What Is an MBA Degree? Is It Right for You?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

An MBA degree can open doors to some amazing career opportunities. Learn how to obtain a master's degree in business, what you can do with it, and how to get started with this guide from Coursera.

[Featured Image]:  MBA candidate preparing for class.

Over the course of your working life, doing an MBA can often help you make more money, open more career doors, get promoted faster, and be better at your job. 

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a degree that prepares graduates to be effective senior managers in an increasingly complex and global business environment. Read on to learn about MBA programmes and what they can do for you.

What does “MBA” stand for?

MBA stands for “Master of Business Administration.” Most business schools offer graduate programmes that prepare students to lead companies in a variety of different capacities. For those interested in leadership positions in corporations, an MBA can be an excellent choice. At its core, an MBA teaches students how to apply theoretical concepts in real-world settings and prepare them for careers as managers or leaders in their industry.

An MBA is often considered the most valuable degree you can have on your CV. It shows that you have dedicated yourself to studying business and that you have a thorough understanding of best practice in the field. 

What can you do with an MBA?

Whatever career path you choose, an MBA can be a powerful asset. While it won't turn you into a brilliant business strategist or adept dealmaker overnight, it will help you manage people and projects more effectively. An MBA will help you to develop advanced skills and prepare for leadership roles as you begin climbing the corporate ladder. 

There is no doubt that an MBA brings with it an enormous amount of opportunity. Whether you are looking to start your own business, join a business as a manager or work in the not-for-profit sector, an MBA opens doors. MBA graduates are in high demand at the moment in the health care, IT, consulting, retail, and accounting and finance sectors, according to a survey of corporate recruiters completed in 2021.

The bottom line is that getting your MBA will help you become more prepared to take on new management roles in the future. Perhaps even more importantly, it will help you advance in those roles once you've landed them.

Types of MBA programmes

There are various types of MBA programmes available at universities. If you are looking to pursue this type of course, here is your guide to the different types of MBA programmes.

An MBA stands out on a CV. Through the programme, students not only gain deep expertise in both business and management; they also learn to understand the big picture of business and management from a multidisciplinary perspective. 

Full-time MBA

A full-time MBA typically takes 24 months to complete. It can be completed on campus, or through distance learning. 

Part-time MBA

Part-time MBAs are an option for busy executives who cannot spare the time to commit full-time to their studies. A part-time MBA allows these professionals the opportunity to study at their convenience. 

The schedule of these programmes is tailored to meet the specific needs of participants, who have busy day jobs and very little time to spare. Part-time MBA programmes take anywhere from two to seven years of study and can be pursued either in a classroom setting or through distance learning.

Executive MBA

The Executive MBA (EMBA) is designed for high-performing professionals who have attained success in their careers but want to further develop their management capabilities. It is an accelerated course of study that combines advanced academic learning and business practice. 

With an Executive MBA, the student usually has several years of work experience under their belt, especially if they’re moving into a senior position within their organisation.

Global MBA

Global MBA is a broad category that includes international business administration programmes and other types of MBA programmes that relate to more than one country or region.

Global MBA programmes sometimes come with elements of exchange programmes and cater to working professionals all across the globe by providing a global outlook, helping them to develop leadership skills and business acumen.

Earning your MBA: Online vs. on campus

A Master's degree is becoming essential for board level career growth and success. The question then is which method to pursue: online or on campus? Each type of MBA has its pros and cons. Your decision should be based on your unique circumstances. 

Online MBAs

There are plenty of reasons to choose an online MBA. With online programmes, students can choose their own schedules, allowing them to work full-time while earning their degrees. Additionally, online MBAs are typically cheaper than on-campus programmes, making them a smart investment. An online programme allows students to stay at home and learn from anywhere in the world.

Remember though, not all online degrees are created equal. Some schools offer fully accredited programmes while others offer lesser options that don't deliver real value to students. The key is to find a good online degree programme.

On-campus MBAs

Earning an on-campus MBA requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but the experience can prove to be highly rewarding. A traditional MBA programme allows students to earn their degree in two years, after which graduates are ready to take on the world of business armed with the knowledge and skills necessary for success.

On-campus MBAs offer all the same benefits of an online MBA with the added bonus of being on campus. You're surrounded by the local community and have the opportunity to connect with classmates and professors. Plus, there are more classes and interaction opportunities than in online degree formats. 

