Best Master of Business Administration (MBA) Programs of 2021

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A master of business administration (MBA) degree offers focused leadership and management training to help professionals advance their career and move into new roles.

Earning an MBA prepares graduates for careers in growing areas in business, finance, and management. Professionals with an MBA work as financial managers, marketing managers, and top executives, roles that report median salaries of over $100,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects job growth of 5% for these roles from 2019-2029.

Our list ranks the top MBA programs to help prospective applicants find the best fit to reach their professional goals. By researching specialization options, delivery formats, and program lengths, applicants can begin earning their MBA degree. This article also discusses the benefits of an MBA degree, program requirements, and scholarships.

FAQ


  • What is an MBA good for?

    An MBA degree prepares graduates for leadership roles in organizations. MBA-holders qualify for decision-making roles that offer above-average salaries.


  • How many years does it take to get an MBA degree?

    Earning a master of business administration degree typically takes two years of full-time study. Some programs offer accelerated one-year programs.


  • Which is better: an MBA or MS in finance?

    Both an MBA and an MS in finance prepare graduates for roles like financial manager. However, the wide-ranging business administration training of an MBA can lead to more diverse career opportunities.


  • What can you do with a master's in business administration?

    Professionals with an MBA work as human resources managers, marketing managers, and executives, making decisions in diverse industries like healthcare, technology, and finance.


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What Are the Goals of an MBA Degree?

In an MBA program, graduate students gain leadership and decision-making skills. Coursework in organizational behavior, financial management, and strategic leadership prepares students for management-level roles. Many programs also incorporate an internship to gain real world experience and a capstone project to build career-ready skills.

MBA students often focus their education by choosing a concentration area. Many programs offer concentrations in general business, marketing, finance, accounting, human resources, and healthcare management. Degree-seekers can also look for programs with unique specializations like entrepreneurship, business strategy, and consulting. These specializations prepare graduates for focused career paths after earning their MBA degree.

Why Get an MBA Degree?



Earning an MBA degree brings many benefits. Graduate students specialize their training and prepare for leadership roles in diverse organizations.

Management Training
MBA students strengthen their management skills through focused coursework in organizational behavior, operations management, and leadership. This management focus qualifies MBA graduates for new roles.
Increased Earning Potential
According to 2019 data, the average salary for MBA graduates rose to nearly $135,000 per year. An MBA thus translates into greater earning potential.
More Job Responsibilities
The leadership training in an MBA program prepares professionals for increased responsibilities in their workplace. Professionals may take on supervisory responsibilities or more decision-making responsibilities.
Specialized Training
During an MBA, graduate students can specialize their skills by pursuing a concentration in marketing, entrepreneurship, finance, human resource management, or other in-demand areas.
Career Advancement
With an MBA, graduates can move into supervisory and management roles. An MBA also prepares professionals for leadership positions in business organizations or entrepreneurship opportunities.

What Are the Requirements for an MBA Degree?

Applicants considering a master of business administration degree typically need a bachelor’s degree and standardized test scores. Most schools require GMAT or GRE scores, though some waive that requirement. Applicants often also submit a statement of purpose, professional resume, and recommendation letters.

MBA programs do not require an undergraduate degree in business. However, students may need to complete prerequisite coursework in management, accounting, finance, or statistics before entering the program.

During an MBA program, graduate students complete core, elective, and concentration-area courses. Many programs also incorporate a capstone project and an internship.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

 
 

Professional Organizations for MBA Students



Professional associations help MBA students expand their network and prepare for their careers. Many of these organizations offer professional development resources, career centers, and professional certifications. Members also benefit from discounts, industry research, and publications.


  • American Management Association AMA offers training, professional certification, and resources for management professionals. The organization's student membership provides access to a quarterly publication and monthly newsletter. It also offers management articles, access to an on-demand library of materials, and skill assessment tools.

  • American Marketing Association AMA offers training, certification, and resources for marketing professionals. Members can participate in webinars, virtual training sessions, and virtual conferences to build their skills. The association's publications and research provides professionals with information on areas like marketing strategy, digital marketing, career growth, and branding.

Scholarships for MBA Students

Scholarships can help MBA students cover the cost of their degree. Professional associations, private foundations, and MBA programs all support degree-seekers with scholarship opportunities. In addition to the following scholarships, MBA students can search for opportunities based on their field of study, career goals, or institution.

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: MBA students considering careers in fraud examination or other anti-fraud fields can apply for the scholarship. Applicants must attend an accredited institution with at least six credits per term to qualify. The scholarship application requires official transcripts and two recommendation letters.
Amount: Up to $10,000

Mary Elizabeth Lockwood Beneventi MBA Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Awarded by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the scholarship supports full-time MBA students attending an accredited university. Applicants should hold a minimum 3.25 GPA and provide proof of U.S. citizenship. Recipients can reapply for consideration in future years.
Amount: $2,000

SHRM Graduate Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The Society for Human Resource Management offers several scholarships for graduate students. Applicants must be SHRM members attending a regionally accredited school. The scholarships also require a human resources-related degree, including an MBA with a concentration in human resources. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.5 GPA.
Amount: $5,000

2021 Best Master of Business Administration (MBA) Programs



  1. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League institution that caters to the ambitious working professional. This school confers the Master of Business Administration to a select group of candidates. The university is regionally accredited by the MSCHE and holds independent accreditation by the AACSB International.

