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Study an MBA: A Guide to MBAs

You hear the term “MBA” all the time, but what really is an MBA? Choosing to study for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a big decision for aspiring global executives and managers. You’ll need to ask yourself if pursuing an MBA program at a business school is worth the investment of your time and money? If you are ready to enter the world of competitive business today, then studying for an MBA degree is worth it.

Apr 12, 2021
  • MBA
MBA guide

In This Guide:

MBA Overview

MBA Overview

You hear the term “MBA” all the time, but what really is an MBA? Choosing to study for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a big decision for aspiring global executives and managers. You’ll need to ask yourself if pursuing an MBA program at a business school is worth the investment of your time and money? If you are ready to enter the world of competitive business today, then studying for an MBA degree is worth it. A Master of Business Administration degree has many benefits for you, especially when it comes from one of the world's top business schools. This article attempts to clarify some of the benefits of an MBA degree.

You’ll need to be someone who can handle a management position's heavy responsibilities, stay in the never-ending cycle of learning, can push yourself to work through rigorous and complex coursework, and who thinks outside of the box. If this sounds like you, then an MBA is probably an excellent choice for you.

You’ll also probably have some questions. What is an MBA? What are the benefits and impacts of an MBA on you and your business? What job opportunities are open to you after an MBA course? This guide will answer these questions.

The Facts and Figures of MBAs

  • More than 9 out of 10 alumni say that getting an MBA is personally and professionally rewarding.
  • 84% of business owners were interested in hiring MBA graduates in 2020.
  • The demand for MBAs is increasing with 67% of business schools seeing an increase in applications.

Statistics taken from sources cited in the article below.

What is an MBA?

“An MBA has often been heralded as a ticket to the executive suite," according to Elizabeth Kelan at the University of Essex. MBA degrees have become internationally recognized as an indicator of individual competitive advantage in management due to the distinctive abilities that students develop during their education. Moreover, it has become one of the most popular and important professional degrees worldwide. Many studies have reported that holding an MBA positively impacts graduates’ future employment, income, and promotion prospects in both the short and long-term.

On an MBA, you can expect to engage in experiential learning opportunities based on real business challenges and learn the leadership and management skills. Students use management knowledge to solve problems and management challenges, as well as quantitative skills employers are looking for.

According to the Application Trends Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 67% of business schools saw an increase in applications in 2020, which tracks demand for MBA. The total volume of applications to global business schools increased by 2.4%.

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MBA students typically stop attending school after receiving it. However, those interested in conducting business research can choose to pursue a doctorate in business or management, which means that they can pursue either a PhD or a Doctor of Business Administration degree, known as a DBA.


How Long Does It Take to Get an MBA?

MBA programs vary in length? Since there is a wide range of program formats and delivery options available, the length of an MBA degree varies from program to program and person to person. Types of MBA degrees generally fall into the following categories:

  • A traditional MBA
  • An accelerated MBA
  • Part-time MBA
  • Executive MBA (EMBA)
  • Dual MBA

Traditional MBAs

A full-time MBA program typically lasts two years over four semesters. Many programs also include an internship, where you can put your new skills into practice and boost your resume while learning from leaders in the industry.

  • A full-time MBA
  • Two year program, four semesters
  • Typically online or in-person
  • Usually requires 3-5 years of work experience
  • Usually includes a 3-4 month space for an internship

Accelerated MBA

One-year, full-time MBA programs can be completed online or in person. Accelerated MBA programs are usually completed in 11 to 16 months. Since there typically aren’t extended semester breaks in most one-year MBA programs, internship opportunities may be limited. Even with the intense nature, one-year programs provide an excellent option for advancing your career in your current industry or job function.

Depending on your goal and background, and availability – the one-year MBA program might be suitable. The math is easy as well, studying in the one-year full-time MBA program costs you less and requires less time than the two-year program, but the speed of these programs means that students must carry a heavy academic workload. Remember, in the end, there’s no right or wrong choice. It’s all about the right fit for you.

