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What is an MBA Degree? | A Guide

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Acquiring a graduate degree of any type is a big deal. For many, the flexibility and functionality of an MBA make it the go-to degree choice for post-bachelor’s education. This degree is applicable to many business industries, marks students as genuinely exceptional, and often increase earning potential across a lifetime.

But what if you’re not sure what an MBA is or why it’s worthwhile? This page breaks down what this degree is in detail. It will also explore what an MBA program involves, why it’s worth it, and how to choose the right program for your needs.

MBA Explained

An MBA is a Master of Business Administration. As a graduate degree, it is only available to those who have completed a bachelor’s degree program. It’s also available to those who pursue a compressed bachelor’s + master’s accelerated program.

While Harvard University first introduced the MBA in 1908, it’s now a staple graduate degree. You can find these degrees offered by schools worldwide both for in-person programs and online. Regardless, MBAs are highly desirable for their:

  • Applicability to a wide range of business contexts or industries
  • Ability to equip future business leaders, entrepreneurs, and executives with needed skills
  • Networking opportunities to widen one’s social circle

However, MBA programs also offer versatility. They teach extensive business knowledge and incorporate many different concepts. They are not specialized, but this is their strength. These degrees prepare students to handle business challenges and tasks. They incorporate instructional material on leadership, business organization, operations management, and supply chains, to name a few topics.

MBAs are, in many ways, default graduate degrees for those who don’t wish to specialize in one area or another. If a student wants to start their own business or achieve an executive position at some point, an MBA program is a smart choice.

Who is an MBA Degree Suitable For?

Unlike many other graduate degrees, MBA degrees are suitable for practically everyone in the business world. There’s no such thing as a “typical” MBA graduate or student. However, most MBA students pursue careers in the business or finance industries. They often become entrepreneurs, executives, or middle to high-level managers.

An MBA teaches management and business skills. These skills are applicable across finance, manufacturing, IT and software development, and much more. In many ways, these programs teach students skills that can serve them well for decades after graduation.

MBAs are also great for students who wish to pivot or change their careers later in life. The skills learned can be applied relatively easily to different jobs or industries.

Therefore, an MBA degree might be a good idea if you want to:

  • Lead a company in the future
  • Start your own company at some point
  • Have greater responsibilities in a company
  • Be a supervisor of some kind, as such positions usually lead to higher salaries
  • Learn more management skills

Offerings of an MBA Program

MBA programs involve many factors, and they’re not always easy to get into. In fact, many of the best degree programs — both in-person and online — have strict admissions requirements. They also offer a wide range of academic courses. Let’s break down the offerings of an MBA degree in detail.

Typical Courses in MBA Programs

Although specifics may vary, most MBA program curriculums fall into two distinct parts. The first part covers core courses. These broadly go over the foundational knowledge necessary for general management and business leadership. The first part of a program may include classes like:

  • Business communication
  • Business ethics and morals
  • Accounting and finance
  • Business strategy
  • Economics
  • Business leadership
  • Marketing strategies and principles
  • Business operations and supply chain fundamentals

The second part of an MBA program includes elective courses. Students may select elective courses that match their career goals or ambitions the best. Electives are usually specialized and fall under a concentration. Possible elective topics include but are not limited to:

  • Sustainability
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Nonprofit management
  • HR management
  • IT management and technology integration
  • Artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies

Different schools offer different electives and core courses. Across most universities, the core courses are similar to each other. But electives can vary widely from school to school.

Ideal Jobs for MBA Graduates

MBA degree holders are qualified for lots of different jobs. Depending on one’s industry or interests, graduates can acquire jobs with titles like:

Many big companies like to recruit graduates straight from college campuses. This can make acquiring a job after graduation quick and easy for those who need employment ASAP.

Average Salaries for MBA Graduates

Because those with MBAs can acquire such a wide range of jobs, estimating average salaries is difficult. However, the average salary for MBA graduates is $92,000 at the beginning of their careers. This is significantly higher than the national average and prepares graduates for future financial success.

As MBA graduates acquire additional career responsibilities and skills, they often clear six figures. Many graduates earn excellent salaries over their lifetimes. This more than pays for any debt incurred to acquire a Master in Business Administration degree in the first place.

There’s other evidence for the financial value of this degree. According to the Wall Street Journal, a 2018 study indicated that the median salary for MBA degree holders increases by 50% after acquiring their degrees. In other words, graduates saw their wages double on average after receiving this degree.

