Suggestions for MBA Elective Course Selection
A student’s electives—which can be utilized to direct their career path or expand their areas of expertise—make up around half of the credits they need to complete most MBA programs in order to receive their degree.
According to Peter Severa, assistant dean of student engagement for the MBA programs at Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business, “some students know what they want to do, so they kind of know what their career story will be, and they kind of know how they want that story to end.”
He claims that many MBA students map out their electives in order to increase their understanding of specific business issues starting with their professional goals and working backwards to develop a career path to reach those goals.
According to Professor Bradley Staats of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, an MBA program is a T-shaped education. Staats also serves as senior associate dean for strategy and academics.
“What I mean by that is you get the breadth of the different business skills and capabilities you need, and then you are diving into industry concentrations, which really dictate what electives a student takes,” he explains.
Severa claims that electives at Scheller assist students construct their toolkits so they are prepared for the kind of employment they wish to pursue by making up 33 of the total 54 credits that are necessary.
Four of the courses need to be related to a certain concentration, such marketing, sustainability, international business, leadership, or another field.
Electives can be helpful in assisting students in discovering their passions and deciding what type of impact they want their job to have after graduating, both on their own lives and on the world at large, according to Severa.
Employers’ Reception of Signals
According to Severa, electives help students stand out from the competition, provide them a chance to communicate their backgrounds and career objectives to potential employers, and position them to be competitive job candidates.
But ultimately, he claims, the advantage of electives is to expose students to a wider range of subjects to aid in their quest for fulfilling employment.
For instance, taking electives in leadership or communication would likely be a good idea for someone interested in business negotiations. Students interested in sustainability may favor electives on health or the environment, according to Staats, who notes that these topics are growing in popularity in the corporate world.
Nevertheless, he adds, “certain elements, like electives in design thinking and innovation, may be utilized in practically any field of business.
A balance of electives emphasizing technical abilities and “soft skills” like leadership and management, which are applicable to any career, is advantageous, according to Severa.
Staats recommends concentrating electives on two topics: function and industry.
“Electives help achieve both of those things,” he adds. “If I want to go into tech and work in product marketing for a company, I need to build out those product marketing skills and build knowledge on technology.”
The 32 electives in the MBA program at North Carolina are broken out into eight subject areas that are frequently included in MBA programs: communication, experiential learning opportunities, finance and accounting, entrepreneurship, marketing, operations, management and strategy, and technology and data. Communication with Data, Global Entrepreneurship Lab, Entrepreneurial Finance, Negotiations, and People Analytics are a few examples of the electives offered by the school in such fields.
Electives, according to Staats, are where a lot of it happens and how those components get put together. “Personalization, experiential learning, and innovation are big themes that get talked about a lot in business.”
He contends that it’s crucial for institutions to tap into the innovative research being conducted by their alums for elective ideas. In order to prepare students for employment that may not yet exist, he continues, it is equally important for schools to develop curricula that reflect the direction the business industry is likely to take.
In a way, he argues, “schools are putting the pieces together to prepare kids for success when they join the labor market.
According to S Sriram, a professor of marketing and associate dean for graduate programs at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, enrolling in an MBA program is frequently the last opportunity for students to enroll in classes at the college level. As a result, Sriram advises students to take electives in a variety of subjects to broaden their horizons.
Students may declare their want to work in consulting, for instance, and then enroll in electives designed with that career in mind. To have a well-rounded education before entering the industry, he claims, students usually enroll in other classes.
The most well-liked electives at his school, according to Sriram, are those on brand management, business leadership, and “changing times.” A popular course is “The Power of Prestige: How Status and Reputation Confer Competitive Advantage.”
According to Michael Montgomery, a former professor of management at the College of Management at Lawrence Technological University in Michigan, electives assist students develop into subject-matter experts, increasing their value to businesses.
According to Montgomery, who currently owns and serves as the main consultant at Montgomery Consulting, Inc. in Detroit, “Using their electives to gain an insight into multiple industries would be very, very, very helpful.”
When choosing electives for MBA students, Sriram identifies three important factors that they should consider. First, there are electives that will aid in job or internship searching, and second, there are electives that will hone particular talents.
The final factor, according to him, is whether a student would regret not enrolling in a course on a topic that piques their interest.