  • A full-time MBA
  • One year program: 11-16 months
  • Usually requires 3-5 years of work experience
  • Internship opportunities may be limited

Part-time MBA programs

Flexibility is a crucial key factor for many candidates who choose part-time MBA programs. Students mostly take courses in the evenings and on weekends to pursue their MBA degrees. A part-time MBA program is usually completed in four to six years. The flexibility in part-time MBA programs makes them suitable to pursue alongside a job. Sometimes a part-time MBA is called a PMBA or Professional MBA to indicate you can balance it with work and studies. One drawback to a part-time MBA is that you likely won’t have the opportunity to participate in an internship through the school.

  • A part-time MBA
  • 4-6 year program
  • Online, in-person or often blended
  • Usually requires 3-5 years of work experience
  • Often doesn't include an internship

Executive MBA programs

Executive MBA programs, also known as EMBAs, can be completed online, in person, or a combination of the two, which usually last 18 to 24 months. The difference between an MBA and an EMBA is that EMBA programs are perfect for working professionals with a good amount of experience – at least five years – who are looking to boost their career, leadership skills, teamwork, strategy skills, professional development and expand their networks. Like part-time MBAs, EMBAs might also be classified as a PMBA or Professional MBA as you undertake them while working. EMBAs are designed for leaders. It’s important to note that internships are not part of most EMBA programs due to the pre-existing experience that most students on this course will already have.

It is possible to complete executive MBA programs within two years. Business owners can pursue an EMBA program whilst still working full-time.

The key difference between EMBA and the traditional MBA is that an EMBA is an executive degree. Both degrees hold equal value on graduation. What sets them apart is their purpose and delivery format, leading to two different experiences.

  • A part-time MBA
  • Typically 18-24 months
  • Online, in-person or often blended
  • Typically requires 5-10 years of working experience
  • Usually does not include an internship

Dual MBA programs

Dual MBA programs allow students to earn an MBA while they work towards another related degree. Essentially a dual degree is when you’re studying two fields in two separate degree programs. As a result, the chances are higher that you’ll have more choices in the specific career field you would like to pursue. Most joint or dual MBA programs take between three to four years to complete as a full-time student. It’s about the same length as an undergraduate degree.

  • A full-time MBA
  • 3-4 year program
  • Allows student to earn an MBA as they pursue a related Master's
  • Typically includes an internship

MBA Requirements

To gain a place in an MBA program, you’ll have to provide evidence of an undergraduate degree, academic transcripts, relevant work experience, an admissions essay, and recommendation letters. Some business schools may require test scores while some may not. On, roughly 20% of MBA programs require test results and more competitive programs will be more likely to encourage or require you to submit them. If test scores are accepted, you'll also want to research preference and acceptance of test scores from GRE and GMAT, the two main graduate-level tests that business schools might require.

MBA schools occasionally invite you for an in-person interview. Sometimes, they’ll also require you to submit video essays where you’ll have the opportunity to share your personality and express why you’re a good fit for the school and the program.

It’s good to know that there are three stages for admission to an MBA program: pre-application, application, and post-application. During all of these stages, you’ll need to dedicate energy, time and focus to your application.

The pre-application is when you explore to find the best MBA program for you by finding out information about the MBA ranking, acceptance rate, program reviews, etc. Don’t forget it’s never a bad idea to start prep early – especially any testing prep for which you need hard work, dedication, and a lot of practice. You’ll need to brush up on mathematics, grammar, and other subjects you likely studied quite a while ago.

After choosing your MBA program, you’ll enter the application stage – the most challenging process. As mentioned earlier, this stage is composed of several items, including recommendations, essays, transcripts, test scores, a resume that showcases your work experience and a completed application. Remember, incomplete applications are typically pushed to the next round or rejected.

Today, according to U.S. News, an ideal amount of work experience for a traditional MBA is three to five years. The school to which you’re applying will tell you how much experience you need. This means, in these programs, you’ll be connected with like-minded, experienced candidates.

Lastly, there’s the post-application stage. This stage prepares you for business school. Consider registering for some business classes as a refresher. Remember, don’t quit your job once you’ve been admitted, only do so when you’ve received a firm offer.


What Can You Do With an MBA?

The question has to be asked: is pursuing an MBA program a good choice? All in all, is an MBA degree worth it? The best people to ask are those who’ve completed one. When full-time MBA alumni were asked about the value of business school, the vast majority considered their degree personally (95%), professionally (91%), and financially (79%) rewarding.

