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What is a Master in Business Administration (MBA)?

Alliant International University
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Published on: 05/26/2023
Last Updated: 02/15/2024
8 minute read

If you’re considering applying to graduate school, you may have thought about pursuing a master’s in business administration (MBA). Per a 2023 report from the Education Data Initiative, MBAs are one of the most sought-after graduate degrees in America.1 Despite their popularity, MBAs are complex degrees that not everyone fully understands—so you’re not alone if you’ve ever wondered: What is a master of business administration?

An MBA is a graduate degree that teaches the theoretical and practical abilities needed to thrive in the business world across any industry. From analytics to management and other technical skills, they can provide graduates with a robust understanding of the field. 

If pursuing an MBA piques your interest, read on to discover more about what they entail, how long they take, and how to get an MBA that matches your career goals.

What Do Students Learn During an MBA?

The exact skills and knowledge that an MBA student learns can vary based on their chosen school, program, and professors. Nevertheless, there are some common topics and ideas that may generally be covered during most MBA programs. 

Whether or not students enter graduate school with a business background or experience in other fields, many intend to use their MBAs to pursue careers in commerce-related disciplines. Thus, many MBAs may focus on teaching relevant skills for such positions. 

In general, there are five essential areas of expertise that many MBAs may focus on improving in their graduates:2

  • Interpersonal skills – Fruitful collaboration amongst team members can be essential to delivering potent sales pitches and crafting effective marketing campaigns. Learning to work efficiently with others in professional environments is at the heart of many MBA programs. 

     
  • Strategic thinking – Strategic thinkers are problem solvers who find unique strategies to tackle difficult situations. Data from Forbes aggregated across numerous studies claims strategic thinking and decision-making abilities are key attributes of many employees in positions of authority, such as senior management.3

     
  • Entrepreneurial skills – Whether or not MBA graduates become entrepreneurs, understanding the skills needed to run a successful business can aid them through numerous career paths. According to talks delivered at The Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD), modern entrepreneurial skills include discipline, persistence, and an ability to innovate and take calculated risks.4

     
  • Communication skills – Collaboration can be essential to success in business-oriented careers. Communication skills are the means of facilitating that cooperation. Some essential business communication skills include a keen ability to understand, knowing how to speak to different audiences, and separating emotion from logic when working out solutions.5

     
  • Leadership skills – Contemporary business leaders take many forms—including managers, directors, supervisors, coaches, and mentors. Robust MBA programs can teach how these leaders oversee business operations by making tactical, strategic decisions and expertly delegating tasks.6

Learning such large amounts of complex information takes time—likely more than a year, at least. Luckily, there are various options for students pursuing MBAs to expedite their degree and complete it in a manner that suits their lifestyle.

How Long Does An MBA Take?

The length of an MBA is usually specific to the school and program a student chooses. That being said, there are generally three in-person program types that MBAs are divided into based on their timeframes and study demands:7

  • Full-time – Full-time MBAs take up the majority of a student’s schedule. They will likely have daily classes in addition to a plethora of coursework and self-study. Most students can expect to complete a full-time MBA degree in one to two years.

     
  • Part-time – Part-time MBAs generally meet in the evenings or on weekends to allow students to work as they pursue their degree. They range in length, but some can take over three years to finish the required MBA courses.

     
  • Executive-style – Executive-style MBA programs also usually meet on weekends—though normally more infrequently than part-time tracks. Generally, obtaining your degree in an executive program may take about two years.

Despite these averages, some part-time and executive-style MBAs can take less time, with some finishing in as little as 14 months. Likewise, they may even offer relevant work placements to help students gain experience and money as they study.8

Do MBAs Include Practical Training?

Many candidates work in commerce-related positions before their MBA, while others use it to break into their desired field. Either way, students may wonder if their graduate studies will involve relevant practical training. 

Curricular practical training (CPT), such as an internship or paid position in a role related to your studies, offers students several advantages. CPT can:

  • Give students real-world experience that can’t necessarily be replicated in the classroom
  • Let them test the waters of a field to see if it’s right for them
  • Potentially allow them to earn money as they pursue their MBA

Not all MBA types necessarily include CPT. The heavy course load of full-time MBAs generally means students don’t work during the program, either in an established job or a practical training position. Instead, as the name suggests, their schedules are filled with study, coursework, and examinations.9

Part-time and executive-style programs often include CPT as part of their curricula. They may help students find placements in suitable positions where their work hours can go towards completing their degree requirements. 

CPT allows students to test the skills they’ve learned in the classroom in real workplace settings. Even if it’s central to a program curriculum, however, there will likely be other kinds of work that students have to complete.

What Other Type of Work Does an MBA Entail?

