The Master of Business Administration (MBA or M.B.A.) is a master's degree in business administration (management). The MBA degree originated in the United States in the early 20th century when the country industrialized and companies sought scientific approaches to management. The core courses in an MBA program cover various areas of business such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, and operations in a manner most relevant to management analysis and strategy. Most programs also include elective courses.
- United States
- Other countries
- Admissions criteria
- Exit examination
- Bologna Accord
- Accreditation standards
- Czech Republic
- France and French speaking countries
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
- Asia Pacific
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- Program rankings
The MBA is a terminal degree and a professional degree (the corresponding academic degree is often called Master of Science in Management). Accreditation bodies specifically for MBA programs ensure consistency and quality of education. Business schools in many countries offer programs tailored to full-time, part-time, executive (abridged coursework typically occurring on nights and/or weekends), and distance learning students, many with concentrations.
The first graduate school of business in the United States was The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania established in 1881 through a donation from Joseph Wharton . In 1900, the Tuck School of Business was founded at Dartmouth College conferring the first advanced degree in business, specifically, a Master of Science in Commerce, the predecessor to the MBA.
The Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration established the first MBA program in 1908, with 15 faculty members, 33 regular students, and 47 special students. Its first-year curriculum was based on Frederick Winslow Taylor's scientific management. The number of MBA students at Harvard increased quickly, from 80 in 1908, over 300 in 1920, and 1070 in 1930. At this time, only American universities offered MBAs. Other countries preferred that people learn business on the job.
Other milestones include:
The MBA degree has been adopted by universities worldwide in both developed and developing countries.
Business school or MBA program accreditation by external agencies provides students and employers with an independent view of the school or program's quality, as well as whether the curriculum meets specific quality standards. The three major accrediting bodies in the United States are:
All of these groups also accredit schools outside the US. The ACBSP and the IACBE are themselves recognized in the United States by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). MBA programs with specializations for students pursuing careers in healthcare management also eligible for accreditation by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).
US MBA programs may also be accredited at the institutional level. Bodies that accredit institutions as a whole include:
Accreditation agencies outside the United States include the Association of MBAs (AMBA), a UK-based organization that accredits MBA, DBA and MBM programs worldwide, government accreditation bodies such as the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which accredits MBA and Postgraduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) programs across India. Some of the leading bodies in India that certify MBA institutions and their programs are the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the University Grants Commission (UGC). A distance MBA program needs to be accredited by the Distance Education Council (DEC) in India. The Council on Higher Education (CHE) in South Africa, the European Foundation for Management Development operates the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) for mostly European, Australian, New Zealand and Asian schools, the Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation (FIBAA), and Central and East European Management Development Association (CEEMAN) in Europe.
Two-year (Full-Time) MBA programs normally take place over two academic years (i.e. approximately 18 months of term time). For example, in the Northern Hemisphere, they often begin in late August/September of year one and continue until May of year two, with a three- to four-month summer break in between years one and two. Students enter with a reasonable amount of prior real-world work experience and take classes during weekdays like other university students. A typical Full-time, accelerated, part-time or modular MBA requires 60 credits (600 class hours) of graduate work.
Accelerated MBA programs are a variation of the two-year programs. They involve a higher course load with more intense class and examination schedules and are usually condensed into one year. They usually have less 'down time' during the program and between semesters. For example, there is no three to four-month summer break, and between semesters there might be seven to ten days off rather than three to five weeks vacation. Accelerated programs typically have a lower cost than full-time two-year programs.
Part-Time MBA programs normally hold classes on weekday evenings, after normal working hours, or on weekends. Part-time programs normally last three years or more. The students in these programs typically consist of working professionals, who take a light course load for a longer period of time until the graduation requirements are met.
Evening (Second Shift) MBA programs are full-time programs that normally hold classes on weekday evenings, after normal working hours, or on weekends for a duration of two years. The students in these programs typically consist of working professionals, who can not leave their work to pursue a full-time regular shift MBA. Most second shift programs are offered at universities in India.
Modular MBA programs are similar to part-time programs, although typically employing a lock-step curriculum with classes packaged together in blocks lasting from one to three weeks.
Executive MBA (EMBA) programs developed to meet the educational needs of managers and executives, allowing students to earn an MBA (or another business-related graduate degree) in two years or less while working full-time. Participants come from every type and size of organization – profit, nonprofit, government – representing a variety of industries. EMBA students typically have a higher level of work experience, often 10 years or more, compared to other MBA students. In response to the increasing number of EMBA programs offered, The Executive MBA Council was formed in 1981 to advance executive education.
