Masters of Business Administration degrees are some of the most universally known and appreciated graduate degrees. MBA recipients hold positions of leadership in fields as diver as:
- Institutions of higher education
- Health care establishments
- Religious organizations
- Sports franchises
- Governmental organizations
- And businesses
In fact, no other degree type is better represented among the ranks of corporate executives.
A whopping 40% of executives in S&P 500 corporations have a masters of business administration degree. All other advanced degrees held by S&P 500 executives total just 30%. You read that right. More of America’s largest corporations are run by MBA-holders than are run by all other advanced degree types combined.
But MBAs don’t have to get you to the C-Suite to make themselves useful. One of the most useful components of an MBA is general business knowledge across a variety of topics.
Many, many workers will work in a variety of fields or roles on their way up the ladder. MBAs are one of the only degrees that can help to prepare you for such a wide spectrum of roles.
Today, MBAs can be great choices for a wide variety of disciplines. In fact, many potential B-School students report that one of their main hurdles in pursuing an MBA is discerning what program they should pursue and whether they should pursue an in-person, online, part-time, weekend, or night MBA.
That’s where MBACentral comes in. We have years of experience covering the nuances of a wide range of MBA types, as well as questions on applying to graduate business school, financial aid, and choosing the right program for you.
What is an MBA?
Masters of Business Administration (commonly abbreviated as MBAs) are professional graduate degrees that provide a broad basis of graduate-level business courses. MBAs can be used to start your own businessfind a management role in an existing business, or move into roles that require business knowledge in your current work place.
MBAs are often geared towards working professionals and offer many flexibility-enhancing components including night courses, weekend courses, online courses, part-time study, accelerated study, and programs for those more advanced in their career (executive MBAs).
For non-executive MBAs, programs typically require 1-3 years for completion. One-year programs proceed on a highly accelerated track. Three-year programs are part-time, and two years is the most common amount of time required to gain an MBA.
MBAs can be offered in a general variant or with a number of specializations. Specializations may include finance, marketing, human resources, leadership, information technology, among others.
The general MBA curriculum is comprised of introductory to intermediate graduate-level courses in the following disciplines:
- Managerial Statistics
- Business Analytics
- Business Strategy
- Financial Accounting
- Corporate Finance
- Managerial Economics
- Global Economics
- And Operations Management
In a general MBA, students proceed to fill out their course of study by selecting 3-5 electives of their choice. In an MBA with a specialization, those 3-5 courses are used to enhance understanding within one subject matter area.
Executive MBAs are MBA programs commonly offered to those that already hold 5+ years of managerial experience. Due to the prior experience, executive MBA programs often skip past many foundational business topics and dive more deeply into advanced concepts.
As we mentioned above, MBAs are professional degrees. This is in contrast to research degrees. At the master’s level, research degrees are often geared towards students that want to enhance their knowledge of a subject and often continue on to a Ph.D. or doctoral program. Professional degrees are often centered around applied knowledge that is readily applicable to a career. Additionally, most professional degrees at the master’s level do not require a thesis.
Benefits of an MBA
As some like to say ‘the proof is in the pudding.’ That’s definitely the case with Master’s in Business Administration degrees.
As we mentioned above, over 40% of S&P 500 executives hold MBA degrees. In other words, MBA graduates direct almost half of the largest corporations in America.
Of course, not everyone is going to ascent to the “C-Suite,” and that’s alright. MBAs are particularly unique degrees because they give you a graduate education in a range of disciplines. This means that MBAs can fill many roles in corporate and organizational structures upon graduation.
This is also one of the largest perks of MBAs. MBA graduates report that their MBA helped to prepare them for many different roles upon graduating. While other degrees may prepare graduates for a particular job, or a particular department within a business, MBAs give graduates solid foundational skills no matter the department(s) or roles they fulfill later in their career.
This versatility and generally well-rounded knowledge base make MBAs better paid than their peers. In a large study, 83% of MBA graduates reported that their MBA has paid off financially. And a massive 92% reported that if they had a chance to redo their MBA with the option to choose another degree, they would choose their MBA program again.
MBAs have low unemployment rates, and if you browse around many job listings it’s clear why. Many business roles place MBA degrees in the “would love to have” section of their job listing. In many application processes, having an MBA immediately sets you apart from the competition.
