What Is an MBA? [2021 Ultimate Guide]

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What is an MBA? An MBA, also known as a Master of Business Administration is a flexible, in-demand graduate degree with excellent job perks.

What is an MBA? What jobs can you get with an MBA degree? Find out here.

What Is an MBA

Earning your MBA can be a smart business move. Whether you specialize with a concentration or enroll in a generalist’s program, an MBA can open the doors to more job opportunities and a potentially higher pay grade.

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What Is an MBA?

MBA stands for “Master of Business Administration.”

  • Graduates of MBA programs earn an average salary of $87,966.
  • An MBA is a master’s level degree.
  • You can earn a general MBA or specialize in a certain area of business.
  • MBA programs can be completed in 1-2 years.

An MBA is, first and foremost, an academic degree that is meant to certify your knowledge of management and business tactics.

However, the training involved in getting an MBA is mostly trade-based. It is meant to impart specific practical expertise in business management, rather than economic theory or research.

The first MBA titles were granted by Harvard University and were meant to prove that a graduate had a standardized set of business-oriented skills and knowledge.

Nowadays, MBAs have developed into a category of degree offering a variety of specializations. Nevertheless, they largely keep to the same core group of subjects, in addition to a concentration.

What Is an MBA Equivalent to?

What Is an MBA Equivalent to

When judging an academic trajectory, an MBA is regarded as a type of Master’s degree. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to apply for admission to an MBA program and can follow it with doctoral work if you choose to do so.

The specific requirements for graduating from an MBA program will vary on the institution and the type of program.

In the United States, this is usually equivalent to 40 to 60 academic credit hours, in addition to completing a thesis or a Master’s project. Completing these requirements usually takes one or two years, but the exact amount of time may vary for accelerated or executive programs.

Is it Better to Get a Master’s or an MBA?

For most people, the choice to continue their education beyond a Bachelor’s degree is seen mainly as an investment.

The cost and effort entailed are meant to open further doors in one’s career and to allow each professional to be able to access higher positions or to compete with others with similar work experience.

The choice of program and concentration needs to take into account each student’s specific goals and preferences. MBAs are usually considered a working degree, so if you want to pursue an academic position, such as a university lecturer or researcher, a master’s may better suit your needs.

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Traditional master’s programs are mostly focused on research and advanced, specialized knowledge. On the other hand, most people who pursue an MBA are aiming at the corporate world, or wish to start their own business venture.

In these cases, the MBA will likely prove to be the superior investment, as it offers a more cohesive set of skills than those offered by a Master’s of Arts or Science.

What Do You Learn in an MBA Program?

What Do You Learn in an MBA Program

Despite the large array of different concentrations and specializations now available, accreditation councils now ensure that all MBAs provide the same foundational skills.

Specialization classes may then offer the opportunity to build upon them or to offer special seminars targeted at specific niche industries.

The goal of any MBA program is to certify that any graduates will be ready to take on the responsibilities and decisions for leadership positions, either at the middle management level or above.

As business administration is a relatively flexible field, this will combine the fundamentals of marketing, human resource management, business law, and international trade logistics. These are often combined with accounting and financial knowledge, planning, and leadership tactics.

Traditional or online MBA degree programs usually strive to provide practical, hands-on training rather than classroom theory. This is why most programs usually focus their modules around real-life projects, mock companies, and the development or simulation of business ideas.

In this way, they can help you develop problem-solving skills and the ability to strategize and plan. This also provides an additional opportunity to cultivate soft skills, such as communication, coaching, or sales strategy.

What Are MBA Concentrations?

MBA Concentrations

Just like there are many different types of business practices, there just as many MBA concentrations available. Most of them target specific skills or positions, but there are also many that were designed to address the specific knowledge required for niche industries.

For example, some of the most popular MBA concentrations related to specific processes include:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Innovation
  • International Business
  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Operations Management
  • Strategy

For those who wish to look at an industry-specific MBAs, concentrations in Soil Explorations, Hospital Management, and Non-Profit Management are all worth considering.

Finally, the current economic and political climate has created a greater need for experts in Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility. Therefore, many schools are now adding these to their offer catalog.

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It should be pointed out that choosing a concentration is not mandatory. Unlike with liberal arts degrees, the job market for MBA holders is surprisingly friendly towards generalists.

What Is an MBA Good For?

business professionals discussing near a computer

There are two main ways in which an MBA can create a concrete difference for anyone who is looking for a professional head start. First, an MBA can offer a more specialized set of skills for career sales agents and corporate workers who wish to advance within a company.

