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What is an MBA?

February 16, 2021 | Staff Writers

What is an MBA
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Many believe that a bachelor’s degree is all that is needed to rise up the corporate ladder. After all, four years of classes and really digging into a major is no small feat. But as the world turns to more technical solutions, understanding the ins-and-outs of a business becomes even more necessary. Knowing how to handle stocks or what it takes to merge and acquire businesses are just a few of the more advanced techniques managers and executives need to grasp.

Having an MBA not only broadens job horizons, it builds upon the basics and allows business students to develop a sharper edge in their field of choice, depending on their discipline.

What is a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree?

The standard definition of an MBA is a graduate business degree focused on the management side of any industry or sector. The core classes all students take include marketing, accounting, finance, management, and business law with strong focus on leadership, management, planning, and business strategy.

Types of MBA Programs

Years ago, there was only one MBA degree program path. Thankfully, students from all walks of life can now choose how they can pursue their degree while dealing with hectic personal and professional lives.

Two-year full-time program: This is the more traditional route. Full-time graduate students can take the complete course load that will have them out in two years. The first year requires fulfilling the general core requirements. During the second year, students get to do a deep dive into their desired specialty.

One-year full-time MBA program: While a majority of MBA students choose the two-year path, experienced professionals may want to skip the general courses and go straight for their specialization. This one-year MBA program is an accelerated, immersive track with limited semester breaks. The goal is to get through it 11 to 16 months and move up the ladder.

Part-time MBA program: Full-time working professionals who require more flexibility can opt for a part-time MBA that takes an average of between four or five years to complete. With a lock-step MBA, the same group of students begin and end the program together. This helps them to build a community bond as well as a strong network of cohorts. The self-paced route provides more flexibility where students can pace themselves, according to their needs and schedule. 

Executive MBA program: On this track, classes meet on Fridays and weekends. It’s considered more intense than regular part-time MBA programs. While the Executive MBA does work with the business management disciplines, such as leadership and communication, it really helps students to get focused experience inside and outside the classroom.

Online MBA program: One of the options for students to balance a busy schedule and school is the online MBA. This is a self-paced program and offers a combination of live and pre-recorded web conference options, meaning students can take their classes anytime of the day or night.

What is a Mini MBA?

Because MBA programs are both a significant time and monetary commitment, many institutions have adopted a shorter, more concentrated solution called the mini MBA. This course condenses a lot of the typical MBA master’s degree curriculum into 40 hours, providing students with the foundational understanding of advanced business administration. They get a taste of what the full degree will entail while still enhancing their skills and business acumen. 

A mini MBA can be done in a full week, eight hours a day, or it can be extended weekly over the course of a few months. While this fast-track version does not provide a master’s degree designation, students can walk away from it with professional credentials that could be applied toward a full degree, if they choose to pursue one.

What You Can Do with an MBA

Anyone who’s aspiring to be a competitive player in their industry of choice needs an MBA. Business management graduates have a variety of skills employers are looking for including:

  • Understanding how digital impacts business:  The future of technology is now and businesses need to figure out where they fit in the landscape. Blockchain and artificial intelligence, AI, are just two innovations that demand that industries come up with new strategies. Graduates with an MBA are able to glean insight and eventually capitalize on opportunities.
  • Big data analysis: The fact that the world continues to generate eye-watering volumes of data daily means that a specialized MBA degree in Business Analytics, for example, puts the candidate in a great position to turn those structured and unstructured data sources into rich visualizations that better inform management decision-making. Digital marketing, brand storytelling, and the ability to leverage social media are just some of the other skills graduates will be able to exhibit.
  • Financial forecasting: Any business administration degree related to finance is going to get an employer’s attention. Commerce is a blood of all businesses and with the ability to connect the numbers to their drivers, graduates with a specialization in finance, specifically financial forecasting, are able to connect actions to sales and expenses.

These are valuable skills employers are actively seeking and really anchoring into them will help MBA grads to excel. On top of that, having access to strong business networks provides a global perspective of the business world that help organizations to be more flexible during challenging times. This is one of the key benefits of an MBA degree.