You'll also have plenty of chances to network, meet people in the field and land an internship or job straight from university.

What do you learn in an MBA programme?

There is a lot you can learn in an MBA programme. For starters, you can learn accounting and finance, valuable skills for those starting out in business or transitioning from other industries. But there are many more skills your MBA degree will teach you. 

Below are some classes you might find on your MBA curriculum, though curricula vary from school to school:

  • Digital marketing

  • Business ethics

  • Business strategy

  • Corporate finance

  • Cultural psychology

  • Digital marketing

  • Investments

  • Leadership foundation

  • Managerial accounting

  • Operations management

  • Organisational management

How long does it take to get an MBA degree?

The short answer is that it depends on where you want to study and what you want to study. However, for most full-time MBAs, you should plan on about two years.

Some universities have structured their MBA programmes so that students finish their degree in three years. For some accelerated business schools, you could complete the degree in 12 to 16 months. Do keep in mind that earning your MBA requires you to be highly motivated and disciplined.

Is an MBA worth it?

The short answer is yes. An MBA will open doors for you, whether you're looking to advance your career within your current organisation, take a step up the ladder in another company or launch your own enterprise.

There have been many studies that examine the effect of an MBA on your career and personal life. One article by Investopedia reported that people with MBAs typically earned more over their lifetimes than those with only bachelor's degrees [1].

In 2021, the median salary for an MBA graduate was 77 percent higher than those with a bachelor's degree, according to annual research conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council. The same study shows that within the same industry, an MBA holder's salary is 53 percent higher than their colleagues. 

An MBA from a good school like Imperial College London, London Business School (LBS), or Oxford Business School will impress your future employers and help you to open doors that would otherwise be closed to you. Some employers have an MBA as a prerequisite for senior-level positions.

The skills, knowledge and contacts you gain from an MBA will give you an enormous advantage over your peers in the job market, enabling you to start off on the right foot in a very competitive marketplace.

Do I need an MBA degree?

An MBA from a top business school can be an incredibly powerful way to break into top business positions. 

You can usually expect a salary boost after getting your degree, and depending on the school you attend and the industry you work in, you may have a better chance of landing a high-paying job during or after school. But there are less expensive ways to get started in business without investing such a large sum of money. 

If your goal is to go to the top of the management ladder, an MBA might be your best option. It will help you hone your leadership skills, give you a perspective on business as a whole, expand your network and teach you how to work with others. On the other hand, if you are looking to get into the marketing or finance field, a Professional Certificate may be a  more suitable and specialised approach to your learning.

MBA application requirements

If you choose to go after an MBA, remember that this degree requires business-related work experience and good grades from previous college study. Professional Certificates often require less work experience.

The application requirements for an MBA differ from school to school. In general, though, you may need to provide any or all of the following:

  • Your undergraduate degree and transcript(s).

  • An official copy of your A’Levels.

  • Letters of recommendation from faculty, employers or others who can speak to your character and work ethic.

  • An essay that describes why you want an MBA degree and what you hope to achieve with it.

  • A CV showing all of your relevant work experience and extracurricular activities.

Some schools don't require all applicants to take standardised tests. They may even waive degree requirements if you have a tremendous amount of experience. The specifics are different for every school, so it is important to research the requirements of each programme you're interested in before applying. 

How to choose an MBA programme: Factors to consider

Choosing the right MBA programme can be a huge decision, as it’s a big investment and will likely have a lasting impact on your career. Below are some of the key criteria you should consider when searching for an MBA programme:

  • Location

  • Cost and funding

  • Accreditations

  • Programme design and curriculum

  • How is the programme ranked?

  • Expectations for post-graduation employment

  • Diversity

You'll also want to look at whether or not the school has scholarships available for MBA students. Some universities offer merit-based scholarships, whereas others offer need-based programmes. There are also some schools that offer need-based scholarships for women only or minorities only.

Finally, you should also look at your own personal goals and priorities when deciding which MBA programme is best for you.

Get started with Coursera

Are you interested in getting an MBA degree? If so, you might be considering taking an online course. Why not take a look through the MBA options available on Coursera from universities around the world. These courses are taught by many of the same professors who teach in the classroom, making them some of the most valuable classes you can take on the Internet.

Article sources

  1. Investopedia. “Is an MBA Worth It?, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/011415/when-mba-worth-it.asp." Accessed October 10, 2022.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.