How Hard is an MBA?

mba candidate sitting at his desk with colleagues in the background

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can be beneficial for many business professionals. With an MBA degree, a graduate may be able to position themselves for possible career advancement and new opportunities in many sectors and industries.1 With all the potential that this degree can bring, you may be wondering, just how hard is it to earn an MBA?

Earning an MBA is a challenging experience that you may find rewarding, helping you position yourself to attain new professional and personal heights. Furthermore, different students will find varying aspects of the program to be more difficult than others. What may be easy for one student may be difficult for another.

Transitioning Back to School

One challenge that those looking to pursue their MBA might face is making the transition back to the classroom, whether that be online or in person. According to Zippia, the average age of students pursuing an MBA degree is 28 years old, meaning that they may have already been working in a professional capacity for at least a few years.Going back to school after time has passed can be a significant challenge.

You will need to write academic papers, think theoretically and generally adapt to being a student again. You will also need to relearn the good habits that got you through your undergraduate program. For example, you will need to routinely set aside time for studying and completing your assignments.

In the time ahead of your planned entry to your MBA degree program, you should start adopting the mindset and habits of a student. Step up the volume of material you read daily. Focus on business journals and books relating to your industry or profession. Get into the habit of taking notes about what you’re reading. All of these activities can help you prepare for your MBA program.

Adjusting to a Heavy MBA Workload

Stepping up your reading and writing efforts before entering the MBA program may help you cope with a heavier workload. However, you might still find yourself suddenly swamped with work. It can feel overwhelming at first, but there are strategies for adjusting to your new schedule.

First, unless you’re planning to be a full-time MBA student, you should consider only taking one class at a time initially. If you find that you can easily handle the workload of one course, then you might consider adding a second, which may require approval from your university. If you do take more than one class at a time, try to balance them. For instance, take one class that requires a great deal of reading and writing and another class that focuses more on mathematics, such as accounting.

You will also need to set new priorities for your time in school. As you step into your program, consider what you need to make time for and what can fall off your schedule, such as your favorite TV show. Be sure to prioritize what is most important to you while still scheduling in ample time for your studies and assignments.

It is important to establish a disciplined routine regarding accomplishing required graduate-level course work; for example, a Tuesday and Thursday evening where you interact with your online class by contributing and participating in the discussion forum. Then commit time on a weekend to readings and assignments. It will require significant dedication and it can help if you have a weekly schedule.

Participating in MBA Degree Class Discussions

For some students, class discussions are the easy part of an MBA program. Others have trouble with this aspect, perhaps because they are a bit less extroverted or feel less confident with the topic of discussion. However, it’s important to make an effort to contribute to the discussion in every class — even if you’re taking an online MBA program. If you aren’t quite sure how to contribute to the discussion, you may find it’s easier to focus on asking questions.

Graduate education allows the adult-learner to leverage years of work experience and integrate it into their educational experience. Put your class conversations in the context of your work expertise. It will help bring the material to life and ease the process of answering the asynchronous discussion questions.

Building a Professional Network Through Your MBA Degree

Just like participating in class discussions, building a professional network is something that comes naturally for some, but is difficult for others. Remember that networking is one of the major reasons why professionals choose to complete an MBA degree. The connections you make in school can create new opportunities for you years down the road, so don’t be shy about speaking up and introducing yourself to others.

Comparing Technical Courses to Soft Skills MBA Courses

A typical MBA program involves a combination of both quantitative and qualitative courses. For example, you may take classes in economics, finance principles and applied business probability. You can also expect to study leadership styles, organizational behavior and managerial skills. Some students may find one type of course more difficult than the other.

Use the network of skill sets in the class, reach out to those that may be able to assist you and return the favor to help them at some point. While you’re working through one of the more difficult courses, look for ways to scale back your workload in other areas.

Earn your MBA online at GCU’s Colangelo College of Business. Choose from a range of specialization options, such as the MBA in Cybersecurity, Health Systems Management or Project Management. Fill out the form on this page and explore our graduate degree programs or learn about our flexible online platform.



1 Leckrone, B. (2023, June 22). Why Get an MBA? Top 10 Reasons. BestColleges. Retrieved June, 30, 2023.

2 Flynn, J. (2023, March 28). 25 Educational MBA Statistics [2023]: Average Age, Cost, and Salary for MBA Graduates. Zippia. Retrieved June 30, 2023.

Approved by the Assistant Vice President of GCU Marketing on July 19, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.