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Which MBA electives should you choose?

Katie Schenk - October 22, 2019

The best MBA electives for you

A current trend in business school is specialisation. You don’t just get an MBA; you get a finance-driven degree or an entrepreneurship-based curriculum. That means you’ll find a lot of electives, covering almost the complete spectrum of business subjects.

The number of electives offered is definitely part of the sales pitch of many elite MBA programmes. Each one is a way for candidates to get the most from their education and make the most of their careers.

It’s easy to get excited about elective choices at your shortlisted schools.

Business schools offer a lot of MBA electives

Universities themselves get excited about their electives.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business claims their nearly 200 electives are unparalleled. Columbia Business School has more than 200 electives to choose.

Elective courses tend to be lower on the other side of the Atlantic. IESE Business School in Spain offers over 70 elective courses; INSEAD offers more than 75.

Just about every MBA programme makes an effort to brag about their electives, whether they have 50 or 250. They’re suggesting that electives are an important part of their curriculum – and should play a significant role in school selection.

While electives may help sell course specialisations (which attract students and recruiters alike), sometimes there may be too much choice.

Students who are still determining their future career goals may flounder with such a diverse choice of electives.

Meanwhile, students who are on a highly specific career path are likely to know exactly what they need. But that doesn’t mean they will get a space in these classes. Students at INSEAD must bid on their electives. Other schools work on a first-come, first-serve basis when it comes to enrolling in specialised courses.

Can any MBA elective be a bad choice?

When you’re enrolled in a top programme, it’s easy to believe that any class you take will be a good one. You’re working with top professors, covering extensive information, and you have so many top-choice electives that getting into any of them is a good move, right?

Well, sort of.

The mistake many students make is relying on their short-term goals and current understanding of business problems. Or, if they’re changing career direction, they choose the electives that will position them well within their new path.

This isn’t altogether wrong, but it discounts the length of a career and the growth that happens over the years.

And none of this takes into account the offer you accept in the first semester or the new opportunities your internship unlocks. Classes with dull titles could be the most engaging or taught by the best professors. Scheduling concerns and the lottery systems at some schools also factor into the equation.

Which MBA electives should you take?

But there are some electives you would be well advised to take, including those that specialise in soft skills such as communications and presentations. These are rather significant as MBA employers already know they’re getting candidates with strong analytical and problem-solving skills.

It’s also worth reaching out to alumni. Try to get in touch with people who graduated 2 to 5 years ago that have an idea of the current class catalogue.

Then reach out to those that graduated 10 or 20 years ago as they’ll have a career perspective that far surpasses your current understanding.

Don’t discount those alumni in different fields from your own; you never know where you’ll be in a decade or two. Hopefully, you won’t be lamenting the choices you’re about to make regarding elective classes.

Students who focus on electives that offer strong soft skill development are likely to find themselves spoiled for choice when it comes to post-graduation employment. 

Settled on your school and MBA electives already?

We can help you out with the financing you need to attend an international MBA programme - and take those dream electives. 

Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 22, 2019. Originally published on April 30, 2014.

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