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MBA Concentrations for the Daring

Professor Alex OettlThe MBA degree is often equated with a focus on finance, marketing, or strategy. There are all sorts of lesser-known majors, too—concentrations or tracks that are somewhat unexpected and not at all traditional. Often taken in conjunction with other majors, these concentrations help students stand out in a crowded job market. Here is a roundup of a few:

Make Your Own MBA

At Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, students choose eight electives across the college to create personalized concentrations. The school provides guidance and suggests that candidates talk to someone at career services to determine the courses that will best help them prepare for the industry they’d like to enter at graduation. A student focusing on operations, for example, might take operations electives, along with some in strategy, followed by the popular course, “The Uncertainties of an Emerging World,” which addresses the many unprecedented issues disrupting economic prosperity, including the threats of terrorism and war and damage to the environment. “We believe you know your career and personal goals better than we do,” says Paula Wilson, director of MBA admissions at Scheller.

Degree in Family

Anyone with a family business knows it can be challenging to keep the peace with Chief Executive Officer Dad and Vice President Sis while hitting your sales goals. The Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill offers the MBA Family Enterprise Focus to help students navigate the sometimes-treacherous waters of a family business. To complete the focus, students must take two required courses that introduce them to family business and a minimum of three elective courses chosen from a list of 18.  Although this is the first year the concentration has been offered, from 25 to 30 MBA students take family business courses annually, according to Cooper Biersach, director of the Family Enterprise Center at Kenan-Flagler.

Designs on an MBA

For a decade, students at Carnegie Mellon University’sTepper School of Business have signed on for the Management of Innovation & Product Development track. To complete the concentration, MBA students study industrial and engineering design fundamentals and participate in a capstone course that involves working closely with a company on a project. (Past students have worked with Ford (F), New Balance, and International Truck (NAV), among others.)  From five to 12 students take the concentration every year. “It is not feasible to design in a vacuum, approaching innovation from a single perspective,” wrote Jonathan Cagan, a mechanical engineering professor at CMU and co-director of a separate master’s program in product development, in an e-mail. “Today’s great products and services are the innovations of teams of professionals who understand the intersection of form, functionality, logistics, marketing, and consumer behavior.”

Major in Outside-the-Box Thinking

Since 2007, students at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business have had the option to concentrate in Mastering Creativity & Innovation. The nine-credit-hour concentration is designed for entrepreneurial students who want to learn how to come up with ethical, practical, and new ideas for moving their companies forward. Only four students have signed onto this non-traditional major since its inception, according to an e-mail from school spokesperson Weezie Mackey. Guess you have to be pretty creative to want to concentrate in creativity.

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