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Exploring The 7 MBA Specializations At HEC Paris To Find Your Perfect Fit

People embark on their MBA journey for different reasons. Find out how you can customize your HEC Paris MBA by specializing in areas ranging from marketing to finance

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Mon May 20 2024

BusinessBecause
Pursuing an MBA is far from a one-size-fits-all experience. According to a recent survey conducted by the Association of MBAs (AMBA), over 35% of those considering business school want to cover courses such as management, finance, innovation, marketing, and data analytics.

But how can you pack all of that into one MBA? 

In addition to core modules, some MBA programs offer additional specialization courses, which allow students to focus on the exact skillsets they’re looking to gain to advance in their desired sector. 

For example, in the HEC Paris MBA, students spend eight months in a fundamental phase to gain core business skills, followed by an eight-month customized phase in which they can choose from seven different specializations, ranging from marketing to sustainability to finance. 

To find out more about the benefits of customizing your MBA, we spoke to students and professors from each of the specializations. Here’s what they had to say: 


1. Marketing 

The key to successful marketing is being able to put a strong strategy behind it—as seen recently with the release of the 2023 Barbie movie, which cleverly branded itself with instantly recognizable hues of pink. 

Likewise, on the HEC Strategic Marketing course, students don’t just learn fundamentals such as Consumer Intelligence and Branding and Communication, they also dig deep into the grit of science and analytics.

“The specialization gave me really practical tools from coding in R [and] Big Data management, all the way down to high-level marketing strategy,” says former MBA student, Ava Gurekian.

Since the courses cover the fundamentals of a wide range of areas, students don’t need a background in marketing to take part. 

“In the marketing specialization, we really value a diversity of profiles,” says Professor Anne Sophie Chaxel, the program coordinator. 


2. Finance 

For anyone who enjoys research and data—and six-figure salaries—finance is a great route to go down for your MBA specialization. 

In fact, according to a recent GMAC survey, finance is the second-most desirable career path for prospective Gen Z students. 

On the HEC Finance specialization, students cover core modules such as Private Equity Buy-Outs, Financial Modeling, and Entrepreneurial Finance and Venture Capital. They also have the opportunity to gain a more global perspective by working within a diverse cohort. 

“It provides you with the knowledge to tap into markets across the world,” says Professor Ioanid Rosu, the finance specialization coordinator. 


3. Management 

Being a good leader isn’t necessarily something you’re born with. A firm knowledge of human psychology and organizational strategies can go a long way in helping you to manage others more effectively. 

Within the Advanced Management specialization at HEC, an emphasis is placed on holistic, hands-on leadership, which means delving into courses that incorporate other disciplines such as strategy, operations, and international relations. 

This also includes a trip outside the classroom to Versailles, where students learn about how managerial power structures worked in pre-revolution France.

“It really brings the group closer together as well,” says program coordinator, Roxana Barbulescu. 


4. Data and AI 

With all the buzz surrounding ChatGPT over the past year, it’s no surprise that corporate recruiters now consider AI and data analytics to be two of the most desirable skills in business graduates according to a recent GMAC survey

Professor Jean-Remi Gratadour, coordinator for the Data and AI For Business Transformation specialization at HEC, explains, “Today’s companies are struggling with large volumes of data and they have to deal with it. They don’t know how to create value out of these huge volumes of data.” 

HEC trains students to develop their expertise in this field during this specialization, where they learn how to link data to business solutions in innovative ways, through courses such as the Data Driven Innovation Workshop and the Data Project Challenge.


5. Sustainability

With global temperatures projected to rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius this year—the threshold established by the 2015 Paris Agreement—the climate crisis is a more pressing issue than ever. 

On the HEC Paris Sustainability and Disruptive Innovation specialization, students learn how to boost sustainability practices in a wide array of areas by engaging in core modules such as Design Thinking for Innovation and Socially Responsible Investing. 

The classes also encourage students to apply the concepts that they learn to real-world business challenges, giving them the practical skills to take these learnings into the workplace after graduation. 

“It gives you the tools to actually break down these problems and tackle them one by one,” says Marko Tvrtkovic, a HEC MBA graduate. 


6. Entrepreneurship

HEC Paris is in the center of le Plateau de Saclay—otherwise known as the European Silicon Valley—an entrepreneurial hub home to several top universities and research centers, including Danone.  

The MBA’s Entrepreneurship specialization takes advantage of this by allowing students to connect with these companies while they act as real entrepreneurs for three months, working in teams to help grow their own startup. 

“Learning from iconic entrepreneurs made us realize that it requires a combination of adventurous character and street smarts to pursue entrepreneurship,” says former MBA student, Patrick El Hajj. 

Last year, the MBA class launched the logistics start up, CubeAI, a technology which automates 70% of what freight brokers do with AI agents, saving them over two thirds in operational costs.


7. Strategy 

According to a GMAC survey, over 50% of business employers say strategy is one of the most important skills that job applicants can possess.

On the HEC Strategy specialization, students cover subjects such as behavioral strategy, technology strategy, and applied game theory for businesses. 

One aspect of the course that Shahrukh Ikhtear found particularly engaging was the depth of classroom discussion, which was aided by expert teaching.  

“There were little golden nuggets of information that you just can’t find anywhere else in a textbook,” he says.

While an MBA can teach you valuable business fundamentals, it’s important to be able to customize it to your specific career goals. Undertaking a specialization allows you to add to your holistic business knowledge with expertise that’s tailored towards the industry or function you aim to land a role within after graduation.  

Student Reviews

HEC Paris

Student

Verified

7/07/2022

On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.

Sarah

Verified

18/03/2022

On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.

Student

Verified

29/10/2021

On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.

Veronique

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.

Ghadi

Verified

11/06/2022

On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.

Student

Verified

27/03/2022

On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.

Lb

Verified

26/03/2022

On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.

Rajarshi

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!

Student

Verified

19/10/2021

On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.

Student

Verified

7/07/2022

On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.

Sarah

Verified

18/03/2022

On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.

Student

Verified

29/10/2021

On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.

Veronique

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.

Ghadi

Verified

11/06/2022

On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.

Student

Verified

27/03/2022

On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.

Lb

Verified

26/03/2022

On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.

Rajarshi

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!

Student

Verified

19/10/2021

On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.

Student

Verified

1/06/2024

On Campus

Diverse

HEC, as an academic institution, serves as a launching pad for students to excel in their pursuits and careers. The diversity among students and professors is truly remarkable. The chance to attend seminars across five major continents is unparalleled. The exposure and relationships it fosters are invaluable.

Student

Verified

31/05/2024

On Campus

Super diverse

It's a super diverse and fascinating environment with tons of chances, but the management is very French, and the facilities like the gym and classrooms are not great. This makes the academic side quite ineffective. Plus, we're graded on a curve, leading to a competitive and sometimes toxic atmosphere. Despite all that, the benefits definitely overshadow the drawbacks.

John

Verified

10/06/2024

On Campus

Surreal academic experience

What stood out to me about HEC was the direction and insight it offered on coding approaches. Prior to joining the program, I attempted self-learning, but I felt disoriented and lacked a starting point.HEC enabled me to grasp the basics of programming and provided support when I encountered obstacles. Without that guidance, I doubt I would have achieved the progress I have made to date.

John

Verified

10/06/2024

On Campus

Good security

HEC boasts a dedicated team of security personnel who undergo rigorous training to ensure the perpetual maintenance of tranquility and orderliness within the institution. Their unwavering efforts are directed towards fostering a sense of security among the student body, thereby enabling them to channel their energies predominantly towards their academic pursuits.