The Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is a popular degree choice for business school students, especially those who have just earned a bachelor’s degree. Students and business professionals who wish to improve their career prospects opt for an MBA program. Some students attend business school to build their skills to make career shifts. Others wish to strengthen their resumé to move up into leadership roles and earn higher salaries than they would with a four-year degree, such as a bachelor’s degree in business.
Students who wish to earn an MBA degree may wonder what they can expect when they complete MBA admissions requirements and enroll in an MBA program. Knowing what coursework for an MBA must be completed to earn the degree is essential. MBA programs from reputable business schools provide students various business skills and knowledge through the MBA curriculum. These programs help them become influential professionals and leaders in the business sector. The type of coursework students need to complete and earn their MBA degree can vary based on the business school, graduate programs, and concentrations they choose. For example, executive business programs from Harvard Business School may differ from other types of programs at other top business schools.
Whether or not it’s an executive MBA you’re pursuing, applicants should know that business school coursework for MBA programs includes advanced classes beyond what would be required for an undergraduate degree. They are like other graduate-level programs with the same rigor and depth, but they emphasize leadership skills. Some MBA requirements are specialized, meaning they fall in an area of emphasis that students choose. The others that fall under the core classes may be broader in scope. Students enrolled in MBA programs from many business schools learn several core concepts covering business areas like:
- Managerial Accounting
- Organizational behavior
- Human Resources
What does the core curriculum in MBA programs include?
Core classes required for MBA programs give students a deeper understanding of the field of business compared to a bachelor’s degree in business or other undergraduate degrees. Every business school has a set of core coursework MBA students must complete. These MBA requirements help them build a foundation for the general business degree. They can then take courses within the concentration or specialization they choose. The extra coursework for a full-time MBA typically begins in the second year, as year one covers the core classes.
Some courses will feel familiar if a student has earned a bachelor’s degree in an undergraduate business administration program from one of the nation’s business schools. But, the courses in the MBA program are more challenging than those required for an undergraduate degree. MBA coursework goes deeper into each subject compared to an undergraduate degree, so students can get more industry insights and domain knowledge. These MBA core classes are taught from a different perspective and an industry viewpoint. They cover different business fields and prepare students to deal with real-world business problems in their future careers.
Typical courses in MBA programs’ business core might include:
- Leadership strategy and skill development
- Advanced or managerial economics
- Marketing management
- Managerial statistics and analysis
- Advanced or accelerated financial or managerial accounting
- Business analytics
- Business ethics
Functional disciplines usually group the required core courses for MBA programs at an accredited institution. Most business schools require specific core business classes and MBA requirements that are set in stone. But some are more flexible and allow students to choose a specific number to complete their degree. This is mainly for students who have completed specific prerequisite coursework with an acceptable grade point average. Students who have earned their bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than a business program (think liberal arts) can join a fast-paced pre-MBA boot camp to complete any required MBA prerequisites and build their business background. Prerequisite courses are preparatory courses that will help MBA applicants get their skills and foundational knowledge of the business world up to speed. During the admissions process, students need to look carefully at the curriculum of each MBA program they are considering. In this way, they can choose the program that best matches their skills, goals, and career plans.
The first step is to meet with a business school’s MBA admissions counselor, who will help you schedule all the standard core courses or MBA prerequisites schools require during the first year. There is a choice between a cohort-style program or an asynchronous program, especially for online MBA programs. In the former, you will attend classes with the same classmates throughout the program. In the latter, online MBA students have more flexibility to attend classes at their own pace and time. Executive MBA programs are also available, sometimes overlapping with online MBA offerings. In any case, graduate school students at many schools can participate in different forums to discuss their post-MBA goals. Through these, they can connect with other professionals and develop business and personal connections for life.
What are the different kinds of MBA specializations and courses?
An MBA degree is a master’s degree program in business education that offers several different career paths. Students must decide which path they want to take before applying to top business schools. After navigating the MBA admissions process, they can select an advanced degree program and specialization. But this choice may not be apparent for many business school students. Sometimes, it becomes more evident as students progress through the first year and learns more business knowledge. It is essential to check each school’s website and browse through the program details, including various MBA requirements based on specialization. This will help students see which courses are requirements for an MBA program. If these requirements look like they will align well with your career goals, then you are in the right place. These business education courses will help you gain the skills and knowledge to compete in today’s competitive career market.
