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Mastering Specialization: The Road to Indispensability

Mastering Specialization

Otto Graham, the legendary quarterback who played for the Cleveland Browns, offers a valuable life lesson in specialization.

In his early life, Graham was interested in music, initially beginning his college career playing the violin, cornet, and French horn. Later, he developed a passion for basketball, receiving a basketball scholarship at Northwestern University, but then found football his sophomore year, which led him to his post-collegiate fame. Given his talent in a multitude of extracurriculars, Graham had to narrow down his interests and focus on one area in order to be successful.

Through Graham’s journey, he set an example for future football leaders. By focusing on a specialization, he was able to build the skills and abilities to not only achieve his goals, but also led his team to league championships for nine consecutive years. While there are multiple routes to becoming specialized in a specific area, investing your time into a well-thought-out plan can create new opportunities for your personal and professional growth. Just like Graham showed us through his athletic accomplishments, anything is possible when you set your mind to it, no matter if it’s sport- or academic-related.

Becoming specialized in a degree differentiates you and provides ongoing unique opportunities. Research has shown that having a specialized degree can yield greater career benefits, including higher salaries, especially in niche areas like human resources, finance, and marketing. These specialized degrees can also result in greater career mobility, including finding a better job in the same industry or – for those with an entrepreneurial streak – becoming an effective bridge to self-employment.

Learning + Resources Can Lead to Success

Once you determine your area of expertise, how do you refine those skills to distinguish yourself from your competitors? Earning a master’s degree such as a Full-Time or Part-Time MBA can help professionals receive the instruction, exposure, and coaching to become skilled in one's chosen field. Enrolling in a graduate program provides exclusive access to networks that you weren’t a part of before. Often, alumni of higher education institutions are willing to offer internships, interviews, or open positions to students from their alma mater. Graduate schools also employ staff members that serve in career development offices that work to build your resume and connect students with potential employers.

Enrolling in graduate-level education is not a decision to be made lightly. Everyone should consider their circumstances, career and personal aspirations, and level of desire to participate in a rigorous academic pursuit. However, deciding to gain an advanced education can result in a lifetime of opportunities.

Questions to Consider When Choosing a Specialized Degree:

1. Can specialized skills help achieve life and career goals?

As everyone creates their own journey, goals are initiated to help guide them in their path. A central part of the graduate degree process is helping define goals and making them visible. Pepperdine Graziadio is well equipped to help you acquire technical skills in areas like technology, financial acumen, or strategic planning. We believe the graduate experience should focus on your personal growth as you achieve your goals. We continue to inspire purpose-driven leadership, in which students are introduced to ethical, responsible practices to influence their development.

2. Does the industry you seek to work for value specialized skills?

Several professional areas like healthcare, finance, and technology pursue professionals with highly technical skills. With the ability to declare a concentration in a specialized field, graduates complete their programs with the desired skills and experience to fit into niche roles or high-growth industries.

3. Do you have the time and drive to learn specialized skills?

Those who attempt to specialize may work in a fast-paced environment calling for greater quality, speed, and cost advantages. However, there’s no elevator to become an expert, you must climb the stairs. Mastering specialized skills takes time, acting with clear career goals in mind. A master’s degree can help to align and refine specialized skill sets in a structured, focused program.

If the answers to these questions affirm your desire to earn a graduate-level business degree, there are multiple options from which to choose. Pepperdine Graziadio offers a variety of concentrations in business with some distinctive features that can help you achieve personal success.

Specializations at Pepperdine Graziadio

Pepperdine Graziadio offers master’s degrees in business-related fields that can help you achieve your specialization. Below contains a brief overview of the Master of Science (MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Master of Science in Organizational Development (MSOD) programs, along with information about specialized offerings within each program.

Business Analytics (Full-Time, Part-Time MBA and MS)

During our year-long MS in Business Analytics program, you'll attack some of the most common practices businesses utilize today, from both a decision-sciences and information-systems perspective. By solving real-world business problems, the ideas you create will make a lasting and meaningful impact on your professional and personal growth. With a focus on predictive analytics, risk management, optimization modeling, and information technology, our Business Analytics program is designed for students seeking an analytical career in evidence-based organizations that rely on big data.

Digital Innovation and Information Systems (Full-Time, Part-Time MBA)

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) affirm the need for employees who possess the specific knowledge and skills to envision initiatives that span the realms of business, information technology, and innovation. Pepperdine Graziadio’s MBA concentration in Digital Innovation and Information Systems (DIIS) focuses on bridging the gap between business and technology, giving graduates a distinct, specialized advantage in the marketplace.

Entrepreneurship (Full-Time, Part-Time MBA)

We believe entrepreneurship is an innovative profession as it involves starting a new venture with a unique idea — frequently for an inexistent market. The Entrepreneurship concentration at Pepperdine Graziadio is designed to help you tap into your creativity and translate your visions into applicable business strategies that are valuable assets towards succeeding. Students who complete the Entrepreneurship concentration will have the skills to produce a business plan that adequately addresses the Socially, Environmentally, and Ethically Responsible (SEER) business strategy.

Finance (Full-Time, Part-Time MBA and MS)

Professionals seeking careers in accounting, financial planning, banking, corporate finance, and other institutions in the financial sector (or who desire to enter these can gain a competitive advantage through a graduate business degree. Pepperdine Graziadio’s concentration in Finance prepares students for specialized careers in portfolio management, corporate finance, investment banking, financial institutions management, and financial risk management.

