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The History Of The MBA


One of the most prestigious degrees in the United States and worldwide is the MBA. The degree programs are as varied as the institutions that offer them. The school that a student applies to should depend on what their specialization will be, whether they choose to go to school full or part-time, and if they want to earn their degree by distance learning.

The History of the MBA

During the earliest part of the 20th century, the United States started becoming industrialized. Training in accounting and bookkeeping had been offered in colleges, but the Industrial Revolution brought about the need for more people to work in different capacities. Specific standards for business were rapidly being developed. Labor was now being managed by machinery rather than manually, and the labor force had to evolve to develop new skills to effectively manage their companies.

Developing Management Techniques

With so many new businesses and revolutionary manufacturing, company owners began to search for more effective management techniques incorporating science and business practices. Colleges and universities had to incorporate degree programs that would provide students with the skills to succeed in business. Some of the issues which had to be addressed were divisions of specialization and labor tasks, a hierarchy that’s well maintained with a compatible relationship between management and employees, and specific rules that governed each company.

The concept of placing business management on the same level as medicine or law wasn’t well received early in the 20th century. However, as corporations grew, there became a need for skilled management professionals, and colleges and universities started their own business schools. Educators realized that business schools had to provide formal education to prepare students for leadership positions.

Early MBA Programs

Most undergraduate students seeking careers in business management, enrolled in MBA programs as soon as they received their undergraduate degree without any prior business management experience. Students were required to study the core courses that are part of the first year curriculum today. Core courses are designed to provide students with basic concepts of business which must be mastered before delving into specialization. The core curriculum at most colleges included:

  • Accounting
  • Business Strategy
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Manufacturing and Production

MBA programs weren’t addressing important issues that were required to successfully manage a business. Students studying for management positions had to establish a chain of command and assign employees to specific tasks. Another consideration was that employers and employees had to learn to effectively communicate for the good of the company.

Most business professionals perceived business schools in the United States in the 1950s to be inferior, and felt that MBA degrees weren’t necessary to succeed. To counteract this belief, colleges and universities restructured their business programs to be more comprehensive. Programs were reorganized to become similar to the MBA programs taught in business schools today.

Timeline of MBA Programs

The Wharton School in Pennsylvania founded in 1881, opened the country’s first business school, but didn’t offer graduate studies. The Haas School of Business at the University of California in Berkely was founded within a few years of Wharton, providing students on the west coast with the same opportunities.

The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College was the first school that offered an advanced business degree. The school offered a Master of Science in Commerce degree, which was the forerunner of the MBA. The Tuck School required students to complete three years of studies before being admitted to their business school.

The first school to offer an MBA program was Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. It was established at the Harvard University Graduate School of Administration in 1908. The university had only 15 faculty members, and a regular class of 33 students. The first graduating class consisted of 47 students. Today, the school is known as the Harvard Business School. The Graduate School of Business Administration required students to complete four years of undergraduate studies before applying to the business program. Other universities soon began to adopt that policy.

Another famous Massachusetts institution, MIT, established a management and leadership education program to train corporate executives. The first MBA program for professionals in the business world was offered at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 1940. The degree was the Executive MBA, and was also offered at campuses in London and Singapore. The program paved the way for programs that are offered by the majority of business schools in the United States today.

In 1950, the first MBA degree outside of the United States was awarded to students at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. The following year, the University of Pretoria in South Africa began their MBA program.

A big advancement in MBA programs for international students came in 1955 when the University of Karachi in Pakistan became the first Asian university to offer a program that was based on the U.S. model. As colleges and universities in European countries began offering MBA degrees, they modeled their programs after what U.S. universities offered in their coursework.

The first business school in Europe to offer an MBA program was INSEAD, in 1957. It is now considered to be one of the finest MBA programs worldwide. The first school to provide each student with a laptop was the Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College in Florida. In 1986, it was required by the college for each student to have access to a laptop to complete the program.

One of the reasons that so many students choose to pursue MBA degrees is to be able to earn higher salaries, but studies have shown that during a recession, more students apply to MBA programs because their belief is that their job prospects won’t be as limited if they earn the degree.

Differing Views About MBA Programs

The Carnegie and Ford Foundations conducted studies in 1959. The conclusion was that the programs weren’t broad enough, were too narrow in their focus, and closely resembled vocational programs. The institutions that offered MBA programs started to change the focus of the programs to be more theoretical. They expanded to include more research to expand on student skills.

