Best MBA Concentrations for CEO’s & Executives

By Henry R. Steele - May 3, 2018
Reading Time: 11 minutes

If you are a CEO or executive of a company and want to earn your MBA, it is a good idea to carefully consider your concentration. Some MBA concentrations lead to better opportunities and pay than others.

According to Poets and Quants, the strategy MBA is one of the most revered MBA for CEOs and others who occupy or wish to occupy the C-suite. This is because business strategy in the end really touches all parts of a business operation.

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  • Ranked #5 for Best Online MBA Programs by U.S. News & World Report.
  • An executive curriculum pays immediate dividends.
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Strategy is vital to the growth of a business because it comprises the endless task of redesign so a company can align its many activities and properly deploy resources. Strategy also is important for a company because it is used to identify limits, risks and tradeoffs that all companies must consider as they move forward. Corporate strategy also is concerned with how major corporations, such as Disney, for example, are able to create value and enhance profits across many different businesses in its portfolio.

The strategy MBA is one of the most popular these days for training new CEOs. Strategy MBAs teach students how to obtain buy in at all levels of a company, and also the importance of follow through and flexibility. Strategy at the executive level is about the roles, vision and tactics that ultimately will separate successful from unsuccessful companies.

The responsibilities that come with leading a company’s strategy are heavy ones. That is why CEOs and other executives with an MBA with a concentration in strategy often make more than their peers. Payscale.com reported in 2018 that MBAs with a strategy concentration earned a median salary of $94,800 when they chose a strategy concentration. That was $14,000 better than any other concentration. By mid-career, strategy MBAs were making at least $150,000 per year. The strategy MBA has been topping concentration based pay in Payscale.com data for four years in a row.

Valuable Online MBA Concentrations for CEOs

Other MBA concentrations also have been shown to have more economic and opportunistic value over time, according to the data. Innovation management leads to a $62,000 pay increase early in the career, and more than double earnings later in the executive career.

Entrepreneur MBA’s also on average have a $70,000 pay increase soon after graduation, but by mid career, they are making almost as much as strategy MBAs.

According to Payscale.com data, these concentrations led to to the best mid-career pay and opportunities for CEOs and other high level executives:

Strategy

Understanding corporate strategy is important to be a successful CEO. That is why the online MBA program at the University of North Carolina, for example, offers corporate strategy courses in its AACSB-accredited program.

Courses in corporate strategy introduce the student to the major decisions, tools and concepts that make for successful corporate strategy. They improve your understanding of how decisions of executives will influence the economic performance of their companies. Some of the most important learning objectives that are covered in strategy classes can include:

  • How multi-business companies can both create and destroy value
  • Identify opportunities to enhance corporate strategy to meet long term company goals
  • Understand various economic and organizational realities, and be able to analyze and identify major synergy opportunities
  • Understand alliance and how they affect corporate strategy
  • Grasping major trade offs between acquisitions and alliances
  • Understanding strategy in business also is about understanding and leveraging many competitive dynamics with a strong focus on making above average and persistent profits.
  • A complete understanding of business and corporate strategy has been shown to be vital for CEOS, consultants and high level managers to succeed over the years of their careers.

Typical mid career salary: $150,000

Entrepreneurship

As more people want to start their own companies, many more business schools are offering an entrepreneurship specialization. In fact, an MBA in entrepreneurship has become one of the quickest-growing concentrations to help MBA students gain the tools and knowledge they need to be successful entrepreneurs.

Earning your MBA in entrepreneurship will teach you where to find venture capital and where new opportunities lie for new companies. Also, you will learn about leadership, critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills. These are all competencies that are important to manage and grow a thriving small business or a well-established company.

Key aspects of a strong entrepreneurship MBA program are:

  • Teaching the core aspects of accounting, economics, finance, statistics, business strategy, marketing, HR, leadership and information systems.
  • Focuses on the real world skills needed to fund, plan and launch a startup company.
  • Common courses in an entrepreneurship MBA program involve venture capital, market assessment, business plan development, developing franchises and innovation.