An MBA degree will offer you a high salary after graduation, help you land a management position, and develop a solid professional network. You’ll learn strategic thinking. You’ll become a better communicator with your colleagues, your boss and your team. You’ll be better at managing difficult situations, like a financial crisis. You can even become your own boss, These are just a few of the advantages of studying an MBA degree abroad.

business meeting

What Can You Get from an MBA?

Why get an MBA? MBA career paths alone are compelling enough.

Better Job Positions

Your job position will be fundamentally different before and after graduating with your MBA degree, especially when it's from a well-ranked business school. Obtaining a valid MBA degree and, most importantly, upgrading your personal and professional skills can help you succeed in your MBA career path. If you are looking for a good job, you'll have a better chance of getting one because of your MBA degree.

In today's job market, the number of degree holders is very high, and there are a large number of candidates for each job. What will set you apart from other applicants in the same category are your managerial and leadership abilities. By graduating from an MBA program and gaining this skill-set during your study, you can have a fundamental advantage in job interviews. Fortune, for instance, reports that 84% of business owners were interested in hiring MBA graduates in 2020, up from 10% a year earlier.

For many people who are now dissatisfied with their job and want to have more diverse fields of work to choose from, an MBA provides a golden opportunity. MBA graduates work in a variety of fields and roles. For example, by studying for an MBA in marketing, you might work as a marketing manager, brand manager, market research analyst, sales manager, or media manager, or even a CEO, in an organization. MBA job opportunities and diverse study programs will enable anyone to gain skills in their field of interest.

A More Comprehensive View of the Business Market

One of the misconceptions among people is that you can naturally manage an engineering company if you are a good engineer. This misconception causes many new businesses to fail in the market despite having innovative products underpinned by solid technology. Management is knowledge, and the business market's unstable and competitive situation in recent years indicates the need for a comprehensive management vision for all business owners. Pursuing an MBA degree by going through case studies and acquiring skills such as strategic planning, leadership, management, market knowledge, planning, etc., can give you a more comprehensive understanding of how businesses function and how they are run.

Developing systemic thinking and strategic planning skills, and preparing a business plan, which is one of the cornerstones of an MBA, is necessary to successfully launch a startup or develop a business.

A Larger Professional Network

Some jobs do not require much communication with other people, such as programmers or designers, as they mostly work alone. However, MBA students must interact with other learners through the spirit of teamwork, leadership, and management and cooperate with them in project-based work.

The opportunity to collaborate and meet other knowledgeable people who will become successful entrepreneurs and top managers in the future will provide you with great job opportunities in the future. In addition, benefiting from the experience of professors and studying in a high-ranked business school, as well as benefiting from the ideas and skills of your classmates, will be extremely useful for you. What you get from connecting with your fellow business school students can be very rewarding for your career in the future.

An MBA Degree is Recognizable Worldwide

Once you have successfully completed an MBA program, your degree will be awarded. Regardless of where in the world you intend to pursue your career, it will certainly increase your credibility in business. With an MBA, you can follow many careers and quickly grow into high-paying jobs.

Higher Salary

Having an MBA from a high-ranked business school will not only help you find a higher and better job, but it will also give you a higher-paying job. Entering senior management or starting and running your own business can open the door to a high salary. The average income of MBA graduates is significantly higher than an employee's salary with a regular Master's degree.

Although getting an MBA can be quite costly for students, given the higher salary paid, it can be hoped that the cost will return to the graduate in less than three years.

“An MBA is not just about the topics you learn, but the people you meet and the networks you create.”

- Phil Kearney, Partner at AT Kearney

canary wharf

The Average Salary for an MBA Graduate

When it comes to MBA salaries, you might well be wondering how much do MBAs make a difference?