How to Choose an MBA Program
Choosing an MBA program can be daunting. MBAs are one of the most commonly offered graduate degrees in the United States (for good reason, we might add).
For some students just starting their search, MBA programs can offer an almost dizzying array of choices. If this sounds familiar, we suggest you start by narrowing down your search. Think through some of the following potential priorities, then start sifting out schools that don’t make the cut.
- Are you seeking a particular role, or just a general enhancement of skills in an MBA?
- If you’re seeking a particular role, you may want to pursue an MBA with a specialization closely aligned to this goal. If you’re looking for a general enhancement of skills, a wider range of MBAs may be a good fit
- Are you willing to move or seek a new job to obtain your MBA?
- If no, you’ll want to look at programs that are local to you, online, or hybrid. If the answer is yes, you may potentially be a good candidate for attending an in-person program that meets all of your needs.
- Is program price a limiting factor for you?
- If yes, online programs can be more affordable. Also, consider whether your employer may help with your MBA tuition. In no, some of the best programs in the nation are also the costliest.
- Do you plan to work while pursuing your MBA?
- If no, you may want to consider full-time — potentially in-person — degree options. If yes, night, weekend, online, or part-time programs are likely your best option.
- Is flexibility important to you?
- If you’re juggling work, life, and school, online programs generally offer the widest range of flexibility-enhancing components. These can include the ability to accelerate the course of study, asynchronous study, the ability to slow study down, and ease of testing out of courses.
Additionally, one should consider whether the program one is interested in is regionally or nationally accredited. Regional accreditation is known as the “gold standard” of accreditation. If a school is regionally accredited it is eligible for federal financial aid, it is likely not-for-profit, credits may likely be transferred to other programs, and your degree will likely be more respected by employers.
This isn’t to say that nationally accredited schools are all bad. Rather, they are not judged according to the same standards are regionally accredited schools. Most universities that are well regarded and have been around for some time are regionally accredited.
If you think you may already know what type of MBA program you’re interested in, be sure to check out MBACentral’s rankings on some of the best MBAs by specialization type below:
- The 30 Best Online MBA Degrees
- The 50 Fastest MBA Programs
- The 30 Fastest Online MBA Degrees
- The Best No-GMAT Online MBA Programs
- The 50 Easiest Online MBA Programs
- The Best Online Business Analytics MBA
- The Best Online Forensic Accounting MBA
- The Best Online Cybersecurity MBA
- The Best Online Law Security MBA
- The Best Online Economics MBA
- The Best Online Communications MBA
- The Best Online Public Administration MBA
- The Best Online Sports Management MBA
- The Best Online Executive MBAs
- The Best Online Information Technology MBAs
- The Best Online Human Resources MBAs
- The Best Online Social Media MBAs
- The Best Online Sustainability MBAs
- The Best Online Agribusiness Masters
- The Best Online Supply Chain Management MBAs
- The Best Online Consulting MBAs
- The Best Online Entrepreneurship MBAs
- The Best Online Finance MBAs
- The Best Online International Management MBAs
- The Best Online Non-Profit Management MBAs
Is an Online MBA Right for Me?
Masters of Business Administration programs are known for being forward-looking and centered on professional learning. As such, MBAs were one of the first degree types to fully embrace distance and online learning.
The early adoption of online learning by MBA programs is a good thing for learners. With more years spent offering online education, online MBA-granting schools have had the chance to hone their offerings. Flexible offerings also show that programs understand their potential student base and can adapt to the needs of working or non-traditional students.
With that said, online education isn’t the right choice for everyone. There are a variety of pros (including flexibility and affordability) and cons (including lack of access to on-campus events) to pursuing an MBA online.
If you’d like to see a more in-depth run down of the pros and cons of an online MBA, check out our page on online MBA degrees.
Even if you know you want to pursue an MBA, choosing a specialization can be daunting. At MBACentral, we’ve covered a wide range of MBA specializations in great detail. Below we’ve listed the most common specialization types, a brief summary of each, as well as related content on that MBA type throughout the site.
Analytics MBAs provide a strong basis for managing teams of analysts or jumping into a data analyst role with upwards trajectory early in your career.
If you you might be interested in an Analytics MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Business Analytics MBA.
Marketing MBAs are some of the most sought after degrees for brand managers, analysts, and in creative agency roles. Most marketing MBAs will provide digital marketing or traditional marketing focus areas.
