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Question: What Is an MBA Degree?

Answer: MBA stands for Master of Business Administration, which is the formal designation for a master’s program that offers introductory and advanced training in business operations and management. While there are different types of MBA programs and a number of different MBA specializations, the core MBA curriculum covers general business topics, including accounting, finance, human resources, marketing, organizational leadership, and professional communication.

MBA Degree Programs

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a well-defined professional degree that is generally considered to be the terminal degree in the field of business management and administration. MBA programs provide broad training in the functional areas of business, which include accounting, finance, human resource management, and marketing, as well as operations and project management, organizational leadership, and communication. Students in an MBA program learn a full range of business skills in preparation for a wide variety of positions in the public and the private sector in areas that include but are not limited to sales, marketing, public relations, accountancy, personnel management, supply-chain management, computer and information systems management, real-estate development, banking, investment management, strategic planning, and financial consulting.

MBA Subject Areas

The core MBA curriculum is designed to cover the key functional areas of business administration as well as proficiencies in areas associated with effective leadership, decision-making, and interpersonal communications. While the individual course titles vary by program, and there may be some variation among programs in how core business topics are addressed, a typical MBA program includes required coursework in the follow areas:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Managerial Economics
  • Operational Management
  • Management Communication
  • Decision Analysis
  • Business Law
  • Strategic Marketing
  • Business Analytics
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Global Markets

In addition to core coursework, which is often completed in the first year of a two-year program, MBA programs provide advanced coursework in special topics, some or all of which may be taken as electives during the second year of a program. This can include advanced coursework in core functional areas of business administration, from accounting and finance to human resource management and organizational leadership. It may also include courses in topics related to a range of more specialized areas of business, like entrepreneurship, healthcare administration, hospitality management, international business, real estate, and sustainability.

MBA Specializations and Dual Degree MBA Programs

Many MBA programs offer a clearly defined track or concentration in one or more business specialization. Students who opt for an MBA specialization complete the core business curriculum and then take two or more courses on the track they have chosen. Common MBA specialization include:

  • Accounting
  • Business Analytics
  • Cybersecurity
  • Entrepreneurial Business
  • Finance
  • Global/International Business
  • Healthcare Administration/Health Systems Management
  • Hospitality Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Insurance/Risk Management
  • Operations and Logistics
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Project Management
  • Real Estate
  • Strategic Marketing
  • Sustainability
  • Taxation

Another option that is available to students aiming to pursue an MBA degree is what is known as a dual degree program. These programs allow students to simultaneously earn an MBA and a complementary graduate degree in a related field. Students in a dual degree program typically complete the requirements for both degrees in less time than it would take to earn the two degrees separately. Common dual degree programs include:

  • MBA/Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • MBS/Master of Education (MEd)
  • MBA/Master of Environmental Studies
  • MBA/Juris Doctoral (JD)
  • MBA/Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • MBA/Master of Public Policy
  • MBA/Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)
  • MBA/Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • MBA/Master of Social Work (MSW)

MBA Programs Formats

While the foundational MBA curriculum was designed to be completed in four traditional academic semesters or the equivalent of two years of full-time enrollment, there are several distinct variations on this format. Many MBA programs, some of which may be designated as Professional MBA programs, are designed for students who have already started their business careers. These programs offer part-time enrollment options that allow students to continue to work while earning their MBA in two or more years. In contrast, there are one-year MBA programs that allow qualified students who have completed certain undergraduate prerequisites to complete their degree in twelve months of full-time enrollment. There are also Executive MBA programs, which only admit students who have five or more years of professional business management experience, and that offer a condensed curriculum that focuses primarily on advanced business training.

In addition to traditional campus-based MBA programs, there are many MBA programs that offer all, most, or some of their coursework online. Online and hybrid MBA programs may be formatted differently from the traditional two- or three-semester academic calendar (fall/spring/summer). For example, there are online programs in which students take one course at a time for five weeks, or two courses per ten-week term. Many online and hybrid MBA programs also provide a range of enrollment options in order to accommodate students who want to finish their degree quickly, versus students who may want to extend the time to completion due to professional and/or personal commitments outside of school.

Accreditation for MBA Programs

There are three bodies that accredit MBA programs: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). Accreditation by one of these three organizations indicates that the program meets certain standards for training and education in the field of business administration.


Business FAQ Pages:

FAQ: Are There Any Part-Time Online MBA Programs?
FAQ: Are There Master’s in Accounting Programs That Have 100% Online Instruction?
FAQ: Are There Master’s in Finance Programs That Have 100% Online Instruction?
FAQ: Are There Online Master’s in Accounting Programs That Do Not Require Applicants to Submit GMAT Scores or That Will Waive the GMAT Requirement?
FAQ: Are There Online Master’s in Finance Programs That Do Not Require GMAT Scores or That Offer a GMAT Waiver?
FAQ: Are There Online MBA Programs that Do Not Require GMAT Test Scores?
FAQ: Are There Part-Time Online Master’s in Accounting Degree Programs?
FAQ: Are There Part-Time Online Master’s in Finance Degree Programs?
FAQ: Does the SHRM Accredit Master’s in HRM Degree Programs?
FAQ: How Long Does it Take To Complete an MBA Program?
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FAQ: How to Become a Certified Fraud Examiner
FAQ: What Are the Differences Between an MBA and an MSOL Degree Program?
FAQ: What Are the Differences Between Professional MBA Programs and Executive MBA Programs?
FAQ: What Are the Different Types of MBA Degree Programs?
FAQ: What Can You Do with a Sports Management Degree?
FAQ: What Is a Dual Degree MBA Program?
FAQ: What is a Dual Specialization MBA Program?
FAQ: What is a Flexible MBA Program?
FAQ: What Is a Human Resource Management Degree?
FAQ: What Is a One-Year MBA Program?
FAQ: What Is an MSOL Degree Program?
FAQ: What Is the Difference Between a Dual Specialization and a Dual Degree MBA Program?
FAQ: What Is the Difference Between an MBA in Finance and a Master’s in Finance?
FAQ: What Is the Difference Between an MBA in Human Resource Management and a Master’s in Human Resource Management?
FAQ: What Is the Difference Between Finance and Accounting?
FAQ: What MBA Concentrations and Specializations Are Offered Online?
FAQ: Who Accredits MBA Programs?
FAQ: Who Accredits non-MBA Business Programs?
FAQ: Who Accredits Online Master’s in Accounting Degree Programs?