While CPT can take up most of a student’s day in part-time and executive-style programs, it’s not the only work they will have to do during their MBAs.10 Like many graduate programs, MBAs may include a variety of topics to study, projects to complete, and assessments to pass. During their MBAs, students may:11

  • Take foundational courses that cover general commerce knowledge and core skills for all MBA students
  • Select and attend concentrated courses to build expertise in an area of their interest
  • Complete homework, projects, and other assignments
  • Write essays, research papers, and case studies
  • Work collaboratively with their peers on group projects
  • Engage in self-study and prepare for tests
  • Take exams and other assessments
  • Prepare to test for other certifications and credentials related to their MBA

Generally, the types of work and assessments may be the same in a full-time program, but there’s simply more.12 Hence, balancing the amount of coursework versus practical training you want to deal with is a key concern when deciding upon an MBA program.

How to Choose an MBA Program

There are many factors to consider when determining if a particular MBA is the right fit for you. Whichever school and program you choose, ensure it aligns with your lifestyle and future aspirations by thinking about:

  • Your preferred learning style – If you enjoy listening to lectures, reading textbooks, and solving theoretical problems, then programs with a heavy course workload may be a suitable fit. Alternatively, programs incorporating CPT as part of their curriculum may be a better choice if you're a hands-on learner.

     
  • Cost – While MBA prices can vary greatly, overall, they’re generally a worthwhile investment. If cost is a major concern, opting for a part-time or executive-style MBA and keeping your job—or choosing a school that can help students find paid CPT—can significantly alleviate financial burdens.

     
  • Program length – Students seeking an MBA to break into a certain industry quickly may want to choose the fastest option possible. Thus, a full-time program that can be completed in a year might be wise if haste is of the utmost importance. Alternatively, students that can wait a few extra months may still consider part-time or executive-style programs that can be finished in as little as 14 months.13

     
  • Personal factors – Your potential commute, whether or not you want to keep your current job, and proximity to family are all worthwhile concerns when picking programs. Alongside how a school fits your goals and budget, consider how it works into your lifestyle as well.

With these factors in mind and your new, robust understanding of what an MBA is really like, searching for a program that suits your needs should be much simpler. And, if a flexible schedule and practical training are important to you, consider the California School of Management and Leadership (CSML) at Alliant International University to pursue your MBA.

Pursue a Part-time or Executive-style MBA at Alliant International University

At Alliant International University, students don’t have to choose between learning from knowledgeable, qualified professors and getting hands-on experience. That’s because our MBA program tracks evening/weekdays and executive-style, balancing informative coursework with correlated CPT. That means the opportunity to study relevant skills and gain relevant work experience, then solidify them with practice as you learn.

If you enjoy applying new knowledge in practical scenarios as you work towards your MBA, Alliant may be the right choice for you. Contact us to learn more specifics about our available MBA programs and see how we can fit your idea of an ideal school.


Sources: 

  1.  Hanson, Melanie. “Average Cost of a Master's Degree: 2023 Analysis.” Education Data Initiative, December 29, 2022. https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-a-masters-degree. 
  2.  “Why Get an MBA? Practical, Applicable Skills.” The Princeton Review. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://www.princetonreview.com/business-school-advice/why-get-an-mba-s…;
  3.  Folkman, Joseph. “Strategic Thinking: The Pathway to the Top.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, November 9, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joefolkman/2021/02/05/strategic-thinking-t…;
  4.  “Entrepreneurship Skills for Growth.” Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://www.oecd.org/cfe/leed/Cooney_entrepreneurship_skills_HGF.pdf.&n…;
  5.  “5 Business Communication Skills to Help Build Your Career.” Morgan Stanley. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://www.morganstanley.com/articles/business-communication-skills-mo…;
  6.  “Master of Business Administration.” Alliant International University. Accessed April 14, 2023. https://catalog.alliant.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=40&poid=5480&ret….
  7.  “Types of MBA Programs.” The Princeton Review. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://www.princetonreview.com/business-school-advice/types-of-mba-pro…;
  8.  “Master’s Degree in Business Administration Overview.” Alliant International University. Accessed April 17, 2023. https://www.alliant.edu/business/business-administration/mba.
  9.  “Types of MBA Programs.” The Princeton Review. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://www.princetonreview.com/business-school-advice/types-of-mba-pro…;
  10.  “Master’s in Business Administration Evening and Weekday Track Overview.” Alliant International University. Accessed April 14, 2023. https://www.alliant.edu/business/business-administration/mba/evening-we….
  11.  “Master of Business Administration.” Alliant International University. Accessed April 14, 2023. https://catalog.alliant.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=40&poid=5480&ret….
  12.  “Types of MBA Programs.” The Princeton Review. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://www.princetonreview.com/business-school-advice/types-of-mba-pro…;
  13.  “Master’s Degree in Business Administration Overview.” Alliant International University. Accessed April 17, 2023. https://www.alliant.edu/business/business-administration/mba.

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