Even companies like Whole Foods, CVS and The Home Depot can now be considered tech companies in one way or another, which is why students pursuing an MBA degree can benefit from a concentration in technology, some observers say.
“We’re at a moment in time where we’re seeing tech in everything these days,” says Tina Mabley, assistant dean and director of full-time MBA programs at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.
Rapid technological advancements are shaping every industry, she says, and a focus on technology within an MBA program better prepares students to navigate those changes.
“We’re looking for students to be tech-savvy leaders in whatever industry they go into,” she says.
Artificial intelligence has also become integrated into all aspects of the business environment, says Manuel Nuñez, associate dean of graduate programs and a professor in Villanova University’s School of Business in Pennsylvania.
“The story of AI is one of very broad and continuing integration across all industries,” he says. “Having a fundamental understanding of AI’s application, limitations and risks represents a really important piece of the competencies that we think current and future business leaders are going to have to develop.”
Tech MBA Curricula and Courses
More MBA students are pursuing a concentration in technology, and it’s now the third most popular specialization at NYU behind consulting and investment banking, according to J.P. Eggers, vice dean of MBA and graduate programs and an endowed professor of entrepreneurship at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
One of Villanova’s seven MBA concentrations is in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Alumni have come back to the school and explained how their job now requires them to have some knowledge of AI, Nuñez says.
“So when we were redesigning our MBA curriculum a couple of years ago, we were thinking about what the future of work looks like and what does the future business leader look like?” he says. “That all factored into this introduction of the AI specialization.”
The concentration helps students connect the dots between a rapidly evolving area of technology and the business challenges and opportunities they will face on a daily basis. Coursework involves predictive and generative AI and how they coexist, applied AI and classes focused on the ethics of AI and how to use it in a morally positive manner.
“The potential for social impact is really tremendous,” Nuñez says. “There exists real opportunity to make advances in solving some of the world’s most intractable problems, so while we talk a lot about the sinister side of AI, it’s really important to discuss there is also an incredible potential for good.”
In NYU’s MBA tech program, Eggers says rather than specific AI courses, elements of AI are spread throughout different courses, including data, business analytics, foundations of networks and mobile systems, tech evolution and economics, industry immersion and more.
Here are some other B-schools that offer an MBA concentration, specialization or emphasis in technology:
Salaries and Careers for Tech MBA Specialists
Candidates with specialized knowledge in tech are often able to command higher compensation, Nuñez says.
Stephen Rakas, executive director of the Masters Career Center at Tepper, says the school’s MBA graduates working in the technology industry received a mean starting salary of about $140,000. By comparison, those working in consulting had a mean starting salary of about $165,000, or $145,000 if they went into financial services.
Experts note that this is generally consistent regardless of business school – MBA graduates in consulting make the most, followed by banking and then technology as well as other specialties.
“There’s not a drastic difference,” Rakas says, “But consulting is known as sort of a flagship payer, because it’s a much different work-life balance.”
Earnings can vary widely, as other factors such as job location, reputation of the school where the MBA was earned and work experience also factor into compensation.
“We’re not seeing a massive number of people going into entrepreneurship directly, starting their own businesses,” Eggers says, “but rather going in as employee No. 7 or 8 at a startup has become a pretty common path, especially for the tech MBAs.”
Having a basic understanding in tech is critical for any MBA-level job, says Maureen Manion-Leone, associate dean and executive director of the Graduate Career Management Center at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Georgia.
Geographic Considerations for Tech MBA Graduates
“Five years ago, everyone felt that they had to be in Silicon Valley to work in tech,” Manion-Leone says, “but now, after COVID, I feel like things opened up.”
The explosion of tech in the Atlanta area is a prime example, she says.
“There was a window in time where if you wanted to go as a post-MBA and work for Amazon,” Eggers says, “you had to go to Seattle, and same thing with Google and ‘the Valley.’”
While that traditionally was the expectation of MBA tech grads, he says, it’s no longer the case.
Students now have great flexibility in location, Mabley says, which has created many different opportunities for MBA grads. Amazon and Google are among the many companies with offices around the world.
“All of the big technology companies now recognize that both real estate-wise and human capital-wise, continuing to be focused in one specific area of the country was a bad strategy for them,” Eggers says.