- IMD Business School

6 of the most common MBA subjects in 2024

An MBA degree is a route, choosing the right specialisms at the start of your MBA program can give you a competitive, lasting advantage that will stay with you throughout your career. Traditionally, the core elements of an MBA program have included; Finance, Marketing, Human Resources, Operations and Strategy.

More recently with the ever-changing business environment and market needs MBA subject lists have expanded to include topics such as Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, Data & Analytics, Risk Management and Digital & Technological transformation. With a greater emphasis being placed on specializations, and specialist skills.

Below you will discover the 6 most common MBA subjects in 2024:

  1. Entrepreneurship
  2. Financial Management
  3. Operations Management
  4. Sustainability
  5. Human Resources Management
  6. Digital Transformation

1. Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship typically covers a variety of topics that are relevant to starting and growing a successful business. Some of the key areas that may be covered in such a course include:

  • Entrepreneurial mindset and concepts: Understanding the key characteristics and skills that are needed to be successful as an entrepreneur.
  • Business planning and strategy: Developing a clear and effective business plan, including market research, product/service development, and marketing strategies.
  • Financial management: Understanding financial statements, creating budgets and projections, and making sound financial decisions.
  • Marketing and sales: Understanding how to reach and persuade potential customers, including traditional marketing techniques and digital marketing.
  • Operations and management: Developing effective systems for managing people, processes, and technology to ensure the success of the business.
  • Legal and ethical considerations: Understanding the legal and ethical issues that arise in starting and running a business, such as contracts, intellectual property, and privacy.
  • Networking and entrepreneurship ecosystem: Building relationships with other entrepreneurs and stakeholders, such as investors and service providers.

Some MBA programs may focus on a specific industry or sector, such as technology or social entrepreneurship, while others may be more broadly focused on the key concepts and skills that are relevant across all types of businesses.

Discover IMD’s approach to entrepreneurship in our full-time MBA »

2. Financial Management

“Cash is King” so the saying goes, indicating the importance of cash-flow to running a successful business.

Most companies experience losses and negative cash flows during their startup period. Financial management is extremely important during this time. Managers must make sure that they have enough cash on hand to pay employees and suppliers even though they have more money going out than coming in during the early months of the business.

This is where astute financial management is critical to a business. As a business grows and matures, it will need more cash to finance its growth. Planning and budgeting for these financial needs is crucial.

Typically, an MBA program module on financial management will go in-depth into regulation, taxation, reporting and operational control systems. Additionally, many programs now place a heavy emphasis on the financial aspect of Mergers & Acquisitions as well as the growing impact of cryptocurrencies on business operations and the future of finance.

You’re likely to find that there are many benefits of a master degree in this field, among them money management, organization, and data analysis. Such skills can aid you not only in your career but in every facet of your life.

3. Operations Management

One of the most common subjects in MBA programs among the majority of business schools is operations management. This subject area offers a global perspective on industry trends to meet client demand. Also, with a boom in technology, agile innovation has led to solving the age-old problem of integrating operations and innovation.

Smooth and efficient business operations cannot be overlooked, it is an essential element to overall business success. Effective operations management can help a business to:

  • Increase efficiency and productivity
  • Improve quality and consistency of products and services
  • Reduce costs and waste Enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Enable faster response times to market changes and customer needs
  • Optimize the use of resources, such as labor, equipment, and inventory
  • Manage risk and ensure compliance with regulations and standards

Overall, operations management plays a critical role in achieving a company’s strategic objectives and in achieving long-term success. A comprehensive MBA program will build the skills to lead successful business operations in both large and small organizations.

4. Sustainability

One of the hottest topics for any businesses, and in many MBA programs is Sustainability. Whilst there are many facets of the topic of sustainability, and this topic may also cross-over into other key subjects within an MBA there is a growing need for modules focusing solely on sustainability.

This would cover ecological and social awareness, sustainable leadership and progressive thinking. Some programs put distinct focus on entrepreneurship as well as leadership skills and components like green technology.

It is widely accepted that sustainability, the environment, and energy economics represent some of the most challenging risks facing businesses today, as well as some of the most exciting opportunities. From climate change, environment to energy economics, the success of business in the future will depend on how companies address these challenges and align themselves with the needs of society and the environment.

Building a solid foundation of strategic thinking within the sustainability space is a vital part of many modern MBA programs.

Learn more about how sustainability is a core theme of IMD’s MBA »

5. Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management has been a staple part of many MBA programs for a long time, and is a key element of business administration. As a module within an MBA program you’ll focus on recruitment, people management, and providing direction and guidance for the people who work in an organization.

Human Resources departments provide the necessary tools, training, administrative services, talent management, legal, and management advice that an organization needs for successful operations.

Historically Human Resources has been seen as the ‘hiring and firing’ team, however modern day HR teams are becoming more of a strategic business unit. HR teams no longer just responsible for recruiting and training new employees or managing compensations and employee relations, the HR function now involves strategic decision-making or handling special situations related to mergers or layoffs.

Discover how HR teams are changing as hybrid working becomes mainstream »

6. Digital Transformation

The topic of digital transformation is focused on helping organizations build a digital culture by grooming a workforce who can leverage emerging digital technologies to transform business.

MBA program with modules on digital transformation will likely cover:

  • Get the right mix of business intelligence and digital skillsets
  • Develop new thinking and insights into how to lead and thrive in the digital era
  • Manage digital business processes and acquire the knowledge and skills needed to support digital transformation initiatives
  • Develop an understanding of different innovation processes and platforms and their usage for digital transformation
  • Obtain the right skills to become future leaders and executives, manage both people and machines and business and technology staff

📝 Read the two key paths to digital transformation by IMD Prof. Michael Wade »

Other MBA subjects to look out for

  • Business fundamentals: this covers the building blocks of corporate management and organizational context in five components.
  • International business development: this involves consulting projects for corporate clients and NGOs.
  • ‘Discovery Expedition‘: this explores the political and cultural obstacles to improving social, economic and business conditions in a foreign region.
  • ‘Navigating The Future’: this MBA subject will enable you to assess major global trends and their likely consequences for market evolution, business models and stakeholder interests.
  • Executive leadership skills: this deals with leadership challenges and dilemmas.
  • Individual learning agendas: these include leadership coaching, focusing on personal development goals and career strategies.
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