With a higher position comes higher responsibilities (as well as a higher salary), so these positions will naturally be filled by workers who are able to handle operations at a larger scale.

MBAs also help bridge the “employability gap” that affects many liberal arts and social studies majors. A degree in humanities proves an applicant is passionate and eager to learn, but current employers also need to know that their talented new hire can drive the company towards bigger profits.

But the business world is not made up solely of corporate employees. The global economy thrives on people who are willing to risk their own assets in order to create something of their own.

If you are looking at starting your own business, a degree may not appear as valuable. However, the evidence-based techniques imparted during it should nonetheless prove to be useful – as will the connections forged with classmates.

What Jobs Can I Get With an MBA Degree?

MBA Degree Jobs

Because of the vast amount of content included in an MBA program, these degrees can open the gates for management and executive-level positions in a variety of industries. The jobs listed below, with median salary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are just the 10 most popular MBA careers.

Job Title Responsibilities Annual Median Salary
Chief Technology Officer A CTO is the higher authority in charge of a Research and Technology division. They also oversee special projects and ensure that all technical standards are respected $161,210
Information Technology Director Deciding the overall strategy that a company will take when purchasing or updating their technological investments $152,480
Computer and Information Systems Manager Implementing, directing, and controlling the costs attached to an organization’s computer-related activities ¬from hardware purchases to the security of its intranet $151,150
Oil and Gas Exploration Manager Analyzing and directing the logistics required to start a new mining or oil extraction project $138,800
Financial Manager Overseeing and supervising financial transactions in order to enlarge a company’s profit margins $134,180
Sales Manager Designing strategies and an environment in which a Sales Division (a company’s largest moneymaker) can thrive $132,290
Insurance Manager Directing and overseeing insurance policies, either for personal risk or when managing employee benefit funds $130,600
Health Services Manager Running a healthcare facility of service, ensuring it is both profitable and in-keeping with modern health and safety standards $104,280
Securities and Commodities Analyst Predicting market trends and investing in non-tangible assets, either for public companies, hedge funds, or government investment funds $98,850
Management Consultant Rather than sticking with a company, management consultants work with different industries designing sustainable processes, meant to cut costs or increase efficiency $87,660

Besides your degree, the next most important factors in determining your salary are expertise, experience, industry, and location.

What Is Required for an MBA Degree?

mba student in an admissions interview

Just like business is a competitive field, most MBA programs imbue their entire corporate culture with the same spirit. This makes being accepted into a program is no mean feat by itself.

Unlike most other degrees at a master’s level, an MBA will usually require at least 2 years of relevant job experience after completing a bachelor’s degree. Most schools will also require presenting recommendations or references, or request a portfolio of business-related achievements.

Some schools also request applicants to sit a standardized admissions exam (such as GMAT or GRE) as well as academic transcripts for all prior degrees (especially at the Bachelor level).

It should be noted that Admissions procedures vary depending on the school and its philosophy. In general, academic results usually provide the first barrier for shortlisting. The final decision will most likely depend on an interview, a review of professional experience, or both.

What Does It Take to Complete an MBA Degree?

mba students in a classroom

After admission, the next tasks in order to acquire an MBA degree are completing the coursework and paying for it.

The exact number of credits required for graduation will depend on how the program is structured. A requirement of 30 credits is fairly normal and such MBA programs are designed to take one or two years of full-time study.

However, many schools are now offering long-distance options, as well as accelerated or “executive programs.” These usually award extra credits for prior experience or offer more flexible and/or faster schedules meant to meet the needs of adult students.

As MBAs are eminently job-focused, they will often require completion of a personal business project rather than an academic dissertation.

The cost of tuition also varies greatly depending on the institution, and the body accrediting it, but the average cost of an MBA ranges between $55,727 and $161,810 (MBA Today).

The price may be higher for Ivy League Institutions. Student loans, personal loans, and employer-provided tuition reimbursement benefits can help cover this cost.

Is Getting an MBA Worth It?

mba student graduating

Yes, an MBA is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 5% job growth in business, financial, and management occupations over the next 10 years. Common careers in this field include management consultant, sales manager, and health services manager.

Make a long-term impact on your career by enrolling in the MBA program of your choice. Narrow down which field you’d like to specialize in and apply to a handful of the top schools offering that degree.

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Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.