Full-time executive MBA programs are a new category of full-time 1 year MBA programs aimed at professionals with approx. 5 years or more. They are primarily offered in countries like India where the 2-year MBA program is targeted at fresh graduates with no experience or minimal experience. These full-time executive MBA programs are similar to 1 year MBA programs offered by schools like Insead and IMD.
Distance learning MBA programs hold classes off-campus. These programs can be offered in a number of different formats: correspondence courses by postal mail or email, non-interactive broadcast video, pre-recorded video, live teleconference or videoconference, offline or online computer courses. Many schools offer these programs.
Blended learning programs combine distance learning with face-to-face instruction. These programs typically target working professionals who are unable to attend traditional part-time programs.
MBA dual degree programs combine an MBA with others (such as an MS, MA, or a JD, etc.) to let students cut costs (dual programs usually cost less than pursuing 2 degrees separately), save time on education and to tailor the business education courses to their needs. This is generally achieved by allowing core courses of one program count as electives in the other. Some business schools offer programs in which students can earn both a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in five years.
Mini-MBA is a term used by many non-profit and for-profit institutions to describe a training regimen focused on the fundamentals of business. In the past, Mini-MBA programs have typically been offered as non-credit bearing courses that require less than 100 hours of total learning. However, due to the criticisms of these certificates, many schools have now shifted their programs to offer courses for full credit so that they may be applied towards a complete traditional MBA degree. This is to allow students to verify business related coursework for employment purposes and still allow the option to complete a full-time MBA degree program at a later period, if they elect to do so.
Many programs base their admission decisions on a combination of undergraduate grade point average, academic transcripts, entrance exam scores, a résumé containing significant work experience, essays, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews. Some schools are also interested in extracurricular activities, community service activities or volunteer work, and how the student can improve the school's diversity and contribute to the student body as a whole. The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the most prominently used entrance exam for admissions into MBA programs. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is also accepted by almost all MBA programs in order to fulfill any entrance exam requirement they may have. Some schools do not weigh entrance exam scores as heavily as other criteria, and some programs do not require entrance exam scores for admission. In order to achieve a diverse class, business schools also consider the target male-female ratio and local-international student ratios. In rare cases, some MBA degrees do not require students to have an undergraduate degree and will accept significant management experience in lieu of an undergraduate degree. In the UK, for example an HND or even HNC is acceptable in some programs.
Depending on the program, type and length of work experience can be a critical admissions component for many MBA programs. Many top-tier programs require five or more years of work experience for admission.
In general, MBA programs are structured around core courses (an essentially standard curriculum) and elective courses that allow for a subject specialty or concentration. Thus, in the program's first year (or part), students acquire both a working knowledge of management functions and the analytical skills required for these. After the first year, many full-time students seek internships. In the second year (part), students pursue elective courses, which may count towards a specialization, dependent on program. (Topics in business ethics may also be included at the generalist or specialist level.) The degree culminates with coursework in business strategy, the program capstone. A dissertation or major project is usually a degree requirement after the completion of coursework. For Executive MBAs, the curriculum is generally similar, although the perspective will be longer term and strategic as opposed to medium term and tactical. Many MBA programs end with a comprehensive exit examination (see below).
Programs are designed such that students gain exposure to theory and practice alike. Courses include lectures, case studies, and team projects; the mix though, will differ by school and by format. Theory is covered in the classroom setting by academic faculty, and is reinforced through the case method, placing the student in the role of the decision maker. Similar to real world business situations, cases include both constraints and incomplete information. Practical learning (field immersion) often comprises consulting projects with real clients, and is generally undertaken in teams (or "syndicates"). The practical elements (as well as the case studies) often involve external practitioners—sometimes business executives—supporting the teaching from academic faculty.
As above, courses begin with basic -i.e. underlying - topics and then progress to more advanced functional topics where these are applied. The underlying analytic skills required for management are usually covered initially. The accounting course(s) may treat financial and management accounting separately. Managerial economics is a staple in many curricula and mainly focuses on product pricing; more general coverage of micro- and macro-economics is often offered instead. Operations Research and statistics are sometimes combined as "Managerial Decision-Making" or "Quantitative Decision-Making"; organizational behavior and human resource management may similarly be combined. In many programs, applicants with appropriate background may be exempt from various of the analytical courses.
For the functional courses, some programs treat the curriculum in two parts. Here, the first course provides an overview, while the second revisits the subject in depth, generally called specializations. Alternatively, the first addresses short-term, tactical problems, while the second addresses long-term, strategic problems (e.g., "Financial Management I" might cover working capital management, while part II covers capital investment decisions). Information systems / technology is often included as a core functional course rather than an elective. Ethics training is often delivered with coursework in corporate social responsibility and corporate governance.
