What Is an MBA?

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Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)

A master’s in business administration (MBA), provides advanced training in organizational leadership, strategic management, and business analytics. During an MBA program, graduate students specialize in areas like finance, marketing, management, and accounting. The degree leads to management careers in diverse industries.

Earning an MBA degree requires a significant time commitment and financial investment. While an MBA offers many career benefits, prospective applicants should consider whether the degree makes sense for their professional goals. This page walks through key information about earning an MBA degree, MBA program options, and MBA specializations.

What You Need to Know About Getting an MBA



Before taking the GMAT and applying to business school, degree-seekers should consider their reasons for wanting an MBA. The following information can help individuals decide whether to pursue an MBA.

Reasons to Pursue an MBA

An MBA helps professionals advance their careers or move into new fields. MBA degree-holders pursue leadership roles with decision-making responsibilities. Some pursue an MBA to develop skills in a particular area. A specialization in entrepreneurship or strategy prepares graduates for focused career paths after earning their degree.

An MBA helps college graduates launch their career in a new industry. A technology MBA leads to tech careers, while a marketing MBA opens doors for marketing management careers.

MBA Program Requirements

Each MBA program sets its own admission requirements. Most require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and a minimum GPA. Many expect several years of professional experience.

During the admissions process, applicants submit transcripts, official test scores, recommendation letters, essays, and a resume. Some business schools waive the GMAT or GRE requirement for MBA admissions. Since the requirements and processes vary, prospective students should carefully review potential schools’ entry requirements.

Choosing an MBA Program

Some applicants choose their MBA program based solely on rankings. However, students should find the program that best fits their interests and career goals. Attending a top-ranked school could backfire if it does not offer certain specializations.

Instead, applicants should consider their unique needs. For some, earning an MBA online offers greater flexibility. Others may prefer an in-person program. Applicants should always choose an accredited school and MBA program.

Paying for an MBA

MBA degree costs can easily exceed $100,000. Besides tuition, MBA students pay for textbooks, living expenses, and educational fees. The opportunity cost of leaving the workforce also adds to the total cost of an MBA.

MBA students pay for their degree through savings, loans, and scholarships. Many organizations offer scholarships for MBA degree-seekers. Some employers provide tuition assistance programs or other funding.

MBA Program Options



Business schools offer MBA degrees in different formats. While most offer full-time and part-time MBA programs, many also provide accelerated, executive, and online MBA programs. Prospective students should choose the program that best fits their career goals and schedule.

Full-Time MBA

In a full-time MBA program, degree-seekers take several courses each term. Earning an MBA full time generally takes two years. Most programs incorporate a summer internship and let learners choose a specialization to customize their study.

As the most common option, most business schools offer a full-time MBA degree. The option appeals to students with a significant amount of time to devote to school.

Part-Time MBA

A part-time MBA degree lets students complete coursework over a longer timeframe. Instead of enrolling in 3-4 courses per term, part-time students take 1-2 courses at a time. As a result, a part-time MBA typically takes around three years.

Many business schools offer part-time MBA programs designed for working students. The format lets learners continue working while earning their degree. Most part-time programs offer the same specialization and internship opportunities as full-time programs.

Executive MBA

An executive MBA focuses on top-level business training for experienced professionals. A traditional MBA program typically admits students with under five years of professional experience. In contrast, an executive MBA often expects a decade of experience, including supervisory responsibilities. The program takes experienced professionals from the management level to the executive level.

Earning an executive MBA degree typically takes two years. Some programs may offer an accelerated option.

Accelerated MBA

An accelerated MBA degree provides core business coursework in an accelerated format. Many business schools offer a one-year MBA option. During an accelerated MBA program, degree-seekers complete foundational courses. Compared to traditional MBA programs, accelerated programs offer fewer specialization options.

Applicants seeking an accelerated MBA may need to complete prerequisite coursework before entering the program. Like traditional MBA programs, accelerated programs offer various financial aid opportunities.

Online MBA

A growing number of business schools let learners earn an MBA online. MBA online programs use flexible delivery methods, appealing to working professionals and busy students. Many business schools offer the same curriculum in their online and in-person programs. Accredited online MBA programs meet the same high standards as traditional programs.

Students earning their MBA online typically spend 1-2 years in the program. Like traditional programs, online MBA programs offer specializations, internship opportunities, and accelerated enrollment options.