Required courses may include:

  • Business Innovation and Technology Management
  • Innovation, Social Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability in Developing Economies
  • Introduction to Entrepreneurship
  • Managing Innovation, New Ventures Discovery
  • Business Strategy

Most graduates with an entrepreneurship specialty eventually launch their own company, or try to cultivate a more entrepreneurial spirit in their company. Others may locate good-paying positions as business development managers, consultants or marketing managers in financial services, manufacturing, IT and healthcare.

Typical mid career salary: $139,000

Corporate Finance

An MBA concentration in corporate finance teaches students a core set of vital skills in financial modeling, equity and debt issues, valuation, mergers and acquisitions, financial planning, risk management, financial reporting and analysis, and taxation that is necessary to succeed in corporate finance positions, as well as in consulting.

Student in a corporate finance specialization, such as the one offered at the University of North Carolina, develop the skills and knowledge to take leading roles in:

  • Investment and commercial banks
  • Corporate finance, treasury and business development roles for Fortune 500 companies
  • General management consulting, financial consulting and corporate strategy
  • Private equity and venture capital firms
  • Various general management positions

Core courses in this concentration at the University of North Carolina are:

  • Fundamentals Principles of Corporate Finance
  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Multinational Corporate Finance
  • Industrial Finance
  • Strategy of Project Finance
  • Financing Real Estate in Today’s Capital Markets
  • Private Equity
  • Topics in Financial Reporting
  • Taxes and Business Strategy

Typical mid career salary:  $138,000

Innovation Management

An innovation management concentration focuses on skills and knowledge needed to lead the innovation process in all types of companies and industries. You will obtain the perspective necessary to compete successfully through innovation and technology, wherever you may work.

Students learn how to apply frameworks, theories and methods to assess the innovative capacity of a company, and how to devise strategies to explore the new opportunities found. Innovation management study creates a vital intersection of leadership, strategy and technology. Graduates with these skills are invaluable for companies that want to lead the way on creativity and innovation. Most MBA students choosing this concentration work in technology-related enterprises, or companies that market innovative technological products and services.

At the University of Tampa, these are the required courses for an innovation management concentration:

  • Statistics for Decision Makers
  • Foundations of Management
  • Foundation of Finance
  • Essentials of Accounting
  • Foundational Economics for Managers
  • Leadership and Organizational Behavior
  • Topics in Professional Development
  • Accounting and Value Creation
  • The Economics of Organizations
  • Financial Management and Strategy
  • Decision Analysis

Typical mid career salary: $134,000

Economics

An MBA with an economics concentration will prepare you to be a leader in financial institutions, or in many other industries. This concentration is known as one of the most high-paying versatile and in-demand MBA specialities you can select.

Students are equipped with skills in economic forecasting,, as well as methods for business analysis. Other common learning objectives are:

  • Study foundations of wealth and work, stewardship, money, debt and interest in the role of government in the economy.
  • Grasp trade policies as you learn to perform cost-benefit analysis and solutions to complicated trade and finance issues.
  • Learn ways to formulate and research problems, as well as collect and analyze data to support decisions.

At Oklahoma State University, the required courses for an economics concentration are:

  • Microeconomic Theory
  • Macroeconomic Analysis
  • Econometric Methods
  • Introduction to Econometrics
  • Business and Economic Forecasting
  • Research and Independent Studies
  • Contemporary Environmental Policy
  • The Economics of Organization and Competitive Advantage
  • Industrial Organization I

Typical mid career salary: $132,000

Business Finance

Earning an MBA in finance or business finance will help you to gain the business leadership skills that you need to perform effective financial management for private companies, nonprofit organizations and state and federal government agencies. After graduation, MBA finance majors enter their carers in the financial area of general business, investment banking firms, broker-dealer firms, management consulting companies, and assorted departments of commercial banks.

Some students decide to earn a Master of Finance instead of an MBA with a concentration in finance, but according to Poets & Quants, a 2014 study found that those with a finance MBA earned $126,400 per year, while those with a master’s in finance only earned $113,000 per year.

At Nova Southeastern University, the following courses are required for this concentration:

  • Banking
  • Financial engineering
  • Investments
  • Advanced Corporate Finance
  • Real World Finance For Managers

Typical mid career salary: $130,000

Marketing

Students who obtain an MBA in marketing are prepared to research and identify audience trends and to develop the business strategies that make companies successful and profitable. Students also learn how to think like their customers and to lead with distinction in the highly competitive field of sales and marketing. A marketing concentration helps you to hone the critical thinking and other skills you need to develop new and innovative marketing strategies that can make a major impact in an organization.

