MBA Degree

What is an MBA degree? It is the Master of Business Administration degree. It's granted by universities all over North America, and getting one is commonly used as a way to get ahead in a business career. Earning a Master of Business Administration degree usually leads to better pay, promotions, job offers from competing firms, and a host of other benefits. In today's economic climate, employment is a buyer's market, which means that companies can afford to be very selective in whom they hire. Job candidates will want to have every advantage they can when seeking employment or promotions, and more and more people are seeking this highly valuable diploma to give them an advantage in a competitive job market.

Except in very rare circumstances, a person will need to possess a bachelor's degree in order to be admitted to a master's of business program. A few combined programs allow a person to earn a bachelor's degree and an MBA as part of the same educational path, but most people applying to schools offering the degree have already earned their bachelor's, and have spent some time working in a career. There is no minimum or maximum age for business school, but the typical student is between 25 and 30 years old. This is not to say that older students aren't found in MBA programs; on the contrary, people in their thirties and forties (and older) are found in just about every graduating class.

The standard program consists of full-time study lasting two years. Students in these programs generally resign from their jobs or take a leave of absence, as the rigorous and time consuming nature of this course of study doesn't leave much time for working in a career. However, there are a number of alternative ways of earning an MBA. For students in a hurry, accelerated programs, which require going to class most of the year, can be completed faster. For those who can't afford to be without a paycheck for a couple of years, part-time MBA programs can be found. These classes usually meet on nights and/or weekends and can take three or four years to complete. Executive MBA degree programs focus on managers and executives, allowing them to earn a degree without giving up their positions.

There are also different kinds of B school degrees. Most of them are general, but some allow a student to focus on a particular area, such as marketing or finance, or a particular kind of operation, such as retail or health care. However, the basics of the degree in both cases will cover a lot of the same ground - economics, accounting, marketing, decision-making, etc. These programs are not easy; there is a lot of study and hard work involved. Many educators believe that these courses are as academically challenging as law school programs. That is not keeping people from signing up, however. In the year 2000, there were about 100,000 of them awarded. These days closer to 150,000 people graduate with an MBA degree every year. That's an amazing growth rate, and it's due to two factors. The first is the much greater income a person with an MBA will earn over his or her lifetime compared to colleagues with only bachelor's degrees. The second is the simple fact that with more and more people possessing one, anyone who hopes to compete will also need to earn one. It's the law of supply and demand, and it means the number of applicants to business schools will probably keep rising.

What Makes a Good MBA Candidate?

As more and more people seek to stand out from the crowd in today's challenging economic environment, many of them naturally consider going back to school to seek an MBA degree. However, it's a simple fact of life that not everyone is cut out for business school. A person should be sure to have what it takes to get through the program before spending a lot of time and money, taking admissions tests, applying to a lot of different schools, or worse, actually getting accepted and enrolling, only to discover that one is not cut out for it. So what kind of person is suited for graduate business school?

  • One of the main requirements is the ability to get along well with others. Earning a Master's of Business is a far cry from earning a graduate degree in the liberal arts, and isn't really very similar to earning a bachelor's degree in business. That's because in an MBA program, much of the work is done as a member of a team, just as it would be out in the real world of business. Personality conflicts will cause havoc in such an environment. So a person will need to be personable and not given to taking offense easily.
  • Second, a candidate will need strong math skills. Although there is certainly more to business than numbers, a whole lot of what goes on in any business career revolves around numbers. Finance, accounting, economics, statistics . . . these topics will make up a substantial portion of most programs, and those who struggle with numbers will have a hard time keeping up.
  • Third, an open and inquisitive mind with a knack for abstract thinking is also very important. Much of what goes on in business grad school involves thinking "outside the box", looking at “what if” scenarios, solving thorny problems, and making difficult decisions. If these sorts of things aren't a person's strong points, there's no shame in that at all, but such a person will probably have a tough time finishing an MBA program.
  • Fourth, self-discipline is a must. In many ways the program will be as intense and challenging as law schools. For two full years students can feel as if they do nothing but go to school and study, and they barely have time to do all the studying required. Many people have very little idea of the massive amounts of reading, study, and homework required in order to earn an MBA, and they wind up feeling overwhelmed. Two solid years of rigorous and intense full-time academic study is simply too much for them.

A few other traits are also very important. Most schools will want to see either a high GPA or a very strong score on the GMAT, and preferably both. They also want candidates who have been working in a business environment for several years and who have a plan for what they want to achieve with the rest of their career. Interview skills are also important; the ideal candidate will come across as a person who has all of the above traits and is confident in his or her ability to earn the diploma.

History of the MBA Degree

The Master's of Business Administration is different from most college degrees, whether undergraduate or postgraduate. There are a couple of unique things about its history that set it apart from almost all other degrees granted by colleges and universities. What are the historical factors that make it unique? Number one, unlike the traditional college degrees such as bachelor's, master's of science, or doctoral degrees, which date back centuries, the MBA s only about a hundred years old. The second factor is that, unlike most other traditional degrees, which were developed in Europe, it is a distinctly American innovation.

The MBA degree was invented out of necessity, arising out of the Industrial Revolution, when the dynamics of big business began requiring that colleges produce individuals to run these huge enterprises along scientific, tested principles. In 1908, Harvard University opened its Graduate School of Business Administration, which technically awarded the very first Master of Business Administration degree. However, in 1900, Dartmouth College had already established the Tuck School of Business, which conferred a degree known as the Master of Science in Commerce. Although not technically labeled as such, this is what most historians regard as the first actual MBA program in the world. In 1950, a university in Canada awarded the first one outside the United States. Other countries soon followed, and some version of it is now awarded in nations all over the planet.

These days, there are several different variations on the traditional MBA degree, but the oldest model is still the most popular. It's a two-year academic program, and students study just about every aspect of business: accounting, finance, information technology, human resources, operations, etc. In some programs, students may choose a specialty (often called a concentration) and focus a substantial portion of their studies on that, and less time on other facets. Variations on the traditional format include the accelerated MBA, which allows a person to graduate in a little over a year, the executive MBA, geared toward high-level managers and executives and their schedules, and the slower (around three years) "weekend" format, which allows students to keep their jobs during the day, with classes on nights and weekends.

In the 21st century, the MBA degree is now one of the most popular degrees (of any level) in the United States. In 2007, over 150,000 of them were awarded in the United States. This is astonishing when you consider that just a few years before, in the year 2000, only 100,000 were awarded. What's even more remarkable is that in 1960, only 5,000 were awarded in the U.S. Of all the master's degrees awarded to males, about 23% are MBAs. (The next most popular master's degree among men is the master of engineering, accounting for only 4.5% of the total master's degrees awarded.) Among women, things aren't quite so lopsided. About 11% of master's degrees earned by women are MBAs; the next most popular master's degree among women is the master of education, with about 5% of the total.

This unparalleled growth has taken place in spite of the fact that an MBA is also one of the most expensive degree programs, with the average degree now costing over $100,000 in total tuition and expenses. Of course, it's easy to see why these programs continue to be popular, as salaries are very high, and some of America's most famous and respected personalities are MBA holders who have risen to become CEOs of some of America's top companies. One Harvard MBA, George W. Bush, even went on to become President of the United States. So with an MBA degree, when it comes to careers, the sky really is the limit.

Last Updated: 05/21/2014

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