My previous post provided an overview of the trend toward specialized MBAs. It showed the veritable explosion in horizontal specialties, the pace at which B-schools—especially second-tier and regional schools—are spawning such programs and the pace by which students (over 20% so far) are flocking to them.
While this type of specialization may well help these schools differentiate themselves from those with more generalized programs, how will the specialists differentiate themselves from the rapidly growing number of other specialists?
This post looks at how all type schools, from small, specialized regionals to some of the worlds’ largest and most prestigious schools are taking specialization to new levels and into important new areas.
Growth in Industry Specialized Programs
Although most specialized MBAs are focused on relatively horizontal disciplines, a growing number of schools (led by BEM Bordeaux’s Wine MBA) are building programs to prepare graduates for jobs in industries with large concentrations of companies in their areas. Rutgers (New Jersey), for example, offers an MBA in pharmaceutical management and University of Oklahoma has an energy concentration and Suffolk University (Boston) offers one in healthcare. Suffolk University (Boston) offers one in healthcare and, not surprisingly, Scotland’s Queen Margaret University has an MBA in Golf and Country Club Management.
Not all industry-specific programs are designed for local industries. University of Tennessee–Knoxville, for example, offers an aerospace MBA in which twenty percent of its curriculum is unique to that industry. It also offers an executive MBA (PEMBA) that is targeted exclusively at physicians, addressing issues including government regulation and HIPPA. Southern New Hampshire University, meanwhile, has a program in sports management and Concordia University’s Molson School (at the behest of the Montreal-based International Air Transport Association and the International Civil Aviation Organization, created an International Aviation MBA.
Many such programs leverage or provide joint degrees with other schools within the university. Although joint degree programs (such as the venerable JD/MBA) have been around for decades, schools are increasingly integrating their curricula into truly inter-disciplinary programs. University of Oklahoma’s energy program, for example, was created and is taught in conjunction with the university’s engineering school and results in joint MBA/MS degrees. Boston College, meanwhile, leverages the college’s highly regarded divinity school to offer a joint MBA/MS in church management and pastoral ministry.
Emergence of the Techno-MBA
But, with all this diversity, we have begun to see the emergence of another cross-disciplinary specialization that is beginning to sweep across all types of universities and MBA programs. This is the emergence of so-called techno-MBAs that integrate business and technology training. Although many such programs are outgrowths of information management specializations within an MBA program (how to manage and effectively use IT to deliver business value), a growing number of programs are intended to prepare managers to run technology-based businesses. The effort generally began in the mid-1990s when Queen’s University School of Business (Ontario, Canada) created a program intended to transform career scientists and managers into managers.
Many other B-schools, including those of Boston University, Northeastern, University of Washington, Purdue and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have followed suit, often by integrating work across their business, engineering and science schools. Some tailor these programs to the technology of and unique business needs of specific industries. University of Pittsburgh’s Katz school, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School and MIT’s Sloan school, for example, all offer programs build specifically around bio-tech.
University of Pennsylvania (through a combination of its business and engineering schools) goes even further with its Executive Masters in Technology Management (EMTM) program. It offers specialties in areas including biopharm and biotech, IT and telecommunications, nanotechnology and materials science and energy, sustainability and the environment.
Tier-One Specialization Programs
Those who recall back to my previous post may remember the generalized dictum that it is primarily tier-two and regional business schools that are offerings specialized MBAs. Most of the tier-one schools are redefining their curricula to provide broader, more holistic educations. But, as I mentioned in the previous section, some of these schools (such as Penn and MIT) do offer specialized techno-MBA and joint-degree programs. These schools and programs, however, are not alone. Northwestern’s Kellogg, Berkeley’s Hass and MIT’s Sloan schools now offer specialized MBAs, majors, or dual degree programs in areas like real estate, sports management, biosciences, electronic commerce, and health care.
University of Michigan’s Ross School, although it does not offer any specialized MBAs, works closely with other schools within the university to create specialized electives and dual degree programs that are tailored to the needs and desires of the student. It, for example, currently has 20 such programs that combine MBAs with degrees in disciplines including area studies (China, Russia, Middle East, etc.), engineering (construction, manufacturing, naval and so forth), education, architecture, medicine, music and urban planning.
University of Chicago’s Booth School, meanwhile, is taking its own, very individualized approach to specialization. Although it does not offer specialized degrees per se, the school has leveraged its deep analytical and quantitative capabilities to create world-class reputations in fields including economics and finance. It is now applying similar quantitative methodologies to other fields—especially marketing. Although Booth has long taken a data-driven approach to marketing, it recently reached an agreement with Nielsen, under which Booth will become the academic clearinghouse for the company’s Homescan and ScanTrack databases and gain exclusive academic access to its MonitorPlus database. Its goal is to use this unique access to effectively reinvent marketing and to establish Chicago as the leader in and home of the next generation of data-driven marketing.
So, B-school specialization appears to be here to stay. But what will it mean to schools, to students and to the companies that recruit these budding specialists? That is the focus of my next blog.