What's an MBA?
Everything you need to know about the Masters of Business Administration, the world's most popular professional degree programme.
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a postgraduate qualification that teaches you key business practices. Accredited MBA courses and business schools prepare you for senior management roles in business by exposing you to all areas of business including accounting, finance, marketing and human resources.
Unlike other postgraduate courses (which provide further specialisation in a specific field), an MBA degree is interdisciplinary, drawing from the fields of psychology, sociology, economics, accounting and finance.
The MBA gave me a leg up. I learned so much – strategy, financial skills and marketing. It provided a great overview of so many different disciplines.
Helen, MBA student
An MBA involves a considerable commitment of time and money. Due to the competitive marketplace of MBA providers, it is important for prospective MBA students to consider the independent accreditations awarded, as well as the programmes. This will indicate whether courses meet international standards.
- High earning potential – according to AMBA, MBA graduates earn over £80,000 on average
- Career development – an MBA can open up new avenues and provide you with new (and often transferable) workplace skills
- Networking opportunities – from tutors to guest speakers to your fellow students, you’ll likely get to meet some great business minds
There are more women doing MBAs today but there’s still a disparity between how much they earn after qualifying, compared to men.
According to AMBA, the proportion of women enrolling at their accredited MBA programmes globally is rising. The latest MBA Application and Enrolment Report found that 36% of those who enrolled in 2017 were women, compared to 32% in 2013.
Despite this positive shift, the research states there’s still further to go to reach gender parity. It suggests more effort needs to be made to encourage and support women studying MBAs.
Fees for many MBAs are expensive (£18,000+ is common for AMBA-accredited schools). However, you tend to get what you pay for in terms of career progression, salary, student support, knowledge and networks.
They involve at least one major project with a real 'client' (25,000 words is common), company visits, exchange programmes and other real-life simulations. Most programmes have an entry requirement of 3–5 years of management-related experience before enrolment.
MBAs are often available as distance-learning, part-time and full-time programmes, or as double qualifications that allow you to spend time in more than one place.
The best place to start is the Association of MBAs (AMBA), which accredits over 150 UK and global programmes. Other global business school accreditation bodies are AACSB (in the US) and EQUIS (in Europe).
Go to open days at business schools, meet with current students and alumni and find out which school is the best fit for you. Understand the commitment that you will be making and decide which type of course will work for you.
Mark, MBA student
To gain a place on an accredited MBA course, you’ll have to go through a fairly rigorous application process. Business schools generally ask for:
- An undergraduate degree – this doesn’t necessarily have to be in a business-related subject
- Professional work experience – it’s rare for a school to accept a candidate immediately after they’ve completed their undergraduate degree
- Admissions essays – these may be in the style of a personal statement, or you may be asked to respond to a specific statement
- A Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) – this assesses your analytical, quantitative, writing and verbal skills