Guide to Top MBA Specializations for Entrepreneurs & Business Owners


Should entrepreneurs get an MBA? The short answer is most definitely yes. While adding a top business school to your resume might not mean much if you’re an entrepreneur, that’s the least important part of the whole endeavor. The tangible skills and resources you acquire during an MBA program are vital to starting a business, and keeping that business going successfully.

Forget the stereotype of startup heroes dropping out and making it big. The data doesn’t back it up. MBA programs, on the other hand, are dynamos of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs from just 12 MBA programs founded over 5,500 companies between 2006 and 2018, with 72 of those companies valued at over a billion dollars. Plenty more are on their way. Recent startups from MBA students and graduates include Branch, Plenty, and Rivigo, each of which has already raised over $200 million in funding.

MBA graduates get a lot more than a boost to their CV: they learn strategic thinking, gain a global mindset, and analyze dozens of business cases that explore how a business can fail or succeed. They also gain a network of support, which is handy whether recruiting for an executive team or just brainstorming new projects. For entrepreneurs, business schools are mini-incubators, and the connections made there can lead to VC introductions or the next great idea. Compared to the solo dropout with a great idea, there’s not much of a contest.

As an entrepreneur, the question isn’t whether or not to get your MBA; it’s which MBA to get. A specialization puts a graduate into an area where they’re the expert. Knowing which one is right for you as an entrepreneur may take a little soul searching, but there are very few wrong answers.

To get a look at the best MBA specializations for entrepreneurs, read on.

MBA in Entrepreneurship

There’s a simple reason why American business schools are offering more MBA in entrepreneurship programs: there’s been a remarkable rise in people who want to become entrepreneurs, and it’s largely centered in the US. This is the age of the startup, and business schools are leaning in by crafting curriculums which focus on VC funding, global markets, and the logistics of innovation. Entrepreneurs in these programs won’t just learn how to manage an existing business, they’ll learn how to build one from the ground up, and sustain it successfully over time.

UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School has an online MBA program where students can specialize in entrepreneurship. In addition to core courses in business strategy, students take electives in areas such as innovation and entrepreneurship in developing economies, new ventures discovery, managing innovation, and technology strategy and business innovation. Alumni include the founder of Hulu, and early executives at Uber, Cisco, and Goldman Sachs.

MBA in High Technology Management

Practically every successful startup comes from an original concept powered by high technology and then put into an accessible package. For entrepreneurs, the concept and the packaging may come easily, but high tech know-how can often seem out of bounds. But how can you lead a tech startup without any tech background? For many entrepreneurs, the answer is an MBA in high technology management.

Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business has an online MBA program with a specialization in high technology management. Designed for seasoned professionals, it’s ideal for busy executives who already have several years of business experience. The high technology management track puts students at the bleeding edge of tech innovation, with a focus on areas such as blockchain, IoT, and cybersecurity.

In addition to the core MBA curriculum, students take electives in three areas: entrepreneurial finance for high tech companies; building and leading top performing teams; and business law, corporate governance, and intellectual property strategies.

MBA in Data Analytics and Business Intelligence

Big Data is superfuel for entrepreneurs. It was the topic of Stanford Business School’s 2012 Conference on Entrepreneurship, and it’s only grown in importance since then. There are several key trends at work: a shift away from traditional tools like Hadoop and towards faster-moving databases like MemSQL; the introduction of Data-as-a-Service cloud solutions; the increased emphasis on predictive analytics; and the growing potential of deep learning to power it all. For entrepreneurs looking to take advantage of those trends, an MBA in data analytics and business intelligence is the perfect fit.

George Mason University has an online MBA program where students can add a specialization in business analytics. In addition to the core MBA curriculum, students take electives such as marketing analytics; market research; data mining for business analytics; and advanced data mining for business analytics.

Designed to give students a global perspective while pursuing a flexibly-scheduled degree, the MBA in business analytics program at George Mason connects students to a network of 19,000 alumni situated largely around the nation’s capital.

MBA in Insurance & Risk Management

Insurtech, an umbrella-term for innovations that focus on the application of technical solutions to the insurance industry, is one of the hottest entrepreneur tickets of the moment. Technological advancements like blockchain, AI, and IoT are allowing insurers to underwrite and process claims more effectively.

According to Accenture, insurance companies which are more than 300 years old are now forced to compete with startups that are less than 300 days old for their piece of one of the biggest markets in the world. Entrepreneurs interested in joining the rise of insurtech may look to an MBA in insurance and risk management.

Utica College has an online MBA program with a specialization in insurance and risk management that’s one of the most affordable in the nation. The program stresses critical thinking and analytical skill while giving students an inside look at the unique needs and characteristics of the insurance industry.

In addition to the foundational curriculum, students take electives such as: insurance and risk management for today’s professional; property and casualty risk management for business; insuring and managing risk for the person; and managing risk across the enterprise.

MBA in Finance

Companies like Stripe, Square, and SoFi have rocketed into the financial industry by marrying finance and tech. But fintech, as a term, is young, and there’s still plenty of room for disruption. According to a three-part report from Deloitte on the state of fintech, nimble startups in the financial industry are primed to go on the offensive and take market share in capital markets, banking, real estate, and investment management. For entrepreneurs that want a solid entry point into fintech—or for those who simply wish to understand the core concept of finance in business—an MBA in finance is a wise investment.

The University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business has an online MBA program where students can specialize in finance for an in-depth exploration of the intricacies of corporate finance, financial restructuring, and investing. Ranked as one of the best online MBA programs in the US, the Smith MBA encourages an atmosphere of entrepreneurship, where innovation is the focus both in the curriculum and in real-world application.

MBA in Cybersecurity

As more and more companies are powered by online transactions, and more and more connected devices come online, defending sensitive data from outside attacks is big business. There are already several cybersecurity unicorns (startup companies valued at over a billion dollars), but this is an industry that revolves around constant disruption and product evolution. The global cybersecurity market is forecast to grow to just under $250 billion by 2023, according to Statista, with a key area being the increased number of Cybersecurity-as-a-Service offerings. Even if cybersecurity isn’t their primary focus, entrepreneurs would be ill-advised to ignore the subject altogether. An MBA in cybersecurity allows graduates to cover all the bases.

Maryville University’s John E. Simon School of Business has an online MBA with a cybersecurity focus that’s more in-depth, and more affordable, than many of its rivals. Students will spend a third of their time on purely cybersecurity issues. The specialization curriculum is targeted at four main areas: controls for effective cyber defense; penetration testing; forensic examination and analysis; and legal aspects of privacy and compliance.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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