Global Business (MS)

Pursuing a graduate degree in Global Business at Pepperdine Graziadio expands the versatile set of skills needed to organize international businesses. Through learning multi-functional business strategies from global thought leaders, you gain international insights that set you apart from the competition. As an added bonus, graduate students get the unique opportunity to spend a trimester studying abroad to receive a complete global perspective.

Leadership and Managing Organizational Change (Full-Time, Part-Time MBA)

A concentration in Leadership and Managing Organizational Change at Pepperdine Graziadio prepares MBA students to lead successful changes in a dynamic business environment. Professionals are exposed to and refine skills in diagnostic frameworks of leadership, consulting, development, and cross-cultural management.

Real Estate (MS)

The MS in Real Estate is designed for professionals who strive for expertise in multiple areas including financial analysis, law, economics, and logical decision-making. The Pepperdine Graziadio Real Estate concentration focuses on industry segments such as real estate investment, development, and asset management. Of particular value, a concentration in Real Estate empowers students to waive the two-year work experience requirement if they commit to taking the California Department of Real Estate broker's license exam.

Organization Development (Part-Time MS)

Managers, especially at the senior level, are entering a new era of practices that affect organizational change. Pepperdine Graziadio offers a hybrid Masters of Science in Organization Development that includes specific research into student-oriented work problems, exposure to professionals in the field, world-renowned faculty, and so much more. Students travel both internationally and domestically to world business hubs for intensive face-to-face courses and invaluable field experience at Fortune 500 companies, leading-edge businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

Here Are Ten Benefits That Can Come with a Specialized Master’s Degree:

1. Upward Career Mobility

The progression of your career matters and is a key reason many people specialize. Specialization can enable upward mobility in an existing or new field. In finance, management, entrepreneurship, or other business disciplines, experts are well-positioned to move up the ladder.

2. Industry and Professional Recognition

Professionals who specialize are more likely to be publicly acknowledged and paid for their time as experts. For example, experts are regularly invited to share their leadership thoughts through speaking engagements or news exposure in trade media.

3. Greater Future Financial Rewards

We have mentioned it before and it remains true earning an MBA is a valuable investment in yourself. Those who earn an MBA generally earn a higher income over the course of their career. The most recent QS Jobs & Salary Report showed the average 10-year return on investment of an MBA is $390,751.

4. Career Stability

The single most important factor for job security is possessing market-relevant skills and experience, which is achieved through a specialized master’s degree. Career stability can give a professional the time and experience to develop even greater expertise to deliver their best performance. In addition, career stability is proven to deliver long-term financial returns for employers and employees.

5. Ability to Attract Customers

Businesses can’t survive without customers. Specialists are well-positioned to attract new clients because they usually know more about their problems and needs, understand the competitive landscape, and maintain stronger networks. Specialists who establish a positive reputation are likely to receive referrals and repeat business.

6. Establish a Network of Other Specialists

A graduate business program will help your professional network grow into new geographies and industries. If you’re looking for a new role, an MBA program is a great opportunity to network with your instructors, peers, professional organizations, and employers. Specialists are also more likely to receive consulting roles or special projects in their desired positions.

7. Learn from Specialized Experts (Both Faculty and Professionals)

At Pepperdine Graziadio, our faculty are industry-thought experts. They bring specific business insights to help our students bridge the gap between theory and practice. Our faculty are personally invested in the success of every student; they eagerly share years of diverse business experience, thought-leadership, and personal teaching styles, all while manifesting our Best for the World Leaders ideology.

8. Ability to Maintain Employment and Earn a Master’s at the Same Time

Not everyone desires or can afford to leave the workforce to earn a graduate degree. Pepperdine Graziadio offers multiple part-time and full-time degrees for working professionals. In addition to a variety of specializations, our Part-Time MBA also requires 14 units of required elective coursework, both inside and outside the classroom.

9. Opportunity to Explore and Choose Your Specialty Area

Pepperdine Graziadio works with students to identify passions, develop ethical frameworks, determine market viability for their skills, identify competitive advantages, and create a go-to-market strategy.

10. Enjoy the Marketing Credential of a Master’s Degree

Once you earn a graduate business degree, it is a credential that maintains its credibility for a lifetime. A graduate business degree is also a basis for continued learning, either through a structured academic setting (e.g., a certificate program) or individual study.

If You’re Not Ready for a Master’s or MBA, a Certification May Be a Good Alternative.

To prepare yourself for an MBA or MS degree, a certification may be a good place to start down the road to specialization. Certificate programs are short-term (usually a few days or weekends), low-cost, and have high rates of completion relative to degree programs. Certificates offer specialized education and training that allows students to develop transferable skill sets, specific to their desired work field.

At Pepperdine Graziadio, we offer non-degree, certificate programs designed to enhance your professional development opportunities which can later be credited towards our graduate degree programs. Our Executive Education Programs offerings span across a wide range of in-demand business skills such as Corporate Social Responsibility, Cyber Risk, Financial Management for the Family Office, Private Capital Markets, and Healthcare Management and Leadership. Any route you decide to take, certificate and degree programs are extremely valuable to anyone. Graduate education isn’t only desirable to employers, but in many cases it is mandatory. Many employers offer education assistance including tuition, time-off, and other resources to advance your skills.

Pepperdine Graziadio Can Set You up for Success and Set You Apart as an Expert.

Specialization through graduate-level education gives you the skills and credibility to pursue your dreams. It offers specific benefits such as career advancement, higher salaries, and industry recognition. Gaining a niche skillset at Pepperdine Graziadio can improve work efficiency and enable you to direct more time and attention to your passions. And to tie it back to Otto Graham’s story, to achieve specialization for maximum benefit, it’s necessary to have a goal and a plan. If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, not the goal.