Programs may also include (coursework-based) training in the skills needed at senior levels of management: soft skills, such as (general) leadership and negotiation; hard skills, such as spreadsheets, project management and foreign languages; thinking skills such as innovation and creativity. Training in areas such as multiculturalism and corporate social responsibility is similarly included. Company visits (including overseas travel), and guest lectures or seminars with CEOs and management personalities may also be included. These, with the core subjects, provide the graduate with "breadth", while the specialty courses provide "depth".
For the business strategy component, the degree capstone, the focus is on finding competitive advantage and the long-term positioning and management of the entity as a whole—i.e., business administration proper—and the key functions are thus synthesized and/or integrated into an overall view. (The strategy course depicts how the various sub-disciplines integrate to tell one continuous story.) Corresponding training in business leadership may also be scheduled, while related participation in a business simulation or game is a common degree requirement. "Strategy" may be offered as a sequence of courses, beginning in the first part (planning) and culminating in the second (execution), or as a single intensive course, offered during the second part. Some programs offer a specialization in "strategy", others in management consulting which substantially addresses the same issues.
The MBA dissertation (or thesis in some universities) will, in general, comprise the following in some combination: a discussion of the literature, providing a critical review and structuring of what is known on a given topic, with a view to addressing a specific problem; a case study that goes beyond simple description, containing the analysis of hitherto unpublished material; a test of the application or limitations of some known principle or technique in a particular situation, and / or suggested modifications. As an alternative to the dissertation, some programs instead allow for a major project. Here (part-time) students will address a problem current in their organization; particularly in programs with an action learning orientation, these may be practically oriented. Most MBA programs require additional course work in research methodology, preceding the dissertation or project. Some programs allow that the research component as a whole may be substituted with additional elective coursework.
Many MBA programs culminate in a comprehensive exit examination. The national standardized exam known as the Major Field Test for MBAs (MFT-MBA) has been administered in the MBA programs of over 300 U.S. universities. The MFT-MBA aims to assess skills, knowledge, and reasoning ability within the domain of standard MBA curriculum. It is administered by Educational Testing Service. Another prominent option for comprehensive exit exams is the Common Professional Component Comprehensive Exam for MBAs (CPC COMP Exam for MBAs) owned by Peregrine Academic Services. Many programs choose to administer their own in-house exam rather than a standardized test.
An MBA prepares individuals for many types of careers. According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, 64% MBA graduates of year 2012 used their MBA to change careers. Some of the more common jobs an MBA prepares one for include:
In 1957, INSEAD (French name "Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires", or European Institute of Business Administration) became the first European university offering the MBA degree, followed by EDHEC Business School in 1959 and ICADE in 1960 (who had started offering in 1956 a "Technical Seminary for Business Administration"), ESADE and IESE Business School (first two-year program in Europe) in 1964, UCD Smurfit Business School and Cranfield School of Management in 1964, Manchester Business School and London Business School in 1965, The University of Dublin (Trinity College), the Rotterdam School of Management in 1966, the Vlerick Business School in 1968 and in 1969 by the HEC School of Management (in French, the École des Hautes Études Commerciales) and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. In 1972, Swiss business school IMEDE (now IMD) began offering a full-time MBA program, followed by IE Business School (in Spanish, Instituto de Empresas) in 1973, and AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow, Poland in 1974. In 1991, IEDC-Bled School of Management became the first school in the ex-socialist block of the Central and Eastern to offer an MBA degree.
In Europe, the recent Bologna Accord established uniformity in three levels of higher education: Bachelor (three or four years), Masters (one or two years, in addition to three or four years for a Bachelor), and Doctorate (an additional three or four years after a Master). Students can acquire professional experience after their initial bachelor's degree at any European institution and later complete their masters in any other European institution via the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.
Accreditation standards are not uniform in Europe. Some countries have legal requirements for accreditation (e.g. most German states), in some there is a legal requirement only for universities of a certain type (e.g. Austria), and others have no accreditation law at all. Even where there is no legal requirement, many business schools are accredited by independent bodies voluntarily to ensure quality standards.
In Austria, MBA programs of private universities have to be accredited by the Austrian Accreditation Council (Österreichischer Akkreditierungsrat). State-run universities have no accreditation requirements, however, some of them voluntarily undergo accreditation procedures by independent bodies. There are also MBA programs of non-academic business schools, who are entitled by the Austrian government to offer these programs until the end of 2012 (Lehrgang universitären Charakters). Some non-academic institutions cooperate with state-run universities to ensure legality of their degrees.
