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Master of Business Administration (MBA)


A master of business administration (MBA) degree is designed for those who want to hold leadership or management positions in corporate or public sectors. It’s the world’s most popular professional degree program, and there are thousands of MBA programs around the globe. Here’s what you need to know about MBA degrees, including how much it costs and what it can do for your career earnings.

Consider working with a financial advisor as you consider the best way to pay for advanced degrees.

Who Gets an MBA?

The MBA is popular among career business professionals who want to climb the promotion ladders at their companies, schools or agencies. It’s also seen as a way to boost earnings. Elite MBA program graduates report increasing their earnings by 90 percent after graduation.

People who want to switch careers, industries or jobs also look to MBAs for help. And the degree is also popular among would-be entrepreneurs.

MBA Expertise

MBA programs aim to give students what it will take to someday occupy C-suites as top business executives. Specific skills include analyzing information, developing effective solutions to business programs and leading people.

The core curriculum for MBA students typically covers accounting, finance, marketing,  management, operations, economics, organization behavior, business ethics and the like. In addition, students may pursue specializations or concentrations such as consulting, international business, information technology, supply chain management, strategy and entrepreneurship.

Many MBA programs also have students complete internships at companies as part of their diploma requirements. The internships provide real-world experience as well as opportunities for post-graduation employment.

MBA Granting Institutions

Any college or university with a business school can offer an MBA. The better ones tend to be recognized by one of the accrediting bodies. Globally prominent MBA program accrediting bodies include:

MBA Prerequisites

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Most MBA programs prefer applicants have at least two to three years of work experience in addition to a bachelor’s degree. Applicants who score well on the Graduate Management Admissions Test have a better chance of being admitted to the better MBA programs.

While MBA programs don’t necessarily require applicants to have undergraduate business degrees, they are looking for students who got good grades in undergraduate school. Extracurricular activities can be helpful when applying to some selective programs.

Some MBA schools also conduct pre-admission interviews with candidates. These may be done in-person or by video.

MBA Curriculum and Costs

An MBA is often more demanding than many other master’s degree programs. In the U.S. programs may require as many as 60 credit hours of instruction, compared to the 30 or so typical for master’s degrees in economics, finance, accounting or marketing.

A traditional MBA calls for a two-year, full-time commitment. Some sped-up programs can be competed in a year. Executive MBA programs which are often tailored for part-time students who continue to work full-time while going to school, may take considerably longer.

Most MBA programs are taught in conventional classrooms. Online programs and blended programs composed of both online and classroom instruction are also available.

While the time required to get an MBA is not inconsiderable, the tuition is a bigger obstacle for many students. Top MBA programs charge tends of thousands of dollars a year for tuition, placing the total cost well into six figures.

Employers may help foot the costs, especially for part-time executive MBA programs when students continue to work full-time. Scholarships are also available, but many students pay for their MBAs with loans.

MBA Jobs

Getting an MBA is often viewed as providing an inside track for top business leadership positions such as chief executive officer and chief financial officer. Many CEOs, presidents and other senior executives do, in fact, have MBAs.

MBAs also go into consulting, providing advice on management, marketing, finance and similar matters to client businesses. MBAs with concentrations in particular areas may take leadership positions such as vice president of strategy or become venture capitalists or start their own companies.

MBA Trends

Master of Business Administration (MBA)Having an MBA was long viewed as an important if not essential qualification for a fast-track business career. However, the MBA is increasingly seen as optional for business leaders.

In 2019, nearly three-quarters of two-year MBA programs in the US reported declines in the number of applicants during the previous academic year. And a growing number of business schools have stopped offering two-year programs altogether.

Among possible causes for the fall-off, which has been going on for several years, is the increasing cost of the degrees. The rise of alternatives such as less expensive and more time-efficient one-year programs may be another factor.

Bottom Line

Getting an MBA can put career-minded business people on a fast track to promotion and higher earnings. While an MBA may not have quite the cachet that formerly attached to it, it’s still a mark of high achievement and evidence of expertise in business management.

Tips on MBA Programs

  • A financial advisor can help you invest and save for retirement. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • If you’re worried about taking two years off work to go to graduate school, a budget may help you keep your finances in order. If you don’t know where to start, try using SmartAsset’s budget calculator.

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