    The Wharton MBA program, so named after the Wharton School of Business, is one of the most selective and competitive programs in the country. Less than 10 percent of students accepted into the University of Pennsylvania get accepted into the MBA program. This is why students are encouraged to look over admissions requirements early and to apply as soon as possible.

    The MBA program at Wharton is also one of the most extensive. This degree alone covers over 19 majors and dozens of concentrations, all specifically designed to be useful in a business setting. And if a student’s choice for focus area does not exist, they always retain the right to create their own.

    This program requires 19 credit units for graduation. A three and a half month internship is also strongly encouraged but not necessary for the completion of this program. Sample courses include International Business Markets, Managerial Accounting, and Business and Legal Ethics in a Global Environment.

  2. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Harvard University is among the top three universities in America. It is a private, Ivy League university that is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Students will find one of the most respected Master of Business Administration degrees housed here. This school is regionally accredited by the NEASC.

    Competition to get into Harvard is fierce, with only five percent of students who apply granted admittance every year. This makes the MBA program, which is one of the most popular programs at this school, extremely competitive, so students are advised to apply early.

    The Harvard Business School, where this degree is housed, is an incredible program that is always ranked in the top ten of any business ranking, both here at home and internationally. The school currently enjoys top-ten rankings with The Princeton Review, The Economist, and U.S. News and World Report.

    This degree requires 45 credit hours for completion of the program. This includes field experiences and practicums. Sample courses include Leadership and Organizational Behavior, Financial Reporting and Control, and Technology and Operations Management.

  3. University of California-Berkeley
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of California at Berkeley is home to the Haas School of Business, one of the world’s leading business schools for professionals. This school confers the Master of Business Administration, a degree that all professionals in the business industry could benefit from. This university is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC. Haas holds special accreditation by the AACSB International.

    There is a large international emphasis on business study at Haas, so much so that international experiences are now a requirement for the M.B.A. degree. These experiences can range from just one week to an entire semester and afford students the opportunity to learn about business in an international setting. The international immersion aspect is part of why this school is so popular with business professionals.

    There is also a requirement for Applied Innovation. This is a course that all students take that reflect the current challenges that real-world businesses are facing today. Students work in teams to research, identify, and analyze a problem; they then present their findings and solutions to actual clients.

    This is a comprehensive degree that requires 56 credits of course work, international immersion trips, and more. Students can feasibly complete this degree in 18 months, but most take up to three years to complete all the requirements. Sample courses include Strategic Leadership, Marketing Management, and Ethics and Responsibility in Business.

  4. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Stanford University is considered to be one of the best schools on the West Coast for business graduates. This school, which is located in Stanford, California, confers the Master of Business Administration, which offers students a personalized curriculum and global experiences to prepare them to become business professionals. This university is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.

    A personalized curriculum is the hallmark of Stanford’s MBA program. Unlike many other M.B.A. schools, Stanford encourages students to build on their general management education by taking courses at other Stanford schools, embarking on a dual degree, or taking seminars and electives that complement the MBA. This personalization generally happens the second year of the degree, allowing the students to focus first on general management courses and global experiences their first year.

    Global experiences are mandatory at Stanford, and it can be a great way for students to learn about business in an international sense. Programs include the popular Global Management Immersion Experience, a four-week program in the summer that includes working for an international business on case studies; Global Seminars, a ten-day trip to a country where students will learn in teams; and Global Study Trips, which is also a ten-day trip to a partner country that explores one facet of international business. Students can choose two or three experiences, but at least one is required for graduation.

    This degree requires 39 credit hours of coursework and global immersion trips. The MBA at Stanford is only available as a full-time, on-campus degree. Sample courses include Debt Markets, Private Equity in Frontier Markets, and Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation.

  5. Northwestern University
    Location

    Evanston, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Northwestern University is a private university that is located in Evanston, Illinois, that is known for having a high number of women graduating from the MBA program every year. This school also has options for dual degrees and concentration. Northwestern holds regional accreditation by the NCACS THLC.

    Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management has a variety of business administration plan options, including a One-Year and Two-Year MBA program. The school also offers a JD-MBA and a MMM program for students interested in dual degrees. No matter what format a student chooses, the MBA can be earned in less than three years.

    The university prepares its students for work in the business sector by offering experiential learning practices. This is a format that prepares students for real-world problems by providing real-world case scenarios that students must then analyze and then solve, offering their solutions to real clients. It is one of the best ways to learn about business, and it is here where Northwestern University thrives.

    This degree requires 60 credit hours for graduation, including a Business Core and a final project. Students will find that these requirements are easily completed within two traditional academic years. Sample courses include Leadership in Organizations, Accounting for Decision Making, and Marketing Management.

  6. University of Chicago
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Chicago is well known for its Booth School of Business, which is one of the top business schools in America. Students come here to earn a Master in Business Administration from a strong curriculum that is led by a faculty that is staffed by current business professionals. This school holds regional accreditation by the NCACS THLC.