Most students have completed their core coursework in the second year of an MBA program. Some of the best business schools allow them to choose their electives or specializations for their MBA degrees in the first year. Others allow them to choose these in the second year. Students should carefully consider these as part of the MBA journey. MBA candidates should ensure that the chosen area will benefit them most and help them reach a focused career path.
Specializations from an accredited university help prospective MBA students develop advanced and specialized skills in certain areas. These are usually areas they wish to enter or where they already work. Declaring a concentration or specialization within their MBA program is essential. It helps them focus their education and develop expertise. Some employers prefer MBA graduates with specializations over a general degree. It could be because they are looking for talent with more specialized skills than someone with a general MBA or undergraduate business degree.
The list of possible MBA concentrations can be comprehensive depending on various business schools. The concentration one chooses will influence all the graduate business education courses students take in their second year. It also affects the projects or internships they must complete for their MBA. Some of the popular concentrations for full-time MBA programs include:
- Corporate Finance
- Supply Chain Management
- Human Resources
- Project Management
- Nonprofit Management
- Financial Accounting
For example, MBA students in finance might hone their quantitative skills by taking financial reporting or financial investments classes. They could cover key courses in:
- corporate financial policy
- business mergers and acquisitions
- economic analysis
- corporate valuation
A marketing and advertising coursework may include digital marketing and the modern advertising industry. It could include:
- marketing research
- buyer behavior
- advanced marketing strategy
As mentioned above, MBA applicants will benefit from meeting with their admissions officer at the business schools they plan to attend. They will help them schedule the core classes during the first year of their full-time MBA programs. Admissions officers provide support to MBA students throughout the program. They help students go through the list of specializations and choose one that best matches their career goals.
A closer look at the MBA concentrations:
General Management: This is perhaps the most common and available at most business schools. It is a good choice for students who are unsure what type or size company will suit them best and wish to keep their career options open. Later they have the option to choose from a wide variety of electives.
Marketing: Marketing is a popular MBA concentration and perhaps one of the most versatile. It prepares business school students for a wide range of fast-growing fields within the broad and dynamic spectrum of marketing. Graduates from a recognized university eventually move into roles like:
- Chief Brand Officer
- VP of Marketing
- Brand Director
- Brand Marketing Managers
- Social Media Marketing Manager
Marketing research and new product development are also areas students can choose as career options.
Finance: Students who choose the finance MBA specialization graduate with a solid foundation for roles like:
- Financial Analyst
- Financial Advisor
- Financial Manager
- Investment Banker
- Hedge Fund Manager
The finance concentration many schools offer is also a solid foundation for careers like Accountants or Economists. Finance MBA paves the path to senior titles like Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Strategy: Strategy is a focused MBA specialization, perhaps more skill than a career. But this concentration prepares students to excel in almost all jobs in the corporate world as most require a strategy and strategy implementation in projects. It helps them build excellent problem-solving skills. Students can expect to excel in various roles that increase demand, including Senior Strategist, senior product manager, and Project Manager. Multiple schools offer this concentration.
Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship is an MBA concentration designed for students interested in starting their own business and taking on unique life challenges. Students pursuing an MBA in entrepreneurship learn about the following:
- business ventures
- capital acquisition
- launch and post-launch needs
- campaign management
Graduates also excel in managerial or leadership roles for companies of all sizes.
Startups and Small Businesses: Startups and Small Businesses specialize in managing smaller businesses. There is a distinct difference with “Entrepreneurship.” Students pursuing an MBA in this concentration learn real-world skills, including the unique challenges that small businesses and startups face. Innovation is a big part of the course. They learn to manage the evolution of a brand or series of products, marketing, and legal costs and keep the businesses profitable. Graduates often become a consultant for small businesses and startups or start one.
Operational Management: Operational Management prepares students to manage projects. They also learn to manage different teams or specific departments within a company. They have many responsibilities and often coordinate with many departments and leadership teams. Graduates work as Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Management Consulting: Management Consulting is a popular MBA specialization as it can lead to a lucrative career. Consultancy work offers an opportunity to work with various companies. Graduates work on various projects with different goals and must apply their MBA education. Consultancy work can be done independently or within a firm.
Human Resources: Human Resources MBA programs help students learn about various human resources duties. It includes:
- HR analytics
- operational management
- employment law
- human resource management
Students who want to apply their MBA to the Human Resources field are best suited for this MBA concentration.
