MBA (Master in Business Administration)

A Master's in Business Administration (MBA) is an advanced degree offered by most business schools to college graduates who (preferably) have had a few years of work experience. Both the quantitative and qualitative skills taught in MBA programs are qualities that are in high demand in the real business world. If you decide not to pursue an MBA, it is possible that you are making a decision that will hinder your future success in the corporate world.

There is also a substantial gap in pay between those with MBAs from top schools, and those who graduate from lower-ranked institutions. Because the stakes are so high, seeking expert advice and meticulously preparing your application are essential for your future success at a top business school.

Interacting with a network of well-trained and educated business contacts while in school is excellent practice for your re-entering the business world full-time post MBA. Working closely with others and finding common ground with your fellow students provide you with training for any future positions with much higher stakes.

Although the MBA is the common name for a graduate management degree, many institutions offer the same program with another name such as Master of Management (MM), Master of Public and Private Management (MPPM), Master of Administrative Science (MAS), and Master of Science in Business Administration (MSBA), to name a few.

Several associations offer accreditation to MBA programs, the most well-known of which is ABSCAA. These associations certify that a program has met its standards for accreditation. Accreditation does not necessary mean that a school is right for you, nor does lack of accreditation. Non-accredited schools most likely simply have not gone through the process required in order to be accredited by one of these associations. For that reason you must look beyond whether or not a program has this or that accreditation (some will brag of "triple" accreditation) to the content of the program itself, the quality of the professors, the specialties it offers and decide whether or not that will get you where you are going.

Business school applications generally contain 8 basic elements:

(1) GMAT Scores
(2) TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers)
(3) Essays
(4) Recommendation Letters (2-3)
(5) Undergraduate/Graduate Transcript(s)
(6) Interview
(7) Resume
(8) Application Form

These application elements are not listed in any particular order, as some schools pay far more attention to a particular aspect (e.g., the GMAT score) of your application and other schools give greater weight to another portion of the application (e.g., the essay portion). However, all items are an integral part of the package you present to the school of your choice, and therefore, all items must be taken seriously. The entire application should aid the admissions officer in developing a clear vision of you, identifying your strengths and weaknesses, where you have been and are going, and the difficulties you have overcome.

Business schools, in general, make special efforts to simulate the actual business world in the classroom by:

  • Creating lessons from actual situations
  • Using the very computer programs you will need to use in the business world
  • Involving you and your fellow students in active discussion of problems so that you will better understand how to interact with people and be more skilled at working in a team to develop the best solutions.

Academic expertise varies from program to program. There are some basic topics in the areas of management and business which all schools will cover. But if your area of interest is less common, you will need to inquire about the course offerings at each specific school. For example, some schools have a focus on Operational Management while other schools are known for their MBA training for non-profit organizations.

In addition to detailed curricula which you can either find on-line or directly request from schools, there are three major teaching methods used by business schools: lecturing, the case method and the project method.

Another possibility you might want to consider during your MBA is simply taking courses outside of the Business School at which you are studying. The opportunity that you are granted during the MBA program is in part simply the opportunity to return to an academic environment and explore. Do consider, even if you are not going to commit yourself to a dual-degree program, expanding your horizons by taking or sitting on courses outside of the typical Business School curriculum. However, you should not engage in outside courses if they significantly digress from your current studies.

If you are considering a more intensive, for example, one-year or 18-month program, it is likely that you will be expected to come in with a solid background in certain relevant subjects, such as Economics and Math. Many schools provide summer boot camps prior to the start of official coursework to refresh the memories of students in those areas. The traditional two-year MBA programs also expect you to be comfortable with Calculus and Economics and even certain elements of Accounting prior to the start of their programs. For this reason it is important that you are aware of prerequisites for courses and possibly take some courses on your own before your MBA.

You will be expected to have solid computer skills when you arrive at a school and to further develop and enhance them during your tenure in your program. If you are not completely comfortable with computers and computer programs, it will be helpful to you to have some crash course on Microsoft Office applications before entering school.

Communication and people skills are two most important skills required of a good manager. Refreshing your fundamental grasp of English to make yourself articulate, well-spoken, and well-versed in business expressions will make you fit in faster and better in a variety of settings including group meetings, conference calls, and presentations.