January 1999 saw the first meeting of the Association of the Czech MBA Schools (CAMBAS). The Association is housed within the Centre for Doctoral and Managerial Studies of UEP, Prague. All of the founding members of the Association to have their MBA programs accredited by partner institutions in the United Kingdom or United States of America.
France and French speaking countries
In France and in the Francophone countries such as Switzerland, Monaco, Belgium, and Canada, the MBA degree programs at the public accredited schools are similar to those offered in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Most French Business Schools are accredited by the Conférence des Grandes Écoles, which is an association of higher educational establishments outside the mainstream framework of the public education system.
Germany was one of the last western countries to adopt the MBA degree. In 1998, the Hochschulrahmengesetz (Higher Education Framework Act), a German federal law regulating higher education including the types of degrees offered, was modified to permit German universities to offer master's degrees. The traditional German degree in business administration was the Diplom in Betriebswirtschaft (Diplom-Kaufmann; Master's degree equivalent) but since 1999, bachelor's and master's degrees have gradually replaced the traditional degrees due to the Bologna process. Today most German business schools offer the MBA. Most German states require that MBA degrees have to be accredited by one of the six agencies officially recognized by the German Akkreditierungsrat (accreditation council), the German counterpart to the American CHEA. The busiest of these six agencies (in respect to MBA degrees) is the Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation (FIBAA). All universities themselves have to be institutionally accredited by the state (staatlich anerkannt).
Italian MBAs programs at public accredited schools are similar to those offered elsewhere in Europe. Italian Business Schools are accredited by EQUIS and by ASFOR.
There are several MBA programs offered in Poland. Some of these are run as partnerships with American or Canadian Universities. Others rely on their own faculty and enrich their courses by inviting visiting lecturers. Several MBA programs in Poland are also offered in English.
Several business schools offer highly ranked MBA programs in Portugal. Portuguese M.B.A programs are increasingly internationally oriented, being taught in English.
Spain has a long history in offering MBA programs with three MBA programs frequently being ranked in the Top 25 worldwide by several international rankings. Spanish MBAs are culturally diverse and taught in English.
There are several schools in Switzerland that offer an MBA as full-time, part-time and executive education programs. Some business schools that offer MBA programs with specializations such as Finance and Healthcare, technology management, and others. As a country with four different national languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh), Switzerland offers most of its programs in English to attract international students to the country.
Recently MBA programs appeared in Ukraine where there are now about twenty schools of business offering a variety of MBA programs. Three of these are subsidiaries of European schools of business, while the remaining institutions are independent. Ukrainian MBA programs are concentrated mainly on particulars of business and management in Ukraine. For example, 2/3 of all case studies are based on real conditions of Ukrainian companies.
The UK-based Association of MBAs (AMBA) was established in 1967 and is an active advocate for MBA degrees. The association's accreditation service is internationally recognised for all MBA, DBA and Masters in Business and Management (MBM) programmes. AMBA also offer the only professional membership association for MBA students and graduates. UK MBA programmes typically consist of a set number of taught courses plus a dissertation or project.
The Financial Times in its Executive Education Rankings for 2012 included 5 African business schools.
Business schools administered as colleges within the traditional universities offer a variety of MBA programs. In addition, a few standalone business schools allied with foreign business schools exist.
In 2004 South Africa's Council on Higher Education (CHE) completed an extensive re-accreditation of MBA degrees offered in the country.
Business schools of the traditional universities run a variety of MBA programs. In addition, foreign accredited institutions offer MBA degrees by distance learning in Ghana.
MBA programs are offered in many public and private universities.
Students choose to specialize in one of the following areas: Accounting, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Insurance and Human Resources. The course takes 4 semesters of about 4 months each.
International MBA programs are acquiring brand value in Asia. For example, while a foreign MBA is still preferred in the Philippines, many students are now studying at one of many "Global MBA" English language programs being offered. English-only MBA programs are also offered in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. For international students who want a different experience, many Asian programs offer scholarships and discounted tuition to encourage an international environment in the classroom.
Rankings have been published for Asia Pacific schools by the magazine Asia Inc. which is a regional business magazine with distribution worldwide. The importance of MBA education in China has risen, too.
Bangladesh was one of the first countries in Asia to offer MBA degree. There are now more than 50 business schools in Bangladesh offering the MBA, predominantly targeting graduates without any work experience. Most MBAs are two years full-time. There is little use of GMAT. The Business Schools conduct their own admission tests instead. Classes are taught in English.
There are many business schools and colleges in India offering two-year MBA or PGDM programs accredited by AICTE or UGC.