Therefore, students who wish to stay in the same field or company can still benefit from acquiring an MBA degree. Of course, they will likely have increased job responsibilities, but these are well worth the increased salary for many.

MBA Program Types

MBA programs come in a wide range of types. Different degree programs suit different students depending on their budgets, time constraints, and goals.

  • Full-Time MBA

Full-time MBA programs appeal to students who can focus on their education for between one and two years.

Some schools offer accelerated degrees of one year. The standard timeframe, in contrast, is two years. Regardless, both degree schedules are rigorous, intense, and require a lot of concentration. Intended for full-time students, these programs appeal to those who want to acquire their degrees ASAP.

Many full-time MBAs are also so-called “cohort MBAs.” With a cohort, students progress through course materials with other students. There’s no opportunity to skip classes or proceed at your own pace. On the positive side, the cohort schedule means students have extra opportunities to socialize and form contacts for their future careers.

Full-time MBAs are ideal for those with ample time and concentration to focus on their degrees. They are not suitable for those who have to work simultaneously.

  • Part-Time MBA

Instead, part-time MBAs may be better for working professionals or those who have busy lives. Part-time programs usually take over two years. Their classes occur on the weekends, evenings, or in blended formats. Many part-time programs are also available either partly or entirely online.

Part-time programs contain the same rigorous course materials as full-time programs. This may make them more affordable for many students, as the programs’ total costs aren’t always due until near the end.

Part-time MBAs do sometimes have fewer socializing or networking opportunities. But they still prepare professionals for excellent careers in business management or administration.

  • Executive MBA

Executive MBA programs are specialized and intended for working, executive-level professionals. These degree programs are perfect for those who already have executive or management roles in big companies. In many cases, executive MBAs are paid for in part or entirely by employing organizations.

Depending on the program’s specifics, executive programs could be part-time, blended, or include classes in international locations. The course materials for executive programs focus more on business projects and leadership. Future entrepreneurs and CEOs of startups prefer an executive MBA program. They sometimes follow the cohort style, but not always. These programs take between one and two years.

Note that most executive MBAs are pretty intense. Students need to commit fully to these programs to get the most value.

  • Online MBA

Online MBAs frequently incorporate the pacing or schedule restrictions of the above discussed programs. But their defining attribute is their online nature.

Online MBA programs offer most or all of their course materials online. Thus, the majority of online programs have asynchronous course completion schedules. That means students may complete course materials at a pace that works best for them and their schedules. These programs are as academically rigorous as in-person programs.

Some online MBAs also offer excellent student support and teacher connection resources depending on the university chosen. Thus, online students may get counseling, have direct conversations with professors, and see other benefits through video conferencing software or learning platforms.

Most online programs take between one and two years, with the majority leaning toward the two-year mark. Many online programs are perfect for working professionals or those with busy lives. Since online MBAs are not geographically limited, it’s possible to attend online programs from out of state. These programs are great if you want to attend a specific school, but that school is too far away.

  • International MBA

International MBA programs take place primarily overseas. They attract students from a diverse range of countries. Their course materials emphasize global markets, worldwide commercial trends and concepts, and more.

Depending on the program’s country of origin, that country may play a more significant role. For instance, an international MBA program from France may incorporate French language or culture classes. But all international programs include a rich offering of core business classes.

Some international MBAs require students to take business trips around the globe. Their capstone or final projects often involve helping businesses in foreign locations or cities. These programs can be great opportunities to see the world or connect with entrepreneurs in other countries.

Specializations for MBA Degrees

Although all MBAs are Masters of Business And ministration, many come with concentration or specialization options. Concentrations are excellent ways for students to narrow their focus and tailor their education to their specific interests and needs.

Different universities offer varying specializations for their MBAs. These include but are not limited to:

Any of these concentrations could prepare a student for an excellent career in any number of industries. Students declare specialties before or at the beginning of their MBA program. However, some programs allow students to choose concentrations later during their programs.

Depending on the concentration chosen, class compositions may differ slightly. For example, a student pursuing an accounting MBA will necessarily take more accounting classes. A student pursuing a global management MBA will have more courses emphasizing global market trends and concepts.