Employers are continuously looking for MBA grads who can not only read the numbers but see the business behind the numbers. This way, they can pivot when necessary. That’s the essence of good management.

Some of the hottest jobs for MBA grads

Employers know that individuals with their MBA completed already possess the skills to handle multiple departments at once. They are able to transform their book learning into practical real-life situations. Here ade some of the best and most lucrative careers for grads to be in.

Health Services Management and Administration is slated to grow about 32 percent by 2029. Medical Directors and Health Care Managers plan and coordinate the business of medical facilities. MBA degrees are common in this field. Not only are they able to handle training and budgeting, their attention to detail and communication skills make MBAs better at optimizing procedures and building networks on all sides in addition to adapting and adjusting to hectic daily operations. This type of position is considered one of the hottest jobs of the future.

Financial Managers are responsible for creating long-term investment and financial goals for organizations and individuals. This profession is expected to grow by 15 percent in the coming years. Combined with work experience, and an MBA in finance, it can help individuals learn more about business strategy, deal evaluations, and developing business partnerships. With a deepening relationship between money and technology, employers need candidates who have a strong understanding and command of that relationship.

IT Management and related specializations have projected growth of 10 percent. Database administrators, DBAs, are specialists who store and organize data. Companies are going to need more business intelligence tools as generated data growth increases exponentially. While a bachelor’s in computer-related subjects is a start, hiring managers will be looking for candidates who can leverage past and current trends for better decision-making in addition to mining data for predictive analytics. Getting this graduate business administration specialization is one of the best career moves DBAs can make.

Marketing Management positions are only slated to grow by 6 percent, but marketing management professionals are more popular than ever. Marketing directors are responsible for planning tactics and programs that generate interest in a company’s products or services. Companies need to find new ways to promote themselves. Professionals with an MBA degree already know how to conduct market research in ways that substantially contribute to an organization’s marketing strategy development and that align with budgetary constraints. A good MBA program helps students to build their analytics skills and use the necessary technology to solve business challenges.

Salary expectations for someone with an MBA

One thing that employers see in someone with an MBA degree is a proactive professional dedicated to various levels of improvement. To understand how that translates into assessing an employee’s value to a particular organization, there are a few characteristics that make MBA graduates more desirable.

Advanced Skills and Knowledge

There is nothing that kills a career faster than complacency and staying in the comfort zone. MBA graduates don’t have time to be complacent. Industries and sectors are continuously evolving and the ability to understand and meet the upcoming challenges is valuable. MBA students learn about the latest management techniques as well as understanding more about new international business.

Ready for Accelerated Career Development

Graduates usually need to have advanced degrees to climb into managerial and executive positions. These jobs come with greater responsibilities, longer hours, and higher earning power. On average graduates can see a 50% salary rise, depending on their industry.

Access to Diverse and Qualified Networks

In general, grad school is a great place to make connections, because who you know is just as important, if not more important, than what you know. Interacting with professionals across different sectors as well as professors who also have deep industry knowledge as well as research capabilities makes an MBA’s contact list more valuable than their tuition. Access to highly qualified contacts not only provides additional job opportunities for the employee bug it can be a conduit to beneficial partnerships for the company, under the right circumstances.

Leadership Foundation

Throughout their degree, MBA grads fully engage in the qualities that embody leadership. This foundation provides better understanding of how they should play the role in all subjects in specializations they will encounter. When it comes to translating learning into the real world, they’re better equipped to assess a situation from a more holistic point of view. As a result of this, students develop better communication and problem-solving skills, boosting their confidence.

Ability to Think Strategically

While silos can exist within an organization, it’s also possible for the organization as a whole to become a silo. Losing sight of what’s happening in the business world stifles growth. From their first day, MBA graduates spend their time reading and analyzing different businesses in an effort to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why. This level of discipline improves a professional’s ability to think strategically and add context to their outlooks in an effort to improve organization performance.

