A master of business administration (MBA) degree is a useful tool for success in business. While you complete this degree, you can make yourself even more employable by completing degree requirements in a second subject area at the same time. This second area can be one of the core subjects of an MBA, such as finance, marketing, strategy or economics. It could also be in a completely different area, such as information technology (IT), entrepreneurship or healthcare. (For more, see Traditional MBA or Business Graduate Degree?)
Specialization vs. Double Major vs. Dual Degree
In addition to general MBA degree programs, many colleges now include specialization as part of the curriculum. Specialization simply means that you take a specified number of upper-level courses in a related field in addition to meeting requirements for an MBA. You could, for example, earn an MBA with specialization (often referred to as concentration) in finance.
An MBA double major involves more time and coursework than specialization, as you would complete degree requirements in two areas, not just take additional courses. You would, however, end up with only one degree, such as a master of business administration in finance.
The next level is known as a joint or dual degree program. A joint MBA consists of a single curriculum that integrates two programs at one school and a dual program involves two separate curriculums at the same or different schools. In either case the result is two degrees, such as a master of business administration and master’s in finance. Dual degrees take more time and cost more than a double major.
Getting Into a 'Quick' Double Major Program
One easy way to achieve a double major is to start with a specialized curriculum and carefully plan coursework, including electives, to complete degree requirements in two disciplines. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School offers 19 MBA majors, including entrepreneurship & innovation, accounting, finance and healthcare management. According to the school, “Courses may count toward more than one major, giving you the option to pursue a double major.” In this case you would end up with training in three areas, your general MBA plus two majors. Wharton says that approximately 40% of its students complete their MBA this way.
Do-It-Yourself Double Major
You can create your own double major by choosing to specialize or take coursework in a second area of interest while pursuing your general MBA. If you decide to follow this DIY approach, it’s important to meet with counselors from both degree programs to take advantage of classes that might count toward both majors. The more closely related both areas are, the more likely there will be common courses that will help you cut down the time and expense involved in pursuing a double major.
Three MBA Double Majors to Boost Your Value
Any of the academic options listed above – specialization, double major or dual degree – could be used to boost your value in the job market. As double major falls in the middle, an examination of three of the highest-paying areas of MBA concentration, with a focus on a double major approach, could be helpful in deciding if the extra time and effort is worthwhile.
According to PayScale, the top-earning MBA area in 2017 was strategy. MBA strategy majors made $94,800 early in their careers, which was $13,900 more than any other field of study. Mid-career pay was also highest, at $150,000, representing a boost of $55,200 from starting pay. Strategy specialists are “big picture” people, well equipped to help a company improve its performance. As a strategy major you may increase your chances of ending up in the c-suite as CEO or in another top management position. You will study the history of business decisions – both good and bad – to help you arrive at your own corporate philosophy. Strategy is a versatile discipline and could lead to employment in consulting or in the world of startups and entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship ranked second overall, with a less-impressive early career paycheck of $70,300 per year but a mid-career average of $139,000, a difference of $68,700 between that and starting pay. While many entrepreneurship majors hope to start their own companies, there are plenty of jobs in corporations and organizations for creative, innovative workers. As an entrepreneurship major you could find yourself in mid-level management, consulting, sales, research and development (R&D), not-for-profit fundraising or teaching. (For more, see Is Majoring in Entrepreneurship a Good Idea?)
Like entrepreneurs, corporate finance majors get off to a slower start with early career pay of just $77,900 but make up for it with mid-career compensation that averages $138,000. As part of your finance course of study, you would develop analytical skills and the ability to dissect complicated financial reports and documents. As money is the bottom line in business, there are many jobs available inside and outside the corporate world, including financial planner, investment analyst, investor relations associate, actuary, accountant, commercial real estate and teacher. (For more, see 4 Ways to Get a Head Start on Your Financial Career.)
The Bottom Line
In a competitive market you need every edge you can get. A double major consisting of an MBA with an additional area of specialization helps you achieve that edge. Plan carefully, including consulting with appropriate university counselors in both areas, to minimize completion time by choosing a second major that complements your MBA. (For more, see 7 Tips to Help Land That Internship.)