth to senior positions later could be a struggle in which the candidate could lose out to a General MBA holder. A specialised degree could also constrain career mobility across functions, organisations, or industries in the future.


Hence, ideal candidates for a Specialised MBA would be those who are clear about their area of focus (business function/industry/field of work), or who already have work experience in the same. On the other hand, if one is unsure of where one wants to specialise, or an experienced worker looking for a career change, it might be better to take up a General MBA course where the exposure to various business functions as well as industries would help in deciding where they would like to be employed.


Some of the Specialised Management Programmes and Institutes in the country:

  • Aviation - University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun

  • Business Analytics - Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai

  • Forest Management - Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal

  • Healthcare Management - Welingkar Institute of Management, Mumbai

  • Human Resource Management - XLRI, Jamshedpur; TISS, Mumbai; Management Development Institute, Gurgaon

  • Industrial Management - National Institute of Industrial Engineering, Mumbai

  • Insurance Management - Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai

  • Logistics and Supply Chain Management – S P Jain School of Global Management, Mumbai

  • Retail Management - K J Somaiya, Mumbai; Welingkar, Mumbai

  • Rural Management - Institute of Rural Management, Anand; NMIMS, Mumbai; Welingkar, Mumbai

  • Sports Management - National Academy of Sports Management, Mumbai; International Institute of Sports Management, Mumbai

  • Telecom Management - IIT-Delhi

Stay tuned to bschool.careers360.com for more expert column


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