Understanding of Long-Term Growth Factors

The nature of the MBA course content means the students gain an understanding of general business operations and functionalities. With an understanding of how certain decisions can affect each department function, students can eventually apply what they have learned to their company. This stimulates enhanced growth and progression in a more strategically beneficial direction.

Salary Expectations for Top Jobs

An MBA is an assessment many made to expand their career options. Having this degree, professionals can expect a noticeable salary bump across all industries, but there are a few positions that enjoy a much healthier return on investment.

Investment Banking

Investment bankers specialize in raising money on the capital markets for businesses and government organizations. They also help with mergers and acquisitions and can make generous compensation in the process even before they get a graduate degree. Getting that MBA definitely helps, because companies will see investment bankers as more than just number crunchers. Analysts, the lowest level of investment banker, have base salaries of about $80,000 per year plus bonuses, while Associates, the next tier, can expect to start at about $150,000 a year. With an MBA, those bases jump to about $125,000 and $200,000, respectively, plus bonuses. That’s an increase of between 30 and 50 percent.

IT Management

For those in IT, an MBA is a well-rounded degree that provides managers with a better understanding of the relationship between organizational management and information technology. IT directors are responsible for ensuring the organization’s technological security and compliance. They coordinate, develop, and Implement infrastructure changes while ensuring that these processes align with the CEO’s dictates about thd  company’s goals. An IT professional with at least five years of experience and an MBA can earn between $140,000 and $160,000 annually on average

Management Consultant

Management Consultants help companies stay relevant and competitive by solving problems in ways that improve overall efficiency and maximize profits. While there are some consultants who earn good money, those at the higher end of the spectrum tend to do much better. Many of the top companies prefer to work with consultants who have an MBA because they will interact closely with C-Suite executives and need to speak their language. On average, management consultants command $115,000 annually, which is considered good compensation. However, this position relies heavily on who you know even more than what you know.

Chief Technology Officer

Chief technology officer, CTO, is in-charge of ensuring that the technical vision and development align with executive management decisions. The CTO is all about compliance and standards as it pertains to all aspects of the company’s overall technical development. With an MBA, the average salary of a CTO is about $200,000, but heavily relies on many factors, including company size and location.

Salary Differences between MBA Types

Those pursuing MBA one question that may come up is, does the salary increase vary by MBA type? There was a time when an MBA online was considered low quality or even not a real degree. These days, it’s seen as a flexible option for those who may have work schedules that make physically showing up to a live classroom challenging. 

But, do employers really see a difference between the type of MBA students pursue when they are assessing salary increases?

While there are key differences between types of MBAs available, those from an accredited institution will yield higher salaries. Students choosing an online MBA instead of an EMBA or a part-time MBA is just a matter of preference and convenience. The specializations they study are far more relevant to potential salary bumps.

Typical MBA Programs

An acceptable MBA application fulfills a few criteria. The GMAT, Graduate Management Admission Test, and the GRE, Graduate Record Examination, are two standardized tests many programs require. The GMAT is specifically for admission into business graduate programs. It tests critical thinking and problem-solving as well as quantitative, analytical, and English grammar skills. 

A good score is between 640 and 690, while anything over 700 is considered great. It has over 100 testing centers all around the world. The GRE has the same skills as the GMAT but is required for anyone pursuing a graduate degree in a US or Canadian University. 

The standard path involves moving from undergraduate to graduate school, but some business administration master’s programs don’t require an undergraduate degree. They may request that students have an equivalent diploma in lieu of an undergraduate degree, or they’ll use comparable work experience instead.

Program duration depends on the type of MBA. Traditional programs to go full-time for one or two years while the part-time MBA can go up to four or five years. Executive and Online MBAs can run from 11 to 16 months, sometimes longer. 

MBA Program Costs

MBA courses typically cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the institution. Traditional MBA programs cost between $60,000 to as much as $100,000, and financial aid is always available for qualified candidates. An online MBA costs less, ranging from about $10,000 to about $60,000 for the full investment. The part-time MBA cost is broken down over time which can make it more financially manageable for self-funded students.

