General MBA Or A Specialised Course? Choose Your Pick Wisely

Most of us would have applied to all the top colleges hoping to land in our dream college. We’ve all burnt the midnight oil and toiled day and night preparing for the aptitude tests, honing our soft skills and what not. Many of us are tired of the whole process now, just hoping to maximise the opportunities we have at this point.

Right this moment is a good time to step back and take a look at the options we have to choose from and make a wise and informed choice. Many of us would have to take the tough call between choosing a specialised course during the admission process itself. Let’s take a look at how we can better deal with this dilemma.

In India we have sectoral b-schools which offer specialised courses in a particular domain like Marketing, HR, Banking etc. and we have the other b-schools which offer a general MBA course.

MICA, TISS Mumbai, IRMA, NITIE are some of the top sectoral b-schools that offer two-year full-time focused courses. Apart from these Institutes, Institutes like SPJIMR, MDI-Gurgaon, NMIMS Mumbai also offer courses that specialise in one domain and the choice of specialisation has to be made during the admission process itself.

How are the Specialised Courses different from the General MBA courses?

In a General MBA course, the emphasis is on providing a holistic outlook on all aspects of business management, with a choice for the student to choose electives and study certain domains in depth. This course aims at churning out a generalist manager.

In a specialised course, the emphasis is on providing in-depth knowledge about the specialisation being offered with an option for the student to further super specialise in an area within the specialised course. Eg. A PGDM-C student of MICA would be studying strategic marketing and communication and would get to further specialise in advertising.

It is to be noted that, the specialised courses also provide an overview of all the business management functions, but the focus would be to create a specialist out of him.

What are the Pros and Cons of joining a specialised course?

Pros of a Specialised MBA

       For somebody who is sure of which area of business management they would like to be in, there could be nothing better than a specialised course, as it gives the student access to best resources, option to delve deeper and master the specialisation completely.

       It removes the distraction and burden of having to study subjects that the student is not interested in.

The industry acceptance of these courses is very good, and at times companies look to hiring specific roles from sectoral schools simply for the in-depth knowledge and exposure they have in their specialisation.

Cons of a Specialised MBA

       The strengths are strengthened but weaknesses are left untackled. Someone with a penchant for HR and discomfort with numbers might learn the nuances in HR, but not fight his fear of numbers.

       Although specialised courses do provide overview of the other business functions, the lack of emphasis on the same might make them specialists whose business exposure is not upto the mark

       The world is moving towards people donning many hats at the same time and ability to switch between roles easily. A general MBA course would help in studying business management as one whole, and could facilitate disparate learning. Specialised students might find this a tad bit more challenging to do than their counterparts in general MBA.

As one can clearly see there exist a good number of pros and cons in favour and against of choosing a focussed course.

A clear understanding of what each course has in store for us, could help us take a call. I have met quite a few friends who joined specialised courses in a hurry and found it very hard to come to terms with the rigour and depth of the course.

How to take the big decision?

For most of us, Master’s degree will be our highest qualification and the skills we gain during this period and the initial openings we get in the job market are the ones that will go on to define our career. Such an important decision definitely requires us to spend some good time evaluating the options one has:

I personally opine that, for aspirants with work experience due to their prior exposure to office culture, it is a lot easier to choose which specialisation 
would better suit their personality, than freshers. I suppose this decision could be trickier for freshers as they wouldn’t have been able to be participants in the business world.

I suggest one could take the following steps to arrive at a decision,

1.       Do your Homework, do all the dirty work.

Read up about the subjects being taught in the specialised course, google is your friend. Do they interest you? Do you have an aptitude for them? Do you possess the requisite skills to be a professional in this area?

2.       Speak to students/alumni of these Institutes

The best testimonials of a course come from its students and alumni. Learn from them how studying the course would look like, what kind of skills does it demand one to have. The rigour, the pedagogy, of the course does it excite you? Would you fit in well into the culture of the Institute?

3.       Speak to Professionals who are working in the specialised course domain

Ask them how working in this domain is like, ask them about the challenges, ask them what they hate most about their job. Very importantly, get to know the career trajectory in this domain. If you are able to make peace with the most gruelling aspect of the job, you could safely say you are ready to step into that role.

4.       Information assimilation done. Now focus on internalising and reflecting on the inputs you have received

Draw a mental image of you working in the specialised course domain, does the image make you happy? Is it in line with your aspirations?
Twenty years into this domain, would you be happy working in this area?

People often forget to combine their personal life preferences with their professional life choices, don’t do that. Does a job in this domain fit in the puzzle of your life?

The time spent doing these elaborate exercises will be time truly well spent. The knowledge of having taken an informed decision is a confidence booster in its own. It will leave you free from the nagging doubts that could keep you awake in the future.

Also later into the career, moving into altogether another business domain post specialisation in one, is not unheard of. It has been done and some organisations are also fairly open to it, but there’s the opportunity cost in the time spent in trying to transition from one domain to another.It is not unsurprising to see people pursue their second masters to move out of the specialisation they got stuck in, post their first masters.

Specialised courses offer an incredible edge to position oneself as a master of the course, but they come with a caveat of likely inflexibility to move into another business domain. Similarly, general MBA courses offer the flexibility to move between domains and settle in one, but initially in the specialist roles,  the specialised course students do have an advantage and better footing over their generalist counterparts. There is no good choice and bad choice amongst the both. There are risks and payoffs attached with both choices, with one making a decision to pick one.

Hence, an informed choice can help us make the best of the options we have, and be prepared for the consequences that come with them.

Sasi Priya Byra

Baptised TISSIAN to be christened HR Manager. Avid reader, wannabe prankster and novice writer. Life’s philosophy is to live a calvin and hobbes-isque adventure set in the rustic Malgudi.