    Chicago Booth’s MBA is buoyed by a flexible curriculum, lab courses, experiential learning, and through an integrative learning method in all courses. This is because Chicago Booth believes in giving students the ability to think outside the box and come up with their own solutions to real-world problems, preparing them for roles in leadership in the business sector.

    The school is also known for its international programs. These programs, which provide MBA candidates with real-world experience in the business industry, were created to ensure that all business students understand that the global marketplace is becoming more important as we move into a new economic age.

    The Chicago Booth MBA consists of 60 credit hours and the school’s Leadership Effectiveness and Development Program. Students will also be required to declare a concentration from the 14 options provided and complete a team project. Courses include The Legal Infrastructure of Business, Consumer Behavior, and Supply Chain Strategy and Practice.

  7. Yale University
    Location

    New Haven, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Yale University is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities on this list, so it will come as no surprise that it is praised for its business degrees. This school, which is located in New Haven, Connecticut, confers the both Master of Business Administration and the Executive Master of Business Administration. The university is regionally accredited by the NEASC.

    One of the best features of learning at Yale is that its faculty members not only hail from all over the world, they are actual business professionals who have years of experience in the field. This, coupled with the school’s unique curriculum, make it one of the best MBA programs in the country.

    Yale’s MBA program has a lot in common with the EMBA program. Both are taught in an integrated format, meaning that students learn the fundamentals first, prior to moving on to learning more advanced concepts and putting their skills to work by working on raw cases.

    The raw case approach, a phrase coined by the university, is a real-world case study that students endeavor to solve with the help of their professor. The case is presented to students, along with interviews from actors in the case, and allows students the chance to work in small teams to build an analysis. This approach mimics the business world, ensuring that students are comfortable in the environment prior to graduation.

    Both MBA and Executive M.B.A. programs require 72 quarter credits of coursework, including unlimited electives, a study abroad opportunity, and a capstone project. Sample courses include Monetary Policy, Corporate Finance, and Mastering Influence and Persuasion. These degrees can be completed in as little as 22 months.

  8. University of Virginia
    Location

    Charlottesville, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Virginia is often referred to as the South’s Public Ivy. This school, which is located in Charlottesville, Virginia, is an exceptional school for business professionals. Students can find the Master of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business. This university is regionally accredited by the SACS COC and holds independent accreditation for its business programs by the IACBE.

    This university doesn’t take half-measures. Students are expected to not only participate in class, they are expected to take part in consulting projects, experiential and global immersion opportunities, and even become a leader in one of the school’s many business groups.

    The Case Method is a large part of life at UV. Students often learn a new concept by applying it to a real-world case study. Faculty works with students, and as a team, they see a case study through from start to finish, often with video interviews and lectures by some of the real actors in the situation. This is by far one of the best ways to learn business.

    This degree requires 36 credit hours for completion and includes a global experience as well as a case study project. Students are also strongly encouraged to take an internship, but this is not a requirement. Sample courses include Global Economies and Markets, Accounting for Managers, and Financial Management and Policies.

  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    MIT is one of the nation’s leading universities for STEM programs, so it might come as a surprise to see it on an M.B.A. ranking. However, MIT is home to the Sloan School of Management, a premier business school in the nation. This school, which is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is regionally accredited by the NEASC.

    While not all students choose to follow a track at Sloan, many do. This is because the tracks provided by the school are a great way to become experts in a field, leading to better opportunities when it comes to employment. These tracks include Enterprise Management, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Finance.

    The Sloan MBA is divided into three periods: the One-Semester core, which allows students to finish core requirements early; the Electives, which can result in a track or concentration; and the Sloan Innovation Period, which is when a student showcases what they’ve learned every semester. This ensures mastery of subjects before moving on to more advanced subject matter.

    The degree program at Sloan varies, but all students complete 60 credit hours of work. For many students, this will include an internship, so be sure to contact and admissions counselor to learn what the requirements may be. Sample courses include Business Ethics for Leaders, Management and Communication, and Financial Accounting.

  10. Cornell University
    Location

    Ithaca, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Cornell is a private, Ivy League research university that is located in Ithaca, New York. This school has a strong reputation for its Master of Business Administration degree, which is its most competitive in terms of the application process. This university is regionally accredited by the MSCHE.

    Students have the option to choose between the Two-Year and the One-Year MBA programs. Both have their highlights, and each will prepare students for a long and successful career in business.

    The Two-Year MBA program is for students who have a bachelor’s degree and need a graduate degree to continue to advance into administrative roles. This program requires an international immersion, a summer internship, and is best suited for students who want to jump straight from their bachelor’s education into graduate study.

    The One-Year MBA program is for working professionals who already have a graduate degree but require more specialized education in business. This program requires a ten-week summer intensive of core courses as well as a semester-long practicum in a management setting.

    Both programs require 39 credit hours for graduation, including the specific requirements for each degree. Electives are also a necessary part of this degree. Sample courses include Managerial Finance, Microeconomics for Management, and Critical and Strategic Thinking.

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