The Indian Institutes of Management are among the world's most selective schools according to Bloomberg magazine. They offer a post graduate degree in management. There are 19 IIMS in total, 12 of which were established after the year 2010. The oldest 4 IIMs along with the Indian School of Business constitute the top 5 B-Schools of the country according to the website mbaclub.in.
Singapore is South East Asia's leading financial hub. Its competitive educational system starts from primary schools to universities and eventually post-graduate studies such as EMBA programs.
In Japan 2 business schools offer the accredited MBA degree (AACSB, AMBA or EQUIS). The concept of an MBA is still not considered mainstream as traditional companies still perceive that knowledge and learning with respect to business and management can only be effectively gained through experience and not within a classroom. In fact, some companies have been known to place recent MBA recipients in unrelated fields, or try to re-acclimate their Japanese employees who have spent years overseas earning the degree. As a consequence, academic institutions in Japan are attempting to reinvent the perception of the MBA degree, by taking into account the local corporate culture.
Pakistan first offered an MBA program outside the United States in 1955 in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania. Now in Pakistan, there are 187 Universities/Institutes which are recognized by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, offering MBA programs to students and professionals.
In Australia, 42 Australian business schools offer the MBA degree (16 are AACSB, AMBA or EQUIS accredited). Universities differentiate themselves by gaining international accreditation and focusing on national and international rankings. Most MBAs are one to two years full-time. There is little use of GMAT, and instead each educational institution specifies its own requirements, which normally entails several years of management-level work experience as well as proven academic skills.
Graduate Management Association of Australia carries out ratings for Australian MBAs and annually publishes Australian MBA Star Ratings. The Financial Review Boss carries out biennial rankings of Australian MBAs.
In New Zealand, most universities offer MBA classes, typically through part-time arrangement or evening classes. Only two universities offer full-time programs to international students - University of Otago (Otago MBA) and Auckland University of Technology (AUT). The Otago MBA is the longer established of the two, offering a 240 points program while AUT MBA is a 180-point program.
Korean universities offer full-time and part-time MBA programs that usually consist of a two-year curriculum. The first MBA program was offered in 1963 by Korea University Business School (KUBS). In 2007, the Korean Government established "BK21," a project that supports Korean universities in order to develop their competitiveness in the global MBA market. Korea University Business School topped the evaluation of BK21 professional business graduate schools for six consecutive years. In the meantime, only two universities in Korea ranked in the "2015 Global Top 100 Executive MBA (EMBA) Rankings" conducted by UK Financial Times (Korea University Business School and Yonsei University ranked 27th and 45th worldwide, respectively).
Since 1967, publications have ranked MBA programs using various methods. The Gourman Report (1967–1997) did not disclose criteria or ranking methods, and these reports were criticized for reporting statistically impossible data, such as no ties among schools, narrow gaps in scores with no variation in gap widths, and ranks of nonexistent departments. In 1977 The Carter Report ranked MBA programs based on the number of academic articles published by faculty, the Ladd & Lipset Survey ranked business schools based on faculty surveys, and MBA Magazine ranked schools based on votes cast by business school deans.
Today, publications such as US News & World Report, Business Week, Financial Times, The Economist, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes publish rankings of MBA programs. Schools' ranks can vary across publications, as the methodologies for rankings differ among publications:
Other rankings use nontraditional attributes:
The ranking of MBA programs has been discussed in articles and on academic websites. Critics of ranking methodologies maintain that any published rankings should be viewed with caution for the following reasons:
One study found that objectively ranking MBA programs by a combination of graduates' starting salaries and average student GMAT score can reasonably duplicate the top 20 list of the national publications, and concluded that a truly objective ranking would be individualized to the needs of each prospective student. National publications have recognized the value of rankings against different criteria, and now offer lists ranked different ways: by salary, GMAT score of students, selectivity, and so forth. While useful, these rankings have yet to meet the critique that rankings are not tailored to individual needs, that they use an incomplete population of schools, may fail to distinguish between the different MBA program types offered by each school, or rely on subjective interviews.
The media raised questions about the value and content of business school programs after the financial crisis of 2007–2010. In general, graduates had reportedly tended to go into finance after receiving their degrees. As financial professionals are widely seen as responsible for the global economic meltdown, anecdotal evidence suggests new graduates are choosing different career paths.
Deans at top business schools have acknowledged that media and public perception of the MBA degree shifted as a result of the financial crisis. Articles have been written about public perceptions of the crisis, ranging from schools' acknowledgment of issues with the training students receive to criticisms of the MBA's role in society.