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Degree Programs

What is an MBA degree? Program types, curriculum, & more

Ever wondered what makes an MBA degree such a big deal? Well, in the ever-changing business landscape, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a highly sought-after credential.

Graduates armed with an MBA from a reputable business school possess a diverse set of skills that make them highly appealing to employers. According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 91% of recruiters worldwide planned to hire MBA graduates. This statistic underscores the high demand for MBA professionals in the job market and highlights the enhanced employability that comes with an MBA.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at what an MBA degree is, the different types of programs, what you’ll study, and why it’s more relevant today than ever.

  1. What is a master of business administration (MBA)?
  2. What is the importance of pursuing an MBA?
  3. What are 5 types of MBA programs?
  4. What topics are part of a MBA curriculum?
  5. What are the MBA admission requirements?
  6. How much does it cost to get an MBA degree?
  7. MBA degree FAQ
  8. How to evolve as a responsible leader with IMD?

What is a master of business administration (MBA)?

A Master of Business Administration (MBA), is a graduate degree tailored to those seeking to dive deeper into business strategy and leadership. It’s a comprehensive program that sharpens your management skills and gives you the skills needed to navigate the complexities of the business world.

The world of business is complex and ever-changing. An MBA is essential for professionals wanting to navigate and thrive. Technological advancements, globalization, and shifting consumer behaviors are reshaping industries, requiring leaders who can harness emerging technologies, understand global markets, and embrace sustainable practices. An MBA positions you as a confident and adaptable business professional ready to turn challenges into opportunities.

What is the importance of pursuing an MBA?

Pursuing an MBA degree is much more than acquiring an academic credential — it’s about nurturing and elevating your career path.

  • Career advancement. An MBA degree often opens doors to senior-level and leadership positions, enhancing job opportunities and career prospects.
  • Increased earnings. Research shows that MBA graduates earn higher salaries than those without this advanced degree. An MBA can boost your starting salary and help you stand out to corporate recruiters, giving you a big return on investment.
  • Expanded skill set. An MBA program teaches you a broad spectrum of business disciplines, from finance and marketing to operations management and business strategy.
  • Networking opportunities. Business schools create diverse environments, fostering a professional network that can help advance your career.
  • Global perspective. MBA programs often include international business in their curriculum, providing global exposure and study opportunities.
  • Access to resources. MBA students gain access to a wealth of resources, from extensive libraries and research databases to career services and business incubators.
  • Entrepreneurship opportunities. Many MBA graduates use their advanced knowledge and skills to start their own businesses. The practical business acumen learned through MBA coursework aids in managing these ventures successfully.
  • Enhanced soft skills. MBA programs emphasize developing crucial soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership.
  • Multiple career paths. With the knowledge acquired from an MBA, graduates can venture into various industries, including finance, health care, human resources, and international business.
  • Exposure to real-world scenarios. Case studies, internships, and group projects offer MBA students real-world business experience.

Choosing to pursue an MBA degree is an investment in your future. The benefits extend far beyond the classroom, equipping you for lifelong success in the dynamic world of business.

What are 5 types of MBA programs?

Different types of MBA programs are tailored to different career paths and life circumstances. Let’s explore some.

Full-time MBA programs

Full-time MBA programs are a traditional route to getting an MBA degree. These programs demand students’ full attention, with them attending graduate school full-time, generally for one to two years. 

The immersive nature of these programs allows MBA students to delve deeply into their coursework, cultivate robust relationships with their peers, and gain an all-encompassing understanding of various facets of business.

Traditional programs typically span two years, while accelerated options like the one-year full-time program offered by IMD.org provide a fast track to earning an MBA degree. These programs are particularly beneficial for individuals who can fully dedicate their time to studies and want to rapidly advance their careers with a graduate degree from a respected school of business.

Part-time MBA programs

Part-time MBA programs offer a pathway for working professionals looking to upgrade their skills without hitting pause on their careers. These programs blend flexibility and practicality, allowing grads to juggle work, personal commitments, and education. 

It’s an ideal choice for individuals who don’t have time to go to business school full-time or set aside a year or two.