An Executive MBA is the most expensive business degree, costing an average of $140,000 and can be as high as over $200,000, depending on the institution. The good thing is that the EMBA is almost always paid for by the employer. The mini MBA is the least expensive course. Complete programs start as low as $2,000, and few, if any, exceed $8,000.

Work Experience Requirements for an MBA

MBA degrees are geared towards preparing employees for managerial positions which does require previous work experience. When students are filling out their MBA program applications, schools are looking for a combination of professional work experience and undergraduate coursework. 

Additionally, instructors may choose students with diverse work experience backgrounds to provide more perspective when collaborating on a group project. Pursuing an MBA without sufficient work experience, even if it’s just two or three years, may not give the course material enough context to be valuable to the student.

What Students Should Look For in a Good MBA Program

When assessing the best MBA program, students need to take a holistic look at the school and what it offers. In fact, there are a few strategic traits the great schools share.

  • All business is global, and a great faculty reflects that. While there are no exact percentages, students should look for schools with diverse faculty instructors from different parts of the world that can expand their perspectives and understanding. Is there a population that is just as diverse and riches networking potential by giving students access to International opportunities.
  • True learning goes beyond the classroom. Gaining experience with real world capstone projects lets students put theory into practice. Universities that enable MBA students to work, or at least interact, with real companies increase their development. When faced with a real problem, they will need to tailor their learning to practical solutions.
  • While many students will be focused on how they can excel at their jobs, a great MBA program makes plenty of room for entrepreneurship. The exercise of how to build a company from scratch should be an active part of the MBA experience as it imparts invaluable learning and could result in a potentially viable business idea.
  • Business models and techniques change at the speed of thought. For any MBA curriculum to stay relevant, it has to constantly incorporate me trends into its teachings. The school that does this regularly doesn’t risk becoming stale. Big Data analysis, IoT, machine learning and other topics are leading the future of business and MBA graduates need a grasp these risks, benefits, and opportunities
  • Finally, each student expects a strong, immediate ROI from their MBA degree. But how successful are others who have graduated from this institution? Graduates from the world’s best MBA programs are able to see significant salary earnings within a few years of graduation. Being able to see this success of previous students gives current students an idea of the type of ROI they can expect upon graduation.

Best MBA programs

When it comes to the top MBA programs for full-time MBA students, the top three schools are Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern University.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business is close to the top of the list because of its dedication to innovation. Not far from Silicon Valley, the school takes the time to really merge technology and business to maximize the learning experience. Upon graduation MBA graduates become a part of an elite group of alumni, including Phil Knight, founder of Nike, and Seth Godin, author and entrepreneur.

University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School is considered one of the best because of its dedication to research and saw leadership. It excels at offering MBA students experiential learning. They have a dedicated Center for Leadership and Management. It’s great for marketing and management but is also known to be a top school for finance, especially for MBAs who are looking towards Wall Street. Behind finance, Wharton’s second most popular specialization is entrepreneurship. With famous alumni such as Elon Musk and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, this is not surprising.

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University offers traditional two-year MBA programs, an accelerated one-year program, a part-time MBA, an Executive MBA track, and a three-year JD-MBA joint degree. Kellogg boasts that about 80 percent of its MBA graduates go to top-tier businesses, such as PepsiCo and Nike, with average starting salaries of about $140,000 plus signing bonuses.

Best School for Executive MBA

Unsurprisingly, for the Executive MBA track, the previously mentioned schools do rank in the top five but one institution has taken a clear lead. The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago tends to focus on analytics across all disciplines. Many students go to Booth for finance, economics, and marketing. Over the course of 21 months the EMBA gives students the opportunity to learn globally with its International Sessions Week. A good number EMBA students wind up getting opportunities to work in finance and technology but consultancy has become a more prominent choice for Boothies, as they’re called. In fact, within the first year after graduation many command salaries of about $150,000.

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BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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