What Is an MBA Degree?

MBA degree graduates reviewing business and management plans in the office

Are you an aspiring business professional with a longing to lead? Do you wonder how you can advance your career successfully? Have you found yourself ready to improve your skills? If so, you may want to consider earning your MBA degree.

MBA Meaning: Definition of an MBA

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is earned by completing a graduate-level business-based degree program. This master’s degree program is suited for everyone who wishes to acquire new skills and knowledge that will help them attain leadership positions within business organizations. Individuals who earn an MBA degree can work in virtually any industry.

An MBA degree may help boost your career regardless of whether you work in the public, private or nonprofit sector as it will provide the necessary business tools, communications skills and critical thinking perspective needed in today’s changing world.

How Long Does Earning an MBA Take?

You may be wondering, “How long does earning an MBA degree take?” Although it depends on your program and schedule, many MBA programs can be completed in as little as 24 months,1 and sometimes even less time. You must find a program and pace that is practical for you, given your responsibilities and work, as some timelines may be more strenuous than others. For example, you may decide not to pursue a full-time MBA program but instead earn your degree slowly, starting with only a couple of classes.

Fortunately for busy professionals, earning your MBA no longer entails packing up your home and moving closer to campus. Many business schools now offer online learning opportunities, enabling you to complete your degree requirements from anywhere in a way that works for you. This is an ideal choice for business professionals who wish to retain their current position while making progress toward a degree.

You may also want to explore evening MBA options that allow you to meet with other working professionals but still offer flexibility to fit within your schedule. If these options are of interest to you, a hybrid model combining online and evening classes is also worth considering.

Types of MBA Degrees

MBA degrees are available in a variety of subfields and emphases. Each program develops different skills you can apply to business in many ways. Here are some types of MBA degrees:

For some graduate students, earning a dual degree may reveal new career opportunities. Master of Business Administration & Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems and Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Leadership are two dual-degree combinations that give students in these fields more options in their education and careers.

MBA Degree Courses

The courses you may encounter in an MBA program will differ depending on the specific degree you decide to pursue. No matter which program you chose, you will gain a solid understanding of business and how to become a leader in your field. Some courses you might take in an MBA program include:

  • Leadership and Organizations
  • Economics
  • Strategic Management
  • Operations Management
  • Marketing
  • Finance

Emphases provide courses by professors in one field of study and allow you to specialize in that area. For example, if you are studying cybersecurity, you may take classes such as Cyber Warfare and Applications and Enterprise Security Infrastructure Design.

Career Options for MBA Graduates

Those with an MBA degree can go on to pursue a vast array of careers. Graduates are equipped for careers involving business and leadership. Due to the extensive knowledge that is gained in a Master of Business Administration program, graduates may take on positions such as:

  • Chief marketing officer (CMO)
  • Chief financial officer (CFO)
  • Chief executive officer (CEO)
  • Entrepreneur
  • Marketing director
  • Director of operations
  • Finance manager
  • Business operations manager
  • Management analyst

For professionals who truly want to become capable servant leaders in business, an MBA is a solid choice. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people with master’s degrees has doubled in recent years. There are 21 million people aged 25 and older with master’s degrees as their highest degree.2 Thus, earning a master’s degree can help level the playing field as you pursue your careers.

MBA Degree Salary Expectations

Graduate-level degrees often come with a significant salary increase as employers know the time, value and commitment that graduates bring to the table. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017, the median wage for those in master’s level occupations was $68,090, whereas the median wage for those in doctoral and professional-level occupations was $103,820.3

The salary that MBA graduates receive may vary according to their position and the company or organization that employs them.

Is an MBA Degree Right for Me?

Earning an MBA will require hard work and an enduring commitment. However, the rewards will be well worth your effort.

Holding an MBA degree is like stamping a special access pass on your resume. It will set you apart from other job applicants and enable you to pursue promotion opportunities. It indicates to potential employers that you are motivated and skilled in your field and a valuable asset for their team.

An MBA program may be right for you if any of the following are true:

  • You aspire to transition to a high-level leadership role at your current company, such as a C-suite position.
  • You are planning to leave your current company to pursue a higher-level role at another corporation.
  • You have an entrepreneurial mindset and wish to build a business or an intrapreneurial perspective to help innovate within your current company
  • You previously earned an undergraduate degree and would like to continue your educational journey or hope to pursue a doctoral degree.
  • You are working toward a second career and need to develop new skills and acquire additional knowledge.
  • You are interested in learning more about your field and improving your leadership skills and expanding your tool-box of business competencies and bringing more value at work.

What Do I Need to Apply for An MBA Program?

Some students may enter a master’s program immediately after earning a bachelor's degree. However, generally, individuals who enroll in an MBA degree do so after spending at least a few years in industry and understanding the business of business. Some business schools will only accept MBA candidates who can demonstrate some work experience as the context of the curriculum within the framework of working does help bring the learning to life. However, if you are planning to transition to a second career, you might not need work experience that is specific to your desired career.

All MBA students must be able to clearly articulate their professional goals. You should have a general understanding of what you hope to gain from your advanced education and how your degree will affect your career path. You also need to be highly motivated to learn what the MBA has to offer, as graduate education requires the student to “own their learning” and be intellectually curious about the material.

After you have decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree, you should carefully research the admissions requirements for your chosen school of business.

How To Prepare for an MBA Degree Program

No matter where you are in your educational journey, you can prepare for success in an MBA program. Here are some steps you can take at various stages:

  • If you are still in high school, apply for colleges that offer business programs and learn as much as you can before graduating.
  • As most programs require completion of an undergraduate degree, you will need to graduate from a program that will help you enter an MBA program. Be sure to meet any GPA requirements for the duration of your studies.
  • Gaining experience through internships and jobs can also help you prepare for an MBA degree and your career beyond.
  • Depending on the school you decide to apply to, you may need to pass admissions tests, such as the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE). If your school requires this, make sure to prepare and do your best on the test, as these scores can determine whether you are admitted or not.
  • Even after you have been accepted, you can continue to prepare by committing to trying your best during your business education and learning as much as you can.

How Can I Make the Most of My MBA Experience?

Earning an MBA is a special time in your life, so make the most of your experience. It’s best to enter the program with the mindset that you can learn something meaningful from everyone you encounter—whether they are instructors or students.

You should also treat your fellow students as if they are colleagues or business partners. Work collaboratively on group projects and be an empathetic leader. After all, earning an MBA is a wonderful networking opportunity.

Another way to make the most out of your MBA experience is by broadening your perspective, forming ideas and thinking critically. The main reason to earn an MBA is to learn, so take in as much information as possible and draw thoughtful conclusions from it. Learn from the perspectives of others regarding leadership and business.

What Comes Next After My MBA?

After completing an MBA program, you will be equipped to take on many jobs and high-level positions. However, if you still want to further your expertise after earning an MBA degree, you may choose to pursue a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree.

A DBA is perfect for individuals who want to take their education and their careers to the highest possible level. Many doctoral degrees require the completion of a master’s degree. If you intend to earn a doctoral degree in business, an MBA is well worth your time and effort. 

Considering earning your MBA degree? Explore Grand Canyon University’s business and management degree programs. GCU’s Colangelo College of Business offers online MBA programs to fit your needs. Explore GCU’s tuition and graduate degree admissions requirements for more details. If you are interested in learning more or getting started, click on the Request Info button at the top of the screen. 

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1This applies to an MBA without an emphasis.

2United States Census Bureau, Number of Master and Doctoral Degrees Doubles Among Population in January 2021

3COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may affect the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, the data shown are based on 2017 statistics, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Employment Outlook for Graduate-Level Occupations

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.