Executive MBA programs

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs present a unique educational opportunity designed for seasoned professionals with several years of work experience. 

These part-time programs emphasize leadership development and strategic decision-making, serving to polish and enhance existing management skills. It’s an excellent choice for those eyeing senior leadership or executive roles, as it provides the advanced business acumen required to navigate and conquer complex, high-level challenges.

Online MBA programs

Online MBA programs present traditional MBA programs’ rich curriculum and rigorous learning experience but are delivered remotely through digital platforms. 

This format offers flexibility and can often be tailored to individual paces and schedules. Online programs are excellent for juggling personal or work obligations and educational goals or for those who can’t attend their graduate school in person.

International MBA programs

International MBA programs aim at crafting global business leaders with a keen focus on international business strategies and operations. These programs blend traditional business principles with a global perspective, providing an in-depth understanding of diverse business environments, cultures, and practices. 

Students are often exposed to international business scenarios and case studies and may even have opportunities for global internships or exchanges. These programs are great for individuals eyeing leadership roles in multinational corporations or those who envision a career that spans across borders.

What topics are part of a MBA curriculum?

The MBA curriculum is designed to deliver a balance between essential business knowledge and specialized understanding. It comprises two integral components: core courses and electives.

Core courses serve to equip students with foundational knowledge in crucial areas like finance, marketing, operations management, business analytics, and organizational behavior. These courses provide the groundwork necessary for successful business management and leadership.

Electives provide an opportunity for students to delve into specific areas of interest or relevance to their career goals. These might include topics like international business, entrepreneurship, nonprofit organizations, health care management, and human resources. 

Electives allow students to customize their MBA specializations, tailoring their studies to align with their aspirations and professional objectives.

Core MBA courses

MBA programs have a handful of mandatory core courses. These are the bread and butter of your MBA journey, helping you get a solid grounding in key business concepts and skills. 

Let’s take a quick look at some common core courses you’ll typically encounter in an MBA program.

  • Accounting and finance: This course covers key concepts like financial accounting principles, budgeting, and financial management. You’ll learn to navigate balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements, and get a handle on how to make savvy financial decisions.? 
  • Marketing: You’ll explore topics like market research, consumer behavior, and product development. The goal? To understand how to deliver products or services that meet customer needs and make a splash in the marketplace.
  • Operations management: This course covers everything from supply chain management to project management and quality control. You’ll learn how to make sure business operations run as efficiently and effectively as possible.
  • Organizational behavior: You’ll delve into the human side of businesses. Leadership, team dynamics, and organizational culture are some of the key areas you’ll explore. After all, a successful business isn’t just about strategies and operations — it’s also about people.
  • Business strategy: You’ll learn about strategic planning, business models, and how to build a competitive advantage. The focus is on understanding how businesses position themselves in the market and make strategic decisions.

Elective MBA courses

In addition to core courses, an MBA program offers various elective courses. This is where the true power of customization kicks in. Elective courses allow students to delve deeper into areas that pique their interests or align with their career aspirations.

Think of specializations or concentrations, like finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, human resources, health care management, and more. Whether you’re fascinated by the intricacies of the financial market or envision yourself leading a marketing team, there’s an elective course for that.

But it’s not just about picking courses that sound interesting. Electives offer a chance to explore advanced topics and emerging trends. It’s your opportunity to get up to date with the latest in areas, such as sustainability or brand management, and broaden your understanding beyond the fundamentals.

Another noteworthy aspect of elective courses is their practical orientation. You’ll often find yourself engaging with case studies, simulations, and group projects, allowing you to apply what you learn in a realistic context. This helps enhance critical skills like problem-solving, decision-making, and critical thinking.

Finally, the elective courses you choose can open the door to exciting networking opportunities. From interacting with guest speakers to forging connections with industry professionals and alumni who share your interests, electives could lead to valuable industry insights and potential career opportunities.

What are the MBA admission requirements?

Getting into an MBA program can be competitive, and each program has its own requirements. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) sets the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), a standardized exam that many business schools worldwide require for admission. Other common requirements include a bachelor’s degree, professional experience, and in some cases, GRE scores.

