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Specialized MBAs Help Job Seekers Stand Out

A well-rounded education may still be crucial for today’s business leaders but companies are increasingly desperate for executives with specialized expertise, particularly in areas such as cybersecurity and cyber policy.

The so-called credential creep has led to more job seekers touting Master of Business Administration degrees on their resumes, especially since higher education proved a big draw during the recent recession. So differentiation is key to attracting better offers.

Focused graduate degrees help companies breach the skills gap, particularly in relatively new fields like cybersecurity. Specialized programs better prepare students to lead complex organizations by providing them with sophisticated expertise along with an MBA's general management skills.

Business schools including New York’s Utica College are responding to companies’ and executives’ needs by creating graduate programs that offer special skill sets. Utica, for example, offers MBA students six different areas of expertise including cybersecurity, accounting and health care. It also allows students to fashion their own specializations, all for less than $20,000 for the 2-½ years of the program.

Cybersecurity is an especially sought-after specialty in the wake of high-profile hacking attacks on Target, Home Depot, Sony, Anthem Blue Cross and affiliates and others. Cyber crime isn’t just a technology matter: The ripple effect from being a victim can spread to every area of a company and severely damage all of its relationships.

Headline-making hack attacks have made it clear to corporate leaders that it’s crucial for them to understand the risks and business implications, so they can make the right decisions and respond well to threats.

“Managing cyber risk is fast becoming an essential leadership skill” for combating both cyber criminals and large-scale industrial espionage, Mike Loginov, chief cyber strategist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Security, told the BusinessBecause website. Cybersecurity MBA degrees can bridge the gap between technologists and executive boards, Loginov said.

There is, however, a shortage of cybersecurity professionals, particularly network-security experts, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

Education is the most important key to fighting cyber crime, and everyone from employees to boards of directors needs to understand the new dangers, David Upton, a professor at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, wrote in the Harvard Business Review in January 2015.

Employers around the world are also emphasizing data management and analytical skills in their hiring processes, given the recent gush of data creation and the need to make sense of it.

Some experts estimate that 90 percent of existing data have been created just since 2011, according to U.S. News & World Report. The U.S. alone is facing a shortage of thousands of managers with understanding of business operations and with the ability to draw decision-driving insights from vast amounts of data. This has led to abundant opportunities for MBA graduates with those skills, the news organization says.

Health care companies, from hospitals to biotechs and pharmaceuticals, are also desperate for managers with MBAs and specific health or science expertise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, a much faster rate than other occupations. Demand is stemming from the aging of the large baby-boom population, even as new regulations come into play from the Affordable Care Act.

In general, MBA degrees lead to more competitive salaries. Nine out of 10 employers expected to hire just as many or more business school graduates in 2015 as the year before, and to pay them more, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2014 year-end poll. MBA specialists stand out from this widely-courted pack.

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