During the 1990s, other studies concluded that the programs were too focused on theory, and that graduates didn’t have the necessary skills to compete in the corporate world. In spite of the controversy, more than 100,000 MBAs are earned every year. The demand for quality MBA programs shows no signs of abating.

The Evolution of the MBA Worldwide

MBA programs gradually evolved to include applications which MBA graduates could effectively use in the business world. More practical business skills and ethics are now taught in business schools around the world. For more than 100 years students have been enrolling in MBA programs, and today the MBA has become one of the most valuable assets a business graduate can possess.

Thousands of students around the world enroll in MBA programs every year to advance their education, to effectively compete in the corporate world, and to attain executive positions. The typical MBA program in the United States can be completed in two years.

MBA programs weren’t taught in colleges and universities in Europe until the 1960s. The program in other countries is usually completed in 10-12 months, and has made a drastic evolution within the last two decades. The coveted degree program is now being taught in colleges in countries around the world.

Developments in the 21st Century

In the 21st century, the Harvard Business School continues to be a pioneer in the field of business administration. In 2014, 913 undergraduate students enrolled in the MBA program at Harvard. Many faculty members at Harvard have written books on business administration, authored academic papers, and have written numerous articles for print and online business publications.

The MBA program at Harvard provides students with the foundation of general management and skills needed to compete in the corporate world. The core courses as well as field study are required for all MBA students. Personal leadership skills, global immersion, and developing and marketing a microbusiness are all part of the curriculum.

The Executive Education program at Harvard has an annual enrollment 9,891, and focuses on more than 80 business programs which prepare business professionals to advance their careers. Comprehensive, focused programs in leadership include:

  • Business Operations
  • Business Ventures
  • Customer-Centric Strategies
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Globalization
  • Health Care
  • Innovation
  • Management
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Social Enterprise
  • Strategy

The average student pursuing an MBA degree is a working professional, approximately 36 years old. The majority of students are women. Most have at least 11 years of business experience. And have an average GMAT score of 540. The average Undergraduate GPA is 3.2. Academic background percentages include:

  • Business/commerce: 58 percent
  • Economics: 4 percent
  • Engineering: 12 percent
  • Graduate or multiple degree holders: 13 percent
  • Humanities: 1 percent
  • Life sciences: 9 percent
  • Math/computer science: 5 percent
  • Physical sciences: 5 percent
  • Social science: 6 percent

Even though students can complete the program within a shorter period of time, the quality of the program hasn’t been compromised, and an MBA degree is a major asset to any business professional.

Flexible Options For MBA Students

Some recent changes have occurred in how MBA curriculums are structured. MBA programs offer more flexible options today than ever before. In past years, students enrolled in MBA programs had to go to school full-time. Today, most professionals want to go back to school to earn their degree without quitting their jobs. Technology has advanced rapidly, and more options are available, including going to school part-time while maintaining a regular work schedule.

Some students now choose to enroll in degree programs that allow that to study part-time while still being employed. A part-time degree program generally takes about two and a half years to complete. This may vary, depending on the school. Modular and international degree programs allow a student to study for a specific period, and then return to work.

A number of hybrid programs are now available that make it easier to complete the program. Some allow most of the coursework to be completed online, while group projects and labs are completed on campus. Still others may allow students to complete the program entirely online.

In previous years, it took two years for a student in the United States to complete an MBA program. This can now be accomplished in approximately 14–18 months. This largely depends on certain factors including, the school, the program, and whether the student is enrolled in a traditional program on campus or is studying online.

Updated MBA Curriculums

Today, curriculums have expanded to include human resources, statistics, and technology and information systems. Although most colleges or universities require students in an MBA program to take all of the core courses during their first year, some schools have eve allowed for more flexibility with the core curriculum.

In some schools, students have the option of scheduling electives that coincide with their specialization during their first year. This allows them to take the remaining core courses during their second year. However, it’s important to make sure that there aren’t any scheduling conflicts with required courses and electives.

One of the most popular ways to earn a degree is by distance learning. A lot of major colleges and universities offer MBA programs with specializations which may include e-commerce, finance, economics, or human resources. Courses are becoming more interactive and may include video conferencing. The programs that are available vary by institution. Some institutions provide MBA programs that are entirely online and may be completed in as little as 12 months.

MBA Programs in Developing Countries

MBA degree programs have come a long way since they were first incorporated into college and university curriculums. One of the ways in which MBA students, graduates and professionals in business are making a difference is to help people with economic projects in developing countries. It’s a productive way to help people to improve their lives by helping them to develop businesses and products.

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