Information Systems/Technology: Information Systems and Technology specialization can prepare MBA graduates for the tech industry. Technology touches every area of a company’s operations. This specialization can boost one’s profile in the job market. Graduates enter the executive track to become:
- Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
- IT Director
- Chief Information Officer (CIO)
Supply Chain Management: The supply chain is integral to many companies. More so with the increase in the Internet and e-commerce and the flow of goods and services in the digital world. Focusing MBA studies on supply chain management is a great career choice. It creates a special kind of SCM specialist, which many employers look for today. Graduates can move into roles like Senior Product Managers and Project Managers.
International Management: This MBA concentration includes many aspects of international business. It also includes some exciting and enriching study-abroad experiences. With more brands going global, the coursework broadens a student’s perspective. They learn how other countries conduct business from an economic, legal, and cultural standpoint. Graduates do well in large corporations and established global brands.
Project Management: This MBA specialization can open career paths across many industries. It is a good choice for those more particular about the type of work they want. Students learn about solid strategy, organization, and leadership skills. Project Managers are responsible for overseeing multiple projects, outcomes, and resources. This role is increasing in demand, with more teams going virtual.
Product Management: As technology continues to shift and expand, new and existing products need good managers to guide workflow. They can lead teams toward the successful and fruitful completion of product-related tasks. Product Managers know how to keep pace with challenges that affect many work processes. They help manage efficiency and save money and resources along the way. Students in this MBA concentration learn to coordinate many teams. These include:
- subject matter experts
- IT teams
It’s a popular field that does not limit students to a specific industry and offers expansive career options.
Cybersecurity: An increased use of data to run businesses has, in turn, led to an increased risk of a security breach for global and local companies. However, larger corporations and government organizations may be more at risk. This has led to the rising popularity of Cybersecurity as an MBA concentration. Courses cover essential areas like business, data, and security. These graduates hold a particular distinction in the contemporary job market. They are in demand in almost all industry sectors and companies of different sizes.
Nonprofit Business: Nonprofits or “not-for-profits” need expert managers to manage their capital campaigns. They help maximize their fundraising efforts and oversee expansion plans. It is a challenging and rewarding field of work. It focuses on helping people around the globe with the brightest business minds to help them. Graduates in this MBA concentration learn to help these organizations stay financially healthy. They support marginalized groups and communities and work for various social and environmental initiatives.
Healthcare Management: Healthcare Management is one of the fastest-growing fields, with many opportunities. The MBA courses in this specialization prepare students to excel in many roles. They work in administrative, high-level executive, and managerial roles in the healthcare industry. They learn to help organizations with their business and financial management approaches. Graduates work in varied settings. These include the following:
- insurance companies
- device manufacturers
It also includes research labs that are focused on healthcare. They also work for large pharmaceutical companies.
Sustainability: This is a rapidly up-and-coming concentration area. Sustainable practices can significantly impact a company’s image, finances, and future. The need for MBA graduates with a working knowledge of Sustainability is set to increase. This practice intersects with many new laws. Graduates in this discipline may need to manage a complete business overhaul. They work in:
- technology management
Resources and Environmental Management: This MBA specialization is called “Resources and Environmental Economics.” It covers the study of how communities affect the environment and leads to consultancy work and even academia. The subject can be complex, so students need to look into the curriculum for this MBA specialization to ensure it is a good fit. It requires a lot of research and science, so students with an affinity for those areas will do well in this field.
As we can see, different business schools have different names for similar MBA concentrations. So choosing one requires a lot of research and planning. Prospective MBA students can explore some important questions while researching MBA programs and specializations like:
- Will this increase the number of credit hours, and how might this affect the duration of my MBA?
- Will it cost more or the same as a general MBA program?
- What aligns best with my interests, values, and career goals?
- What MBA specializations are most in-demand right now?
- Can I fulfill this concentration in a part-time MBA program or an online MBA program? (for working professionals)
Master of Business Administration degree students should explore and find answers to these questions while they inquire about the curriculum and hands-on learning opportunities at each business school they shortlist.
- Top Online MBAs With No GMAT Requirement
- Top Accelerated MBA Programs Online
- Master’s in Project Management Online: Top 25 Values
- Quickest Master’s Degree Online
- Cheapest Online Master’s
- Fast Online Degrees (undergrad and grad)
- Online Graduate Degrees
- 30 Colleges Helping Students Manage Finances
- U.S. News & World Report
- The Princeton Review