Some students may wish to pursue MBAs with concentrations drawn from information learned during their bachelor’s programs. Ultimately, it’s up to each student to decide what concentration, if any, they want to pursue. Some programs do not require students to have a specialization and are truly generalized. These versatile degrees are suitable for many different business or executive environments.

Average Cost for an MBA Program

The average cost for an MBA program depends heavily on the university, state, and student location. Generally, out-of-state students have to pay more money than students in the same state as their university.

The tuition for an MBA can range from as little as $6,000 to $220,000. Thus, each year could be only a few thousand dollars or over $100,000. Typically, online programs are less expensive than in-person programs, though this is not universally true.

Furthermore, executive MBA programs are often more expensive. They include business trips and other perks that indicate higher value to prospective students. Again, this isn’t always true, but students should be aware of pricing trends when looking for online or other MBA programs.

If a student takes an accelerated MBA program, they might get a discount. Such “4+1” programs advertise full MBA graduation in five years. They include a four-year bachelor’s degree program plus another year-long, accelerated MBA course schedule.

Since schooling takes less time than a traditional six-year plan, students may pay less. Fortunately, MBA programs offer more scholarships than most areas in education. Students can frequently find scholarships, financial aid opportunities, or internships to help them pay for the cost.

This is doubly true if they work for the university offering the program. Some universities even provide discounted MBAs for students who work for partnered organizations or businesses. Students interested in acquiring MBAs on a budget should do a lot of research before selecting a program.

MBA Program Admissions Requirements

Although the admissions requirements for MBA programs can vary, they are usually somewhat strict. To get into an MBA program, one needs to have several academic and other attributes.

GPA Requirements

Firstly, MBA programs typically require a GPA or grade point average of 2.5 or better. While the occasional university may accept students with lower GPAs, these schools are rare. A 2.5 GPA is close to a C average in general. If a student doesn’t have a 2.5 GPA from their bachelor’s degree, they may need to take a few extra classes. These can improve one’s GPA before applying to a program.

Of course, accelerated or 4+1 MBA programs don’t have the same GPA requirement. Instead, students must meet the GPA benchmark for the bachelor’s portion of the degree program. Then, if they fail to graduate or their GPA drops below a certain minimum, they may not be able to complete the master’s portion of the program.

Students should check with individual school admissions departments for GPA requirements not listed on an MBA program’s website.

Exam Requirements

Most, but not all, schools also require applicants to take entrance exams. These include the GRE or GMAT. These graduate-level tests have both multiple-choice questions and some written portions. It’s a good idea for students to study for at least one of these two exams and take them promptly. If needed, students can take the exams multiple times to possibly increase their scores and the likelihood of program acceptance.

However, some regionally or nationally accredited schools don't require entrance exams. Some schools are also offering exam waivers due to limitations the COVID pandemic placed on sitting for these exams. Once again, students should investigate the requirements for their specific schools before starting their application packages.

Course Prerequisites

Most MBA programs require bachelor’s degrees in business or a related topic. These programs frequently include any prerequisite courses necessary to begin an MBA program.

Students from a nonbusiness school undergraduate background may need to complete a few prerequisites before entering a program.

In some cases, online MBAs may waive course prerequisite requirements if a student has other attributes or advantages. The same is true for in-person or brick-and-mortar programs. For example, suppose a student already has several years of business managerial experience. In that case, they may not need to take prerequisite courses.

Personal Essay

Many MBA programs require students to submit at least one personal essay. The essay should break down why the student wants to acquire the Master of Business Administration degree. The paper should also highlight the student’s significant achievements, desires, and career ambitions.

The personal essay often acts as a tiebreaker for MBA programs with limited seats. For example, suppose both students have nearly identical GPAs and other academic elements. In that case, their personal essays may sway the admissions department to choose one or the other.

Therefore, students should spend time on their personal essays. Students should tweak their pieces to perfection and ensure they are free of typos or grammar issues.


Lastly, some MBA programs also include interviews. University staff, a business professor, or others may conduct these interviews. If the program is online, interviews could be online as well.

Find Your Online MBA Here!

MBAs are valuable and versatile degree options perfect for future entrepreneurs, executives, or managers of any type. They incorporate course topics from a wide range of disciplines. These degree programs are available in person, online, and in several different formats.

Because of these factors, there’s undoubtedly an MBA program perfect for you! GetEducated has a detailed list of all the best online MBA programs. You can check it out today or explore other online schools for alternative degree programs.

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