Let’s take a look at the specific requirements for the IMD.org MBA program.

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent. The cornerstone of your educational foundation needs to be a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent qualification.
  • Work experience. A minimum of two years of full-time, postgraduate experience is a must. This should showcase your career progress and professional evolution. Most candidates typically have between three to eight years of experience.
  • One recommendation. You’ll need to provide a recommendation from a business-related source. This person should know you well and have worked directly with you. They should be able to underscore your professional achievements and highlight your leadership, teamwork, and interpersonal relations skills.
  • GMAT/GRE scores. The class’s average GMAT score is usually around 680. However, a somewhat lower score might be acceptable if you have a uniquely impressive professional or academic background. The recommended minimum is 630. If you’ve taken the GRE instead, use the GRE/GMAT converter tool. If you’ve earned qualifications like a CFA level 2, CPA, CA, Ph.D., or have a quantitative or analytical job or degree, you could potentially receive a GMAT waiver.
  • Proficiency in English. The program is taught entirely in English. If English is not your native language, your proficiency will be assessed during admission.

How much does it cost to get an MBA degree?

The cost of an MBA degree depends on the institution and the program type. Financial aid options are often available to help alleviate costs.

Let’s take a look at the fees and expenses for the IMD MBA program, with the amounts converted to U.S. dollars for reference:

  • Tuition for the year. CHF 80,000 (approximately $88,130)
  • Additional mandatory fees. CHF 17,500 (approximately $19,283) covers program and project-related expenses, access to campus facilities and services, leadership and career coaching, learning materials, and more.

Explore financing options, such as scholarships and financial aid, to help support your MBA journey. Additionally, consider personal expenses like insurance, registration fees, and other miscellaneous costs associated with living in the program’s location.
Remember to consult the MBA programs you’re interested in to get accurate and up-to-date information on their tuition fees and associated expenses.

MBA degree FAQ

We answer some common questions about getting an MBA degree.

What is the typical duration of an MBA program?

EMBA programs are often structured to accommodate the busy schedules of working executives, with classes held on weekends or in short, intensive modules. As a result, EMBA programs may take longer to complete, typically ranging from 18 months to three years.

The typical duration of an MBA program depends on the program type and structure. A full-time MBA program generally lasts one to two years, offering an intensive and immersive business education experience. On the other hand, part-time MBA programs are designed for working professionals who balance their studies with their existing career commitments.

What is the difference between an MBA and a master’s degree?

The key difference between an MBA and a master’s degree lies in their areas of focus. An MBA is a specialized graduate degree that concentrates on developing skills and knowledge in business and management. 

A master’s degree is a more general term encompassing a wide range of disciplines and fields of study. Master’s degrees can be earned in various subjects, including but not limited to engineering, education, arts, sciences, and social sciences.

Can I pursue an MBA if my undergraduate degree isn’t in business?

Yes, most MBA programs accept students from various academic backgrounds. However, some programs may require prerequisite business coursework for students without a business degree.

How to evolve as a responsible leader with IMD?

An MBA degree from IMD can give you the skills, network, and confidence to accelerate your career. Whether you’re aiming for corporate leadership, planning to start your own business, or looking to broaden your horizons, an MBA program could be your steppingstone to success.

IMD is ranked No. 1 in Europe by Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Forbes. Our one-year full-time MBA program in Lausanne, Switzerland, offers a transformative experience in an innovative, entrepreneurial, and global business environment. 

IMD’s one-year, full-time MBA program is globally recognized, reflecting its commitment to providing a high-quality learning experience that integrates theory and practical application. With students hailing from various parts of the globe, the program fosters a cross-cultural learning environment that enhances the richness of classroom discussions and understanding of global business dynamics. 

One of the program’s key differentiators is its strong emphasis on leadership. Beyond teaching traditional management skills, IMD.org’s MBA program strives to develop transformational leaders who can drive change and navigate complex business landscapes effectively. 

This real-world learning approach underpins the curriculum, equipping students with the necessary tools and experiences to handle real-life business scenarios. Furthermore, graduates benefit from a robust and supportive alumni network, comprising accomplished professionals worldwide. 

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