See the opportunities that an MBA degree can offer.


By Chris Kyle     

Thinking about going back to school to earn your Master of Business Administration (MBA)?

Looking at new employment numbers, there may be no time like the present.

A recent analysis of job placement data for 2009 and 2010 by U.S. News revealed that 75.7 percent of 2010 MBA graduates were hired within three months of graduation, up from 70.8 percent in 2009.

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Think an MBA might benefit you? Join us as we explore seven MBA specializations that could help you climb the corporate ladder. In addition to required core courses, most business schools allow you to concentrate on one of these key disciplines:

Keep reading to see if one of these MBA specializations is right for you.

#1 - Business Administration

Business administration is the meat and potatoes of business school, or what most schools call the core curriculum. In this program, you would take courses like accounting, communications, economics, HR, marketing, and technology. You'll also likely work independently and in groups, pouring over case studies and giving presentations to your peers.

Potential career paths: Mastering business administration can help you develop a broad-based background that will prepare you to move into any number of avenues in today's multi-faceted business world. An administrative services manager, as one example, has an average income of $81,530, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Another position that many MBA students hope to rise into eventually is general manager, a position with an average yearly compensation of $110,550.

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#2 - Health Care Administration

Getting an MBA with an emphasis in health care administration could give you an in-depth understanding of the country's biggest and fastest growing industry. Health care specific classes might cover the sweeping governmental reform that is changing the way health care is delivered. You also might study the technological advances that are helping move electronic records online while also debating issues like patients' privacy rights.

Potential career paths: Name a management role - any at all - and it exists in the health care industry. Whether you're interested in overseeing pharmaceutical manufacturing at a large plant overseas, working as a fundraising manager at a major hospital, or helping lead a team of sales professionals in the medical device industry, there is no shortage of exciting management options to pursue. Hospital health services managers have an average yearly compensation of $96,660, according to the Department of Labor.

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#3 - Management

Earning your MBA with a management specialization could give you a top-to-bottom view of everything and everyone in an organization. You'll likely learn about general management principles while also studying methods that are unique to different disciplines like heath care or technology. Typical courses include risk management, leadership and team-building strategies, and project and supply chain management. Along the way you might build key problem-solving and communication skills that you could put to work right away.

Potential career paths: An MBA with a focus on management is a great calling card to employers who are looking for employees who have what it takes to grow into senior roles. One route to success would be to start as a project manager and work your way up the ladder. Positions like distribution manager and purchasing manager have average yearly incomes of $85,470 and $96,910 respectively, according to the Department of Labor.

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#4 - Human Resources (HR)

This particular career-focused specialization is a good match for MBA students with strong interpersonal skills. While an undergraduate degree in HR is a helpful gateway to entry-level positions, earning an MBA with a focus on HR is a fantastic way to gain an understanding of complex issues like labor law and union issues. This type of program generally includes coursework in collective bargaining and labor economics, which are key areas top-level HR pros must master.

Potential career paths: An advanced degree like this one is increasingly important and "highly recommended" when trying to land senior HR positions, according to the Department of Labor. Some students move into a related career track as a contract negotiator or mediator, while others gravitate to a more traditional HR track. HR managers have an average annual wage of $105,510, according to the Department of Labor.

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#5 - Marketing/Communications

Identifying a company or organization's competitive advantage and sustaining it is at the heart of this MBA specialization. By studying marketing and communications, you could learn how to design, sell, package, and spread products and messages to your intended audience, whether it's locally or globally. Along the way you're likely to study everything from advertising and sales to promotions and public relations (PR).

Potential career paths: Specializing in marketing/communications while getting your MBA can be great prep for a career in public relations, marketing, sales, or advertising. Management roles in these areas require smart, business-savvy professionals with strong communication skills. According to the Department of Labor, PR managers have an average income of $101,850 while marketing managers average at $120,070.

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#6 - Technology

The timing for getting an MBA with a focus on technology couldn't be better, according to QS World MBA Tour, which reported a 39 percent spike in MBA hiring for the technology sector in 2010. Getting an MBA that focuses on technology is a smart way to stay relevant in this rapidly evolving industry, particularly if you have an undergraduate background in computer or information technology (IT), though it's not required. In this type of program, you could learn how to manage a technology team while studying strategies for a networked economy.

Potential career paths: While many students move into technology product management, you could also be prepared to work in related areas like mergers and acquisitions for IT firms. The computer software industry is another exciting career possibility for those with a technology-focused MBA. According to the Department of Labor, the average compensation for software publisher managers is $136,580.

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#7 - Accounting

Forget about English, Spanish or even Mandarin. The official language of the business world is accounting. Getting an MBA with an emphasis in accounting can give you a strong understanding of how a company's bottom line impacts its operating and strategic decisions. Want to become a certified public accountant (CPA) or work in the finance department of a corporation? This degree could help.

Potential career paths: An in-depth understanding of accounting theory and practice is great preparation to work as a CPA or manager in the financial services industry. According to QS World MBA Tour, the finance sector hired 22 percent more MBA grads in 2010 and expects to increase hiring by 11 percent in 2011. Financial managers have an average yearly compensation of $113,730, according to the Department of Labor.

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*Average compensation information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, using 2009 median salary information.

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