Essential information about the MBA degree programs
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is an internationally-recognized graduate-level degree that develops the skills required for careers in business and management. The value of the MBA, however, is not limited strictly to the business world. An MBA can also be useful for those pursuing a managerial career in the public sector, as well as government and the nonprofit sectors.
An MBA degree is a program usually taken by candidates with at least a few years of professional experience who are looking to accelerate their careers or switch roles into a new function, industry or geography (or all three). Successfully completing an MBA can lead to a major salary boost and a massively expanded network of professional contacts.
Here’s a brief history of the MBA: First introduced at universities in the United States around the turn of the 20th century, MBA programs have evolved to keep up with the demands of the times. Harvard University, in 1908, was reportedly the first business school to introduce an MBA program. Within the coming decades, many American business schools, including those at Wharton and Stanford, also launched MBA programs.
While the United States was the 'birthplace’ of the Master of Business Administration, today, it is clearly a global degree. In 1948, Canada’s Western University’s Ivey Business School launched the first MBA program outside of the US; in Europe, the business school Insead launched an MBA in 1957.
Today, MBA programs are offered all over the world, in countries including the United Kingdom, China, France, Brazil, Singapore, Germany, Mexico, Malaysia, South Africa, Spain, and more.
Although most MBA programs are offered in English, many are offered in other languages, including Spanish, French, German and Mandarin Chinese. As business globalizes, business education is not far behind.
Indeed, the MBA is currently the most popular professional business degree program in the world, and the flagship degree offered by business schools globally. Today, FIND MBA lists over 7,500 MBA programs offered by more than 2,200 business schools worldwide.
An MBA is academically rigorous and the admissions process is competitive. Beyond the actual definition of an MBA, there are also several different varieties of MBA programs, which complicates things.
What is an MBA? Choosing the right course
There are several different types of MBA programs to choose from, whether full-time or part-time, online or in-person. In the US, the birthplace of the MBA and where the qualification remains essential for many business and management roles, it is still primarily a two-year degree taken full-time with students pursuing an internship during the summer between the first and second years of the program. However, one-year MBA programs have become increasingly popular, especially in Europe, because they lower the opportunity cost of not working.
A part-time MBA is typically defined as a degree for professionals who do not want to put their career on pause to go back to school on a full-time basis. An Online MBA is defined as an MBA which is delivered through distance learning. Interest in Online MBA programs has ramped-up during the Covid-19 pandemic, with more top-ranked institutions launching digital degrees. Also widely available are Executive MBA (EMBA) programs, which is defined as a part-time program targeted at professionals with more years of managerial experience than traditional MBA candidates.
What is an MBA? An international experience
When it comes to the academic experience, most MBA programs of any type will include a “core” curriculum of subjects that students are required to take. This gives candidates a solid and broad foundation in general management concepts and all the key disciplines: accounting and finance; leadership and organizational behavior; marketing; technology and operations management; strategy; economics; entrepreneurship and innovation.
In addition to the required core, students can choose from a wide range of elective courses to build on the basic concepts and tailor the curriculum to their professional interests and personal tastes. Further, some business schools require that MBA candidates complete an internship at an organization of their choosing, which can lead to concrete job opportunities after graduation. At some institutions, students may wish to work on their own business venture over the summer.
Most schools will teach through such experiential projects and through case method classes, multimedia simulations and other practical teaching methods such as international field trips, which give MBA students the chance to apply the theory in practice and build leadership experience. Student clubs and associations also play an important role in the MBA student experience.
What are MBA admissions?
Admissions to business school are competitive. Quality schools generally require that candidates have at least three years of professional work experience before starting an MBA program. Traditionally, applicants have been asked to submit a standardized test score such as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), but many schools have now made admissions testing optional.
Candidates are generally still required to submit academic transcripts, letters of reference, and an essay or statement of purpose that reflects why they want to pursue an MBA or answers a more specific question set by the school. Non-native English speakers usually have to prove adequate English skills with TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores, or through previous academic experience. From there, there is usually an interview process with a member of the admissions team or alumni of the MBA program, either in person or virtually.
Tuition fees vary significantly between MBA programs, but at the highest-ranking institutions they will run into six-figure sums. However, most schools now offer generous financial aid, everything from tuition assistance programs (needs and merit based scholarships that help offset the cost of attending schooling) to summer fellowships that support candidates through their internships, or career support (financial assistance programs after graduation such as loan reduction and repayment schemes).
What is an MBA? A strong return on investment
Many graduates of MBA programs report a strong return on their initial investment, with the degree being highly valued by employers across the globe. In addition, there has been a massive geographic expansion of MBA programs over the past four decades as employer demand around the world has soared.