An MBA in marketing prepares you for an upper level or executive role in the marketing department of many large corporations. Common positions that students with this major obtain are marketing manager, promotions manager, PR manager and management consultant.

At Drexel University, these are the required courses for a marketing concentration:

  • Customer Analytics
  • Marketing Experiments
  • Buyer Behavior Theory
  • Channels of Distribution Management
  • Global Marketing
  • Integrated Marketing Communications Management
  • Business to Business Marketing
  • New Product Planning, Strategy and Development
  • Services Marketing
  • Marketing Management Cases and Problems

Typical mid career salary: $123,000

Information Technology

An MBA concentration in information technology stresses the vital need of information systems in industries and organizations of all types. Students will learn to understand how to design, develop and oversee IT systems in a variety of business environments. Also, they learn how to transform information technology into new business applications that deliver value across the entire company.

At Georgia Tech University, for example, an information technology MBA concentration provides you with a deeper understanding of how to manage threats and opportunities that are created from the greater digitization of markets, organizations and industries. Students learn tactics and strategies for competing in fast-moving digital environments, and tactics and strategies for managing and analyzing complex data within and across organizations.

Required courses include:

  • Database Development and Applications
  • Electronic Commerce
  • Business Process Analysis and Design
  • IT Practicum
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Project Management
  • Business Intelligence and Analytics
  • Auditing and Financial Control Systems
  • Service Operations Management

Typical mid career salary: $122,000

Strategic Management

An MBA in strategic management is very valuable because the strategic challenges managers face in business are often ambiguous. They do not easily lend themselves to clear solutions with models and formulae. A major in strategic management helps you to understand the realities behind organizational decision making. Strategic management solutions are needed to answer such vital questions in business as:

  • What products should be made?
  • Which markets should be entered?
  • What type of company should you build?
  • How should you respond to the behavior of your competitors?
  • Which business operations should be outsourced?

At the University of Chicago, for example, a strategic management curriculum emphasizes the interdisciplinary approach of sociology, psychology and economics to develop complex analytical frameworks that examine the difficult strategic issues managers face. This approach gives students a better grasp of how managers employ formal and informal relationships that exist between companies in an industry, and to come up with solutions to business questions outside the organization that it faces.

Activities at the University of Chicago that help you to build strategic management business skills are:

  • Corporate Management and Strategy
  • Credit Restructuring, Distressed Investing and Turnaround Group
  • Management Consulting Group

Courses include

  • Strategy Symposium
  • Competitive Strategy
  • Taking Charge
  • Technology Strategy

Typical mid career salary: $122,000

6 Best Online MBA Options for Executives

Now that you have an idea about the best concentrations for CEOs in terms of pay and opportunities, review some of the best online MBA options for experienced, executive business professionals:

Arizona State University

The W. P. Carey Online MBA is designed to provide the ability to obtain a master’s degree from an AACSB-accredited, top-30 business school no matter where you live. Focused and flexible, the highly ranked program delivers the knowledge and skills you need to advance your career, whether you travel for work or simply prefer learning whenever and wherever it’s convenient for you.

  • ASU Online MBA is Ranked Top 5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report
  • ASU is ranked #2 for Best Online Graduate Business Programs by U.S. News & World Report
  • ASU is ranked the #1 university for innovation in the country by U.S. News & World Report, ahead of both MIT and Stanford

This flexible, 100% online program from an AACSB-accredited business school allows you to study the same curriculum taught by the same world-renowned faculty as the on-campus program.

Grad Tuition: Inquire
Application Deadline: Multiple
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: AACSB
Delivery: 100% Online
Degrees Offered: MBA/Bachelors

Inquire Direct with ASU.edu

Online Master’s Degree
  • Master’s in Business MBA

For more information about this program visit the school direct.