If you believe you might be interested in a Marketing MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online MBA programs
Forensic Accounting MBAs are sought after in large corporations with extremely complex financial statements as well as the federal government. Auditing positions, strategic accountants, and accounting manager positions are attainable with this degree.
Interested in an Accounting MBA? Be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Forensic Accounting MBA
Cyber Security MBAs highlight the importance of cyber security as it relates to organizational objectives. Contrary to popular belief, many cyber security roles don’t require much technical know-how.
Interested in a Cyber Security MBA? Be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Cybersecurity MBA
Law Security MBAs fill a number of managerial positions within law enforcement, governmental agencies, and firms that provide physical security. While not the most popular niche for MBA students to pursue, it can be a great degree to rise above the competition in your field.
Interest in a Law Security MBA? Be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Law Security MBA
Consulting MBAs provide students with the unique skillset needed to perform consulting roles in finance, accounting, or management. Consulting can be a great way to start your own business and consultants can enjoy quite high salaries.
Think you’re interested in a Consulting MBA? Be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Consulting MBAs
Economics MBAs are employed as data analysts, economists, financial analysts, and operations managers. This versatile MBA has a unique focus not covered in many general MBA curricula.
If you think you might be interested in an Economics MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Economics MBA
Communications MBAs center around corporate messaging, public relations, marketing, and leadership. Communications is a vital component of nearly every large organization.
If you think you might be interested in a Communications MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Communications MBA
Public Administration MBAs help to make the world a better place by bringing cutting-edge managerial and business practices to public organizations including hospitals, public health settings, and governmental settings.
If you think you might be interested in a Public Administration MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Public Administration MBA
Sports Management MBAs can hone your business and analytics edge for the competitive fields of sports management, sports venue management, sports marketing, and human resources management within sporting organizations.
If you think you might be interested in a Sports Management MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Sports Management MBA
Executive MBAs are tailored to managers with five or more years of experience. They skip many introductory topics and are often even more flexible than general MBAs.
If you think you might be interested in an Executive MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Executive MBAs
Information Technology MBAs enable students to join the lucrative and in-demand ranks of IT managers. These MBA programs often focus on the unique managerial mindsets and challenges related to software, hardware, and IT service development.
If you think you might be interested in an Information Technology MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Information Technology MBAs
Human Resources MBAs are in demand in nearly every type of large employer including education, health care, government, and corporate settings.
If you think you might be interested in a Human Resources MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Human Resources MBAs
Social Media MBAs are sometimes offered as a subset of marketing MBAs. These programs provide 2-3 courses not only in marketing but in social media marketing.
If you think you might be interested in a Social Media MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Social Media MBAs
Sustainability MBAs help to prepare graduates who manage disaster recovery plans, continuity plans, and risk analysis for organizations.
If you think you might be interested in a Sustainability MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Sustainability MBAs
Agribusiness MBAs are another niche offering that can help B-School candidates to set themselves apart for the unique demands of big agriculture.
If you think you might be interested in an Agribusiness MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Agribusiness Masters
Supply Chain Management MBAs instruct students in the crucial disciplines of procurement, logistics, shipping, and distribution. These central disciplines can make or break manufacturing companies and are in high demand.
If you think you might be interested in an Supply Chain Management MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Supply Chain Management MBAs
Entrepreneurship MBAs provide foundational business skills in a number of disciplines that may help a degree recipient create their own enterprise. Courses often include fund raising, HR for start ups, and courses on choosing a business structure.
If you think you might be interested in an Entrepreneurship MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Entrepreneurship MBAs
Finance MBAs tackle the high-stakes world of money management for large organizations and wealthy individuals. These degrees can lead to financial analyst, management, and financial advisor roles.
If you think you might be interested in a Finance MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Finance MBAs
International Management MBAs are some of the only MBA types that provide multiple courses looking at the global context of modern business. For multi-national organizations, individuals educated in international business contexts are indispensable.
If you think you might be interested in an International Management MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online International Management MBAs
Non-Profit Management MBAs provide the future leaders of the not-for-profit world with crucial skills in foundational business topics. Additionally, most non-profit management MBAs cover fundraising, the unique tax laws of non-profits, and human resources for non-profit contexts.
If you think you might be interested in a Non-Profit Management MBA be sure to check out our ranking on the Best Online Non-Profit Management MBAs.