For decades, MBA programs have follow a traditional curriculum of core subjects in functional knowledge such as strategy, marketing, and finance.
However, the MBA job market is changing. A recent employers survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) has found that employers are increasingly looking for specialist knowledge—72% of companies worldwide are now looking to hire talent from other business masters degrees.
These sorts of specialist degrees include Masters in Supply Chain Management and Health Administration, as well as specialized MBAs.
The W. P. Carey School of Business is capitalizing on these global employment trends with a wide variety of MBA specializations, which give students deeper knowledge in a range of industries. These go further than finance and accounting and include global business economics, healthcare management, sports business, and sustainable enterprise.
Professor of management, John Wisneski, was responsible for revising the MBA curriculum at W. P. Carey—making it more customizable.
John joined the school in May 2017 and spent his first six months speaking to recruiters, alumni, and students about the changes they wanted to see. Specializations were added after John made the discovery that recruiters were looking for a wider variety of knowledge from MBA graduates.
“The market is demanding that our students not only have functional knowledge but are able to apply those functional skills in a very specific context in their market sector,” John explains.
GMAC's report also shows that MBA graduates are more likely to be placed by employers in specialist, rather than generalist, positions in companies. This is even more prevalent in sectors such as finance or technology.
John says that specializing at an MBA level reduces the need for corporate training once students enter the job market—an advantage for recruiters.
“We’ve heard anecdotally from some of our recruiters that our students were far more capable right off the bat, that they didn’t necessarily need two weeks of introductory training on the industry because they already knew it,” he says.
“That's just helping our candidates be that much more effective, more quickly.”
Paul Tesarek (pictured) is in his second year of his customized MBA at W. P. Carey, with a specialization in Social Enterprise and Marketing, and has previously worked in the AmeriCorps and Peace Corps. He says that the knowledge he's acquiring in his specialization is crucial when it comes to communicating with larger corporations.
“I realized that major powerful stakeholders companies, governments, or banks are more receptive if I am able to communicate in their decision-making process in a language that is primarily driven by profits and financials, rather than my personal objectives that encompass social and environmental ideals,” Paul explains.
In the third sector, Paul says, what makes an effective employee is the ability to use his specialist knowledge and the language of corporate business to reach multinational corporations and power change through them.
“Working with nonprofits, and especially when I worked in Tanzania, I realized that grassroots local movements were very effective but to reach a larger scale and larger impact it could be facilitated through networks of larger businesses,” Paul says.
What's the future for the MBA? Customization.
Although some research suggests that specialist MBA degrees may lead to a reduced chance of job offers and too many specialized graduates, John Wisneski believes that specialized degrees may become the norm in the future.
“I think we’re going to see that the market is demanding more of us as educators—it’s really moving away from generic programs,” he says.
Having experienced a specialized MBA program at W. P. Carey School of Business, Paul also believes they hold value in producing highly-knowledgeable graduates.
“I think the specialization has made me more employable,” Paul says, “as I am able to target more marketing roles and communicate the experience from my MBA to fulfil those requirements for the job.”
Paul also notes that specialist MBAs make it easier for recruiters to employ MBA talent for more specific job roles. "Making the process easier for employers also improves employment placement percentages."
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W. P. Carey School of Business - Arizona State University
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