Choosing an Education Concentration for Your Management Aspirations

For many, the path for education may seem to be obvious for an aspiring manager. However, the development of the employment landscape and the additional value being placed on soft science and different types of intelligence has opened up opportunities for those of non-traditional educational backgrounds. While the demand for MBA grads has continued to rise, as has the demand for other capable managers from a variety of educational and vocational concentrations, particularly those of communications and psychology. However there are certain characteristics that are widely sought after that you should factor in when mapping your educational trajectory. This post will outline the skills you should emphasize when choosing a concentration to further your management skills.

Hands on Training

One of the biggest issues that often occurs with managers is their lack of real life experience. Even the most highly educated graduates often lack experience with direct management. While they often possess the necessary mental capabilities and knowledge necessary to be an effective manager, having a degree does not a manager make. It requires a certain temperament, patience and level of emotional intelligence to effectively manage others. While most institutions do a wonderful job preparing students with the necessary understanding of organizational structure, leadership theory and best practices, it is often very difficult to bestow the necessary interpersonal and practical skills needed in a classroom setting.

Many schools are moving towards a more experience-oriented approach to business education. Schools like the University of Oklahoma, Brigham Young University and others have transitioned to an integrated business core that requires students to launch and operate their own entrepreneurial ventures. Each member of the organization is delegated an office in the company and the group is graded on the collective success. While this small scale operation does not reflect all of the challenges you will face in a business, this sort of hands on learning is tremendously valuable in teaching both the practical and interpersonal skills necessary for effective leadership.

Soft Skills

55% of employers prefer graduates to have a broad knowledge set. While job-specific skills are certainly desirable, it is important to be able to apply your skills and knowledge to a variety of situations and subject matters. This will improve your ability to effectively manage and to do so dynamically. Often situations that arise in the work place are not something that you can adequately plan for. Having experience in a myriad of situations and a well-rounded education equips you to deal with the crazy mix of problems that managers are confronted with on a daily basis. For this reason, it may be of value to take a broad approach to education and take electives and general courses that further your understanding of others. Understanding the motivations and communication habits of your employees can be a tremendous asset to a manager. Courses in communications and behavioral psychology, while often not required, can be a great addition to your management arsenal.


Many graduate programs require a year of work experience. If this is something you lack when applying as an undergrad, it can set you back in pursuing your educational goals. For that reason, it is best to get as much applicable experience during your undergraduate career as possible. Many schools require internships, but if yours does not, make sure to pursue them anyway. It is rare that schools will not give you academic credit, so make sure to take advantage.

This can be a great way to check off that box on your graduate application as well as make yourself more marketable when looking for work. The more experience you can acquire, the better. Continue extending your internship into the summer or interning at multiple companies to broaden your horizons a bit. Having at least a year of job experience under your belt is extremely valuable and may help you gain some insight into what you would like to pursue in your graduate studies and vocation.

There are many desirable qualities companies covet in management. The more effective management techniques and strategies you can learn while in school, the sooner you will be able to hit the ground running when you are placed in a leadership position. Do your best to diversify your education and develop interpersonal and communication skills in a variety of environments. The more versatility and skills you can demonstrate, the more enticing you will be as a managerial candidate.

Image credit goes to flickr user Innovate 360


Kirk Kerr

About Kirk Kerr

Kirk Kerr is a recent alumnus of the College of Idaho and a lifelong learner and lover of education. When he’s not pushing his nose into a great fiction novel, he is developing his writing portfolio.

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