MBA salaries are some of the highest in the job market and you must be curious to know how much do MBAs graduates make? Having a higher salary is among the benefits of an MBA degree. Here, the difference is made clear. By using the QS Jobs & Salary Report, you’re able to estimate by how much an MBA increases your salary. These are some of the average MBA annual salaries around the world:

  1. Switzerland – $123,500 USD/ year
  2. United States – $102,100 USD/ year
  3. Canada – $99,800 USD/ year
  4. France – $98,500 USD/ year
  5. Australia – $98,400 USD/ year
  6. United Kingdom – $92,400 USD/ year
  7. Germany – $77,200 USD/ year

The Cost of an MBA

There are no two ways about it: an MBA is an expensive investment. Given the salary opportunities, however, it’s an investment with a healthy return. But how much does an MBA cost in different countries? Here is the list with the average tuition fees per year around the world:

Country1-year tuition (USD/year)
Germany10,050 – 27,830
United Kingdom15,070 – 34,800
Netherlands15,125 – 24,080
Canada18,840 – 42,755
France19,360 – 38,115
United States19,400 – 44,100
Italy21,780 – 42,350
Australia22,450 – 44,000
Switzerland28,000 – 45,650

Is an Online MBA Worth It?

Attending an online MBA is a significant investment of finances, time, and energy, and the experience will change your professional and personal life. An online MBA follows the same curriculum as an on-campus MBA. Lecturers simply adjust coursework for online platforms. A distance MBA allows you to attend schools around the world without the cost and difficulty of relocating, as well as giving you more flexibility over your pace of study. You might save on more than just international relocation costs. Some universities also offer lower tuition fees for online MBA programs. Learn more about five key skills you develop in an online MBA.

Suppose you are a frequent traveler for work or a busy manager – in that case, you should not underestimate the value of an online MBA. You can complete your classwork and assignments from any place, including a plane with Wi-Fi or a hotel room.

There are three types of online MBA programs; self-paced programs, real-times programs, and hybrid programs:

  • Self-paced programs: A self-paced online MBA gives you the flexibility to tailor your program, without being restricted by deadlines.
  • Real-time programs: Class lectures are viewed online in real-time. They are presented live, rather than being a recorded presentation of the same lecture at a later time or date.
  • Hybrid programs: A hybrid program combines the flexibility of online education with the on-campus experience.

MBA Specializations

As with any degree, you can specialize an MBA. Depending on how focused on one industry or skill-set you would like to be, a specialized MBA can offer a more direct route into certain positions and fields while a generalist MBA will keep more options open.

Popular business skill-sets MBAs:

Popular industry-specialized MBAs

The best MBA specialization is individual to you. It will depend on your intended career path and goals.

Popular MBAs


EU Business school - MBA In International Business

The MBA in International Business program in Barcelona, Geneva, Montreaux and Online equips you with these necessary tools and a broad understanding of the global economic playing field through extensive case-study research accompanied by a diverse range of topics that relate to international business, including: finance, law, media, communications and management.

University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham - Online MBA

Designed for determined, forward-thinking professionals with at least three years of management experience, the University of Birmingham’s AMBA-accredited 100% Online MBA combines both quality with flexibility.

Delivered 100% online, it allows students to have the opportunity to learn the latest critical business skills, operations principles and management techniques alongside their work - and put learning to the test in real-time for greater workplace success.


WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management - MBA Program (full time)

The WHU MBA program focuses on management concepts which foster strategic vision, entrepreneurial spirit, operational excellence, and awareness of cultural differences.

Students will learn to identify complex inter-dependencies, and to leverage the knowledge of functional specialist colleagues for the advantage of the entire company. Teamwork is an essential element of WHU's teaching approach. In study groups of five to six, students will discuss current course content and apply concepts and tools in practically oriented projects.


Bologna Business School - International Executive MBA

The International Executive MBA is aimed at managers, professionals and consultants who want to guide companies in the process of digital transformation and international growth, aware that these challenges will determine their competitive advantage in the near future. The Master brings digital innovation to the center of business decisions and the creation of value for brands, services and consumers, developing a holistic approach to knowledge, setting digital skills free from exclusively technical and specialist discussion tables and instead relating them to the entire organization.

Want more MBA suggestions?

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About the Author

Golnaz Gharaee is a Digital Content Editor for Prior to this, she has worked as a Web Designer and Web Editor at a web design agency in Stockholm, Sweden. Golnaz was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. Before she started writing, she moved to study abroad in Sweden and got her Master’s degree in Journalism at Örebro University. After that, just to shake things up, she went to study for her second Master’s degree in Media and Communication from Södertörn University.