Inquire Direct with ASU.edu

#1 Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University and the Carey Business School offer a part time, online MBA program that is designed to develop business executives and leaders to tackle the most difficult business and societal problems. Students in this two year program can choose concentrations in leadership and management, healthcare and finance. Online courses are offered in eight week terms and are mostly asynchronous so you can take them on your schedule. Some courses in business communication, leadership and negotiation require some in person coursework in Baltimore.

  • Campus: Baltimore MD online
  • Type: Private, non-profit
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Minimum time commitment: 24 months
  • On campus requirements: Yes
  • Tuition: Inquire
  • Programs: Master of Business Administration

#2 American University

American University and the Kogod School of Business offers a two year, AACSB-accredited online MBA that will provide you with the critical thinking and problem solving skills you need to serve as an elite business executive. The program is delivered live online and features two immersions that take place in various business capitals around the globe. Concentrations are in marketing, finance, cybersecurity, international business, business analytics, and consulting. Each year, at least one immersion takes place in Washington DC and will have the opportunity to hear from business and policy leaders in their group assignments.

  • Campus: Washington DC, online
  • Type: Private, non-profit
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Minimum time commitment: 18-24 months
  • On campus requirements: Yes
  • Tuition: Inquire
  • Programs: Online Master of Business Administration

#3 Washington State University

Washington State University and the Carson School of Business offer an online, AACSB-accredited MBA with concentrations in general business, marketing, finance, hospitality business management and international business. It is a 100% online MBA program with no GMAT required and students can graduate in 22-29 months. As of 2018, the program is ranked the #12 online MBA according to US News and World Report.

  • Campus: Pullman WA, online
  • Type: Public, non-profit
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Minimum time commitment: 22 months
  • On campus requirements: Yes
  • Tuition: Inquire
  • Programs: Online Master of Business Administration

#4 Villanova University

The online MBA from the Villanova School of Business is accredited by the AACSB and currently is ranked as a top online MBA by US News and World Report, and also is ranked as a top online MBA program for veterans by the same publication. Available concentrations are finance, strategic management, international business, marketing, and analytics. The program is fully online and its faculty are well known as leaders in their respective fields. The program is 21 courses in length and is typically completed within six semesters.

  • Campus: Villanova PA, online
  • Type: Private, non-profit
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Minimum time commitment: 24 months
  • On campus requirements: No
  • Tuition: Inquire
  • Programs: Online Master of Business Administration

Earning an MBA with a strategy concentration is one of the best ideas for CEOs who want to increase their knowledge base to be more successful, better paid and adept business professionals. But there also are other concentrations worth your consideration as well.

#5 University of North Carolina

The online MBA at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is ranked as a top online MBA by US News and World Report. It is a 66-credit program accredited by the AACSB. It can be completed in 18 to 36 months, with a focus on strategic leadership. Students also can develop their industry-specific expertise in these concentrations: entrepreneurship, corporate finance, global supply chain management, marketing, investment management, data analytics and management consulting. According to the university, 79% of students most recently were promoted or changed jobs while enrolled, and students had a 24% average salary increase after they graduated.

  • Campus: Chapel Hill, online
  • Type: Public, non-profit
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Minimum time commitment: 18 months
  • On campus requirements: Yes – global immersions available
  • Tuition: Inquire
  • Programs: Online Master of Business Administration

#6 University of Maryland

The online MBA at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and the University of Maryland has a strong global reputation for developing highly skilled and ethically sound business executives. The Smith MBA is currently ranked the #9 best online MBA by US News and World Reports. Students can complete the online MBA with No GMAT requirement in as few as 24 months and can specialize in accounting, finance, information systems, business analytics, marketing or supply chain management. The university’s proximity to Washington DC means the Smith School can often recruit speakers and educators from among the top policy makers and professionals in the country.

  • Campus: College Park MD, online
  • Type: Public, non-profit
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Minimum time commitment: 24 months
  • On campus requirements: Varies
  • Tuition: Inquire
  • Programs: Online Master of Business Administration

References

  • Corporate Strategy Course. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://onlinemba.unc.edu/academics/mba-curriculum/electives/corporate-strategy/
  • The Highest Paying MBA Concentrations of 2017. (2018). Retrieved from https://poetsandquants.com/2018/01/18/the-highest-paying-mba-concentrations-of-2017/
Henry R. Steele
Henry R. Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.Follow on Twitter.com

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