What Is An MBA?

It is probably the most famous acronym on a CV: MBA. It stands for Master of Business Administration, though MBA programs today are hardly as boring as the name suggests.

The MBA has become the most popular graduate degree in the world–and for good reason. While you will find many naysayers about the degree’s value, it’s really undisputed. The MBA experience–either in a one-year accelerated program or a two-year program–delivers immediate value to the people who earn one. And you do not have to go to a Top 25 business school to get the MBA bump in pay, typically a nearly 50% or more increase in salary, not counting a sign-on bonus when you take a job right out of an MBA program, guaranteed first-year bonuses, and stock awards that some graduates get.

More importantly, though, the degree opens the doors to many companies that would otherwise pass on you, particularly in consulting, finance, and technology. Amazon now hires roughly 1,000 MBA graduates a year. Top consulting firms such as McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., and The Boston Consulting Group bring aboard 500 or more MBAs annually.


So if you are trapped in a maze of corporate politics and cubicles where everyone is getting ahead except for you, an MBA education could make a very big difference to their future. Are you overwhelmed by bureaucratic rules and bosses promoted beyond their level of competence? Weary over all the dislocation in the workplace? Or simply more ambitious for yourself and your career? If so, an MBA degree can be the ideal tool to transition into a career you really want, leaving behind the job that is less than fulfilling or satisfying.

Unlike other university departments or colleges, business schools have been far more responsive to the talent needs of the marketplace. That is why employers believe that the wave of innovation that has swept through MBA programs in recent years has made MBA graduates more valuable than ever. Sure, you’ll learn the business basics. The core curriculum will teach you accounting, finance, marketing, strategy, and operations. But you’ll be able to take a deep dive into your desired career, whether it be in private equity or venture capital or as a product manager at Google or Apple or a brand manager at General Mills or PepsiCo.

Besides the obvious core and elective courses to set up for jobs with greater responsibilities and advancement,  an MBA has more relevance today than ever. In response to the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds, business schools have added more courses on “soft” skills, such as leadership, teamwork and negotiations. They have placed greater emphasis on globalization and technology. In an MBA program, you’ll learn how to use business analytics to make better decisions. You’ll discover how artificial intelligence can be harnessed to make business more efficient. And you’ll find out how to make solid decisions in ambiguous situations without all the data you think you need.


The skills and knowledge you accumulate in a good MBA program teach you to think and analyze complicated business challenges. The experience fosters enduring friendships and business contacts with exciting, dynamic people from around the world. A good business school education also imparts a level of confidence and maturity that years of actual work experience could never deliver.

An often underappreciated aspect of an MBA today, moreover, is your professional and personal development, In recent years, business schools have poured massive resources into all kinds of exercises to help you succeed not only immediately after you graduate but throughout your career. Business schools typically assign mentors and career coaches to their MBA students so together they can work on the issues that may hold you back from that next promotion or that new opportunity in a new company or industry.

The payback from an investment in an MBA program may take a little longer today than it did in the degree’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, but the right MBA still leads to more exciting careers and fatter paychecks. And business schools have never been more generous in awarding large scholarships to the prospective students they admit. Yet, the most basic question you need to answer is this: Is it worthwhile to invest as much as $250,000 (a sum that includes your loss of income and the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) and two years of your life to get the degree?

With very few exceptions, the graduates of the top schools answer this question in the affirmative. They describe their graduate study as one of the high points of their lives, meeting bright new friends, sharing new experiences, discovering horizons and careers they never knew existed.

The MBA, moreover, comes in many shapes and sizes. Besides the traditional two-year, on-campus option, often considered the most transformative of the experiences, there are a lot of one-year programs as well. You can also take the degree part-time, either through evening or weekend classes or online which afford the advantage of studying from your home or hotel room anywhere in the world.

To help start your journey, here is a list of valuable resources on Poets&Quants:

What MBAs Say About The Value Of Their Education

Where MBAs Make The Largest Salary Leaps

Pay & Placement At The Top 50 U.S. Business Schools In 2020

Who Gets An MBA? Meet The Class Of 2020

Our guide to all the major rankings to get you started:

Poets&Quants’ 2019-2020 Top 100 MBA Programs In The U.S.

Poets&Quants’ 2019-2020 Top 50+ International MBA Programs

2020 U.S. News MBA Ranking

2020 Financial Times Global MBA Ranking

2019 Bloomberg Businessweek MBA Ranking

2019 The Economist Global MBA Ranking

2019 Forbes MBA Ranking

Exploring Online MBA Options:

Poets&Quiants’ 2020 Online MBA Ranking

Online MBAs With The Best Student Satisfaction Scores

Online MBAs With The Best Career Outcomes

GMAT/GRE Resource Center

GMAT, GRE Or Executive Assessment: Which Test Is Best For Me?

Test Prep Companies That Provide The Biggest Boost To Your Score

Average GMAT Scores At The Top 50 Business Schools

Study Habits Of GMAT’s Top 10% Scorers

Explore The Major MBA Programs In Detail

Business School Profiles

Free In-Depth MBA Insider Guides To Top Schools

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