What Is an MBA?

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A master’s degree in business administration, or an MBA, provides a broad education that suits professionals of various experience levels. The program offers a foundation in accounting, marketing, finance, and management that can translate to the corporate world or enable entrepreneurs to kickstart a business.

Typically students arrive at an MBA program seasoned with 1-3 years of career experience and a bachelor’s in business degree. In many instances, degree-seekers begin an MBA after studying a nonbusiness major as an undergraduate. Graduate students should expect to spend at least two years earning their MBA degree. That said, accelerated programs let online learners graduate in 12-14 months.

The degree offers graduates financial rewards in their careers. Consequently, if given the chance, 93% of graduates say they would retake the degree, according to the Alumni Perspectives Survey. Learn more about what an MBA can do for your career.

What Can You Do With an MBA?

An MBA prepares graduates to work in all areas of business. The curriculum in a typical MBA program offers a cross-disciplinary education in accounting, finance, economics, entrepreneurship, leadership communication, marketing, and organizational behavior. This marketable degree gives students the professional skills to work as marketing managers, financial managers, business operations managers, and medical and health services managers.

On average, MBA degree-holders take home a premium wage compared to individuals with only a bachelor’s degree. MBA alumni make an average annual salary of $87,000, according to PayScale.

Online MBA programs also offer concentrations that let students specialize in their education and improve their marketability. Common concentrations include innovation management and entrepreneurship, healthcare management, information technology, finance, accounting, and business management. Some degrees also offer certifications that require additional coursework. Not all online MBA programs provide specializations or certifications. Many schools have generalized programs that offer traditional business courses with internships and capstones to provide hands-on experience.


The difference between an executive master of business administration, or EMBA, and an MBA comes down to experience. Generally, corporate executives and managers arrive at an EMBA program with 10-15 years of business experience. Conversely, graduate students pursuing an MBA typically have 1-5 years of experience.

Other differences between the two degrees include admission requirements, namely entrance exams. The MBA usually requires applicants to submit GMAT or GRE scores, whereas the EMBA usually does not require applicants with a bachelor’s in business degree to take an entrance exam. In many cases, employers sponsor business professionals while they earn their EMBA.

An MBA gives working professionals a well-rounded education that can translate to jobs in the corporate world or small businesses. MBA degree specializations in accounting and finance further assist business professionals to hone skills that allow them to switch jobs and leverage a higher salary. For more information, browse the top EMBA degrees.

Benefits of an MBA

Beyond the specialized professional skills and theoretical knowledge graduate students gain in an MBA program, they also can make lifelong connections. In the final year of the program, students may get the opportunity to complete an internship for college credit. Working in a business setting under the supervision of a mentor gives students the chance to build their resume and form relationships with business leaders.

Graduate students, whether studying online or on campus, can also usually join business student organizations to access service opportunities, networking events, and job postings.

Above all, a bigger paycheck serves as the most tangible benefit that comes from earning an MBA degree. Data shows that as working professionals earn a higher degree their earnings increase. Bachelor’s degree-holders make a median weekly salary of $1,198, and master’s degree-holders earn on average $1,434 a week. In 2018, top executives in business earned a median salary of $104,980 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Outlook for MBA Programs

Traditional MBA programs in the U.S. have seen a drop in applications. However, online MBA programs continue to grow. The Graduate Management Admission Council found that 73% of two-year MBA programs reported a dip in applications in 2018. The council’s Application Trends Survey Report 2019 indicates that 58% of domestic applications dropped and that 74% of international applications declined.

The report indicates that the decreases could be due to sentiments, tuition, and the economy. Business professions are likely unwilling to leave their careers and pay higher tuition costs during an economic expansion, according to the report.

Graduate students can offset the rising costs of tuition by accessing financial aid opportunities. In many instances, employers provide educational stipends or reimburse workers who pursue a graduate degree. Additionally, business schools offer graduate students the chance to apply for scholarships, grants, and fellowships that can help students pay for tuition and textbooks.

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