If you aspire to a successful career in business management, earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is practically de rigeur. A graduate-level generalist degree, the MBA ensures students develop a solid understanding of all aspects of commerce through coursework in:
The MBA is a popular degree—since 2010, the most popular graduate degree in the US—but that doesn’t mean that just anyone can get into an MBA program. Schools have rigorous admissions requirements. These can include the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), a multiple-choice standardized exam that tests aptitude in mathematics, language arts, and logic. The GMAT was created in 1953 to help standardize the admissions process. It has grown into an international exam that many schools’ MBA programs rely heavily on to assess candidates. Essentially, it is the SAT for business school.
New data suggest that the GMAT may not be the best way to determine which applicants are most qualified for a program. As a result, some well-respected schools are moving away from standardized testing, instead deciding to place more emphasis on other aspects of students’ applications (resume, academic record, essays, letters of recommendation).
As a working professional, it can be challenging to carve out over 100 hours for test prep—especially when you already have years of work experience to help you qualify. Finding a good program that does not require standardized test scores can be a huge factor in your decision to earn an advanced degree.
In this article on online MBA programs, no GMAT, we will cover:
The goal of every MBA program is to develop students’ business skills and business reasoning. To achieve this goal, MBA curricula cover a wide range of business disciplines, through both required core courses and electives. Below is a list of core courses required at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Stephen M. Ross School of Business:
Some programs are stronger in particular areas, and their curricula usually emphasize these strengths. For example, the MBA program at Carnegie Mellon University, a powerhouse engineering and technology school, is STEM-based. Southern Methodist University stresses data analytics.
Most schools also offer concentrations, roughly equivalent to selecting an undergraduate major—you can’t just nebulously “earn a bachelor’s.” Students must commit a fixed number of credit hours to elective courses. By concentrating their electives in a single discipline, they can graduate with an area of specialization or concentration. Most MBA programs require a thesis or capstone course to graduate.
Many MBA programs offer a general business concentration. Other popular examples of MBA concentrations include:
Students with at least ten years of experience may choose to pursue an executive MBA. Executive MBAs are designed for working business professionals at the management level. They typically meet on weekends or evenings and can be completed on an accelerated schedule because they skip material that long-time professionals already know.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicted an average starting salary for 2019 MBA graduates of $84,580—provided those graduates found jobs in computer science, engineering, science, or business. (
Students considering an MBA or graduate business degree can choose from varied career paths, including those focused on financial management, data analytics, market research, healthcare management, and operations management. The analytical skills and problem-solving techniques gained from graduate level business degrees are in high demand across business sectors. ( )
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Anyone can earn an online MBA, but these programs have a unique appeal for busy working professionals. That’s because online MBAs offer more scheduling flexibility. Much of the content in an online MBA is delivered asynchronously, meaning that students can access lectures, assignments, and readings at any time of day. Some programs are 100 percent asynchronous; others are primarily asynchronous, with live class sessions typically offered once a week.
Students living in remote areas also benefit from online MBA programs. Not so long ago, you had to move to Raleigh, North Carolina to attend North Carolina State University at Raleigh‘s Poole School of Management. Today, anyone in the world with a robust internet connection can earn their MBA from the school. If you live in the middle of a sparsely populated state—or in a country with no well-regarded business schools—online MBA programs represent the difference between being able to earn an MBA and not being able to.
The standard path to an MBA is to complete your undergraduate education, spend years getting professional work experience, then apply for a graduate program. Professional experience requirements vary. Some schools admit students directly out of undergraduate programs. Others require a minimum of one, two, or more years of post-undergrad business experience. Executive MBAs typically require 10 or more years.
You don’t necessarily need a business degree from a top undergraduate business school to get into a good MBA degree program. It may surprise you to learn that education majors have the highest acceptance rate into top-tier MBA programs, according to Poets and Quants statistics.
Full-time MBA students generally take two years (or less) to complete an MBA program. Part-time students typically take longer—sometimes even around five years. Most online students study part-time; one of the attractions of online study is that it allows students to continue working as they earn a degree. Another benefit of online MBA programs is multiple start dates. Colorado State University – Global Campus, for example, offers five different start dates throughout the school year. Most on-campus programs offer only one.
The GMAT is a standardized test that is given by the Graduate Management Admission Council. For years, it has been one of the main ways schools have measured applicants’ aptitude. A few MBA programs accept the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)—which, by the way, is an easier test, so if you have that option, take it—but most accept only the GMAT.
Colorado State has moved away from the GMAT in recent years because its organizational leadership believes it does not accurately measure students’ aptitude. The school website quotes Jill Terry, the university’s College of Business Graduate Programs’ assistant dean, as saying that since “the MBA program’s audience is largely individuals with several years of work experience…their success in industry speaks to their ability to perform.”
It’s possible to see the GMAT’s power fading at other institutions as well. North Carolina State University at Raleigh does not require GMAT scores from applicants to its online program. It even offers a waiver to those applying to the school’s full-time in-person program; candidates must meet specific qualifications, e.g., a GPA of at least 3.6, completion of a separate graduate degree, or at least ten years of work experience.
Babson College does not require prospective students to submit GMAT scores either, but does say that “the admissions committee may determine that a GMAT or GRE score is needed if their review of application material (including transcripts from all academic institutions attended) reveals specific areas of concern or question.”
One thing that your school should have—even if it doesn’t care about GMAT scores—is Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation. The non-profit organization has been evaluating business programs throughout the United States (and abroad) since 1916. If you are pursuing an advanced degree in business—not just an MBA—it’s important to get it from an accredited school of management or business. Your school might also be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), another respected (albeit younger) agency. Remember that accreditation is not a school ranking; it’s a baseline for what’s considered an acceptable program during your decision-making process.
There is a hierarchy of MBA programs that do not require GMAT scores. According to US News & World Report, the best online mba programs that don’t impose a GMAT requirement include:
Choosing a top school with no GMAT requirement is a way to increase the chances that your school search results in a positive outcome on your career. Highly ranked MBA programs often lead to greater salaries and job opportunities for MBA graduates.
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