Some Thoughts on Specialized and Niche Management Programs

Many management programs are offered by leading business schools that specialize in a particular nice or field of management. Prominent among these programs are the specialized courses offered in Systems, HR, and Finance.

For instance, the business schools in Asia like the IIMs (Indian Institute of Management) and XLRI (Xavier Labor Relations Institute) along with the AIM (Asian Institute of Management) in Manila offer postgraduate programs in systems, HR, and industrial relations. This means that students who opt for these courses specialize in these niches apart from the usual management courses that are part of these programs.

The advantages of such programs are that students get a chance to specialize in the niches and they are more likely to be placed in companies that are looking for specialists rather than generalists.

Further, specializing in a niche field is different from specializing in a particular area of management, which students anyway do when they enroll for any management program.

The difference is that specializing in a field as part of the regular management program is all about taking the required electives whereas specializing in a niche program means that students are more focused on the field of management when compared to the former.

The disadvantages of enrolling in a niche management program are that students are slotted into the specialized niches leaving them without the means of applying for all the jobs that regular management program students do.

In other words, when students take electives, they can still manage to get shortlisted by companies because they have been exposed to general management courses during their studies. However, students in specialized programs have to focus on the niche subjects in the second year, which means that their chances of getting shortlisted by companies looking for candidates who have wider expertise are limited. This is the reason why many students shy away from enrolling in specialized niche programs.

Of course, this is not to say that such programs do not find takers. For instance, these programs are highly useful to those who have worked in the IT industry for a few years and want to have a management degree that would complement and supplement their skills. This is the reason why the programs in systems find many takers among those with considerable working experience. This is also the reason why many students with a technological bent of mind enroll in these programs.

Having said that, it must be remembered that there are some institutes like XLRI that are known for certain specialties like HR and Industrial Relations. These institutes offer general management programs as well. However, the perceptions are such that these institutes are slotted as being more suitable for particular management programs. Therefore, one must be careful when applying to such institutes as recruiters view these institutes as being for particular niches. Of course, many companies flock to these institutes for general management students as well.

The point here is that the perceptions matter and hence, it is better to delineate oneself if one is studying in these institutes so that recruiters have an idea about the skills of the students.

In other words, when studying in niche programs or particular institutes, it is better to present a well-rounded resume that has electives based on what the priorities of the student are rather than being slotted according to the program or the institute. This would go a long way in ensuring that companies find the students to be a mix of generalists and specialists in the niche field.

Finally, any management program teaches a lot more about how to prepare oneself for the corporate world and by giving a theoretical foundation, the management programs ensure that students apply theory to practice. Therefore, when one opts for a specialized niche or an institute that is known for certain niches, one must make conscious choices about where one wants to be after the program.

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