10 Popular MBA Specializations



MBA degree-seekers specialize their coursework with a concentration. Popular options include finance, entrepreneurship, technology, strategy, and marketing. Students can also choose a general management specialization. Each MBA program sets its own specialization options, so prospective applicants should research available concentrations before applying.


  • Finance

    A finance MBA strengthens analytical and decision-making abilities for careers in financial management. Coursework in corporate finance, mergers, investment strategy, and business valuation build core finance skills. Students take classes in financial modeling, data analytics, and strategic management.

    Graduates become risk managers, insurance managers, chief financial officers, and financial managers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial managers earn a median annual wage of $134,180.


  • Marketing

    An MBA with a marketing concentration provides graduate-level training in pricing strategy, consumer behavior, and strategic marketing management. Students learn to forecast sales, research potential customers, and apply data to make marketing decisions. The degree emphasizes analytical and research skills.

    Graduates can pursue careers as marketing managers, product managers, marketing consultants, and data analytics specialists. Marketing managers earn a median annual wage of $142,170.


  • Accounting

    An accounting MBA prepares graduates for roles in financial management or specialized accounting careers. Students explore advanced accounting procedures, auditing, and corporate budgeting. The degree emphasizes business analytics, financial accounting, and organizational leadership.

    With an MBA in accounting, professionals can pursue careers as personal financial advisors, accounting managers, and financial managers. According to BLS data, financial managers earn a median salary of $134,180 annually.


  • General Management

    A general management concentration emphasizes leadership and decision-making skills for management roles in diverse industries. MBA students learn to motivate teams, manage projects, and use data analytics in decision-making. Coursework focuses on strategic management, organizational management, and competitive advantages.

    General management MBA degree-holders work in general and operations management. These career paths offer a median pay of $103,650 annually. The degree can lead to opportunities as a management consultant or business analyst.


  • Entrepreneurship

    MBA programs offer entrepreneurship specializations for students interested in establishing new businesses or working in venture capital. The concentration emphasizes developing ideas, creating a business plan, securing capital, and launching a new venture. Coursework includes entrepreneurial strategy, private equity, and innovation.

    An entrepreneurship concentration prepares graduates for careers as chief executives in new ventures. According to BLS data, chief executives earn a median annual pay of $185,950.


  • Human Resources

    Human resources MBA students connect employee resource management with executive decision-making. The concentration frames human resources as a strategic advantage in competitive environments. Degree-seekers study employee motivation, training and development, and corporate culture. While building management skills, learners also strengthen their strategic and analytical abilities.

    Human resources managers earn a median annual wage of $121,220. The top-paid human resources managers make $208,000 annually.


  • Leadership

    A leadership concentration emphasizes analytical, organizational, and management skills. Students learn how to build effective workplace environments, analyze data to make operational decisions, and improve team communication. Coursework emphasizes leadership theories, ethical decision-making, and multicultural leadership.

    An MBA with a leadership specialization prepares graduates for management careers in many industries. Management occupations report the highest wages of any major occupational group, reaching a median annual salary of $109,760.


  • Strategy

    A strategy specialization trains MBA students to develop and execute strategies that give their organization a competitive advantage. The concentration emphasizes value generation, strategic risk analysis, and business competition. Learners strengthen their analytical and decision-making abilities through intellectual capital, strategic management, and investment strategy coursework.

    Graduates enter leadership positions in various management occupations, paying a median wage of $109,760 annually. They also work as management consultants and strategy managers.


  • Operations Management

    An operations management concentration emphasizes the design and development of new products or services. Operations managers oversee the planning process and take a decision-making role in improving efficiency. The concentration covers price optimization, demand research, and supply chain management. Students learn about operational strategy and sustainability.

    The specialization leads to management and executive opportunities, including operations manager. General and operations managers earn a median annual salary of $103,650.


  • Technology

    An MBA with a technology concentration combines business coursework with technology training. Learners study emerging tech concepts while strengthening strategic operations and leadership skills. Coursework may include tech entrepreneurship, intellectual property law, project management, and financial technology.

    MBA degree-holders with a tech background can pursue decision-making roles in technology. Computer and information systems managers earn a median annual pay of $151,150.


Portrait of Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.

See more articles by Genevieve

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