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Choose your MBA specialisation

Knowing your priorities and studying the market trends well can help you make the right choice, writes Gauri Kohli

education Updated: May 22, 2012 20:26 IST
Gauri Kohli

For most management students, choosing a specialisation is often a tough decision. And it is rightly so, because it plays a key role in determining their career path. If you have cautiously selected an MBA for your higher studies, then understanding the programme, market trends and expectations in the beginning is likely to help you.

Most b-schools need you to choose a specialisation in the second year, giving you ample time to know more about the various specialisations. But how do you go about opting for the right choice is what matters most. According to MJ Xavier, director, IIM Ranchi, “There are three things that one has to take into consideration while deciding on the area of specialisation. First, you should examine your aptitude, interest in a desk job, liking for travel and whether you like interacting with people. Then, look at market opportunities. Currently, there are opportunities in finance, marketing, human resources, business analytics, media management, health management and hospitality management. One should also examine the educational background and experience and then find a match between them.”

Citing a general example, Xavier says, a BSc microbiology/medical person with interests in social work should probably specialise in public health or health management. An engineer with couple of years of experience in a consulting firm, with interests in a desk job, should get into finance or business analytics.

“A student with a psychology background who is a people’s person can take up human resources or marketing,” he adds.

But sticking to one area is not the best idea, say experts. “Most companies across sectors are looking for generalists, not specialists. For instance, if you join in the finance division of a company, it’s not necessary that you will end up dealing with that particular domain. You may be required to cater to other verticals such as marketing or operations after a few years,” says HS Chhabra, dean academics and chairperson placement committee, IIM Shillong.

You must also watch the market forces and get a good grasp of at least two to three core functional areas, advises Chhabra. “Conventional areas such as finance and HR are no longer the most sought after and popular choices. It’s IT, operations, marketing and consultancy that are climbing the popularity ladder,” he adds. Also, the specialisations are not limited to marketing, human resources, finance, IT/systems and operations management.

Now there are more options available such as entrepreneurship, rural development, sports management, hospital management, and brand management, giving more variety to students.

If you have understood and researched the discipline well, you will make yourself better prepared and equipped to handle any kind of job change and also gather valuable experience and exposure in the long run.

“Knowing about the kind of job opportunities available for the particular area and whether or not you want to visualise yourself holding that position in the next few years is important to know before you zero in on a specialisation,” says Debashis Sanyal, dean, School of Business Management at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai.

Another suggestion is to understand your priorities well in different specialisations as industries and organisations have different ways of acknowledging the efforts of their employees.

While some may give good appraisals and decent salary hike, others may offer a lucrative pay package at a lower position.

Other aspects such as whether the company believes in flexible work hours, allows you to work on other domains and gives you the opportunity to innovate are equally important before you decide your specialisation.

You must remember
* To know about the kind of job opportunities available for the particular area
* To visualise yourself working in that area in the long run
* To understand your aptitude and interests before taking the decision
* To study the market opportunities
* To examine your educational background and experience and then find a match between them
* To look at more options available such as entrepreneurship, rural development, sports management, and hospital management