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What is an MBA? An Overview of the Master's of Business Ad­min­is­tra­tion Degree

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There are many types of university-level degrees oriented toward career-minded students. The MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is designed for students at the postgraduate level who have fulfilled certain requirements and want to further their standing in the professional world.

MBA Basics

MBA schooling focuses on high-level management, leadership and business principles as well as their applications in the professional world. Many students believe that pursuing such degrees will allow them to seek advanced employment opportunities, such as promotions, and make lateral career moves with greater ease.

MBAs are for people who have their bachelor’s degrees. Although it’s often viewed as an alternative to the normal master’s degree path, there are some rare cases where people obtain MBAs after their regular master’s education.

Will Earning an MBA Help You Find a Better Job?

Although there are no guarantees, the fact that employers place a high value on MBA-holders speaks volumes. For instance, Investopedia notes that in addition to paying MBA holders more money, many large companies, such as Ford, Apple, Intel and Deloitte, subsidize their employees’ pursuit of advanced degrees.

While a significant number of enterprises will offer to pay a limited percentage of your MBA tuition, others may be willing to foot the entire bill. It’s important to remember, however, that most employers maintain unique qualifying rules. For instance, your firm may require that you work for it for a specific number of years after obtaining your degree. Employees should be sure that they understand their companies’ tuition reimbursement terms before they enroll in classes.

Will Earning an MBA Make You Better at Your Job?

From a professional betterment perspective, there’s lots of evidence that getting an MBA increases people’s value to their companies — This may explain why so many enterprises have no problem with helping fund their employees’ degrees.

One study found that individuals who completed MBA school obtained enhanced management skills and increased self-confidence that helped them in their job duties. Other research showed that graduates who attended programs felt better equipped for the workforce and more likely to advance.

One crucial takeaway from these assessments is that they studied accredited programs — MBA degree courses must adhere to the generally accepted academic quality standards of their locales. It’s also worth noting that the results don’t just apply to MBA degree holders in the U.S. These degrees have been found to improve professionals’ skills and employment prospects around the world.

MBA Degree Varieties

MBA programs are geared toward the needs of individuals who’ve already secured employment — as well as the responsibilities that come along with it. As such, many learning institutions try to structure their programs to accommodate people’s professional time constraints.

Some common MBA degree variations include

  • Evening, weekend or other part-time programs that may make it easier to attend classes and fulfill your employment duties simultaneously,
  • Full-time MBA programs that offer course schedules similar to a typical traditional master’s degree,
  • Accelerated MBA programs that can be completed in around a year,
  • Executive MBA, or EMBA, programs for people who are already in upper-level administrative roles, such as CEOs, and
  • General two-year MBA programs.

All of these types of MBA programs are available in both online and traditional, residential formats.

Who Can Earn an MBA Degree?

Traditional MBA degrees aren’t for people who’ve just exited undergrad school and want to get a head start on the competition. Although some programs are tied into undergraduate 5-year courseloads, the majority have more stringent requirements, including that candidates

  • Possess some verifiable professional experience in the real workforce,
  • Know how to write strong entry essays,
  • Are willing to commit to a year or more of courses, and
  • Can pass the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, or the Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE.

Testing Differences

Bear in mind that the hurdles to getting into an MBA program vary widely. For instance, although the number of schools that let candidates submit GRE scores is increasing, this test isn’t universally accepted — The GMAT has been the de-facto benchmark for much longer. The Economist also revealed that some schools, such as Harvard, actually favor candidates who submit high GMAT scores over those who demonstrate comparable GRE performance. Doing your research on the specific standards before trying to get into a program is a wise move.

GPA Track Records

GPA requirements are another factor that might trip some people up. Although it’s unclear which benchmark is the most important, many schools look closely at your undergraduate performance in addition to your more recent test scores. Since the majority care about each applicant’s ability to do well in the program, most admission decisions seem to take a holistic view — Establishing yourself as a well-balanced candidate using your job experience and test scores may be your best bet if you didn’t do so well as an undergrad.

Work Experience

Work experience is an important MBA admissions topic because business school isn’t just about professors teaching students — It’s also about students learning from each other. These advanced courses seek individuals who can bring vital perspectives to their programs, such as first-hand case analyses and skills they’ve learned from applying common managerial methods in the field.

Requiring a candidate to possess a minimum work history may seem like a fairly simple demand, but quite a lot goes on behind the scenes. Many schools prefer to accept candidates who have varied experience in the hopes of creating more well-rounded programs that expose students to new ideas. In other words, it may be hard to predict what kinds of employment backgrounds a university might favor at any given moment. Some general skills that accredited colleges might look for include

  • Ambition as evidenced by career progression,
  • Advanced credentials and professional certifications,
  • Recognition and awards, and
  • The ability to function as a member of a team.

Remember that building a strong work history isn’t just about having served in high-profile leadership positions. Volunteering, community building and other experiences can also help you demonstrate that you have something valuable to bring to the table.


One of the most important aspects of applying to MBA school is getting recommendations. Letters of support from former colleagues and other business leaders can play a critical role in helping candidates improve their prospects.

Should You Get an MBA Degree?

Earning an MBA degree has the potential to strengthen your employment prospects, but it’s not right for everyone. Some professionals may benefit from holding off and pursuing other forms of certification to boost their eligibility before applying. The key lies in planning your course of study and professional pursuits as thoroughly as possible. Since you’ll need to prepare for the GRE or GMAT, obtain recommendations and work to bulk up your resume, there’s nothing wrong with taking a measured approach to earning this valuable degree.

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