What Skills Does an MBA Provide?
February 27, 2023
MBA programs impart knowledge and skills. Those skills will serve you throughout your career, making you a better leader, manager, critical thinker, and communicator.
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) ranks among the most sought-after advanced degrees. According to US government data, business graduate degrees constitute nearly one-quarter of all master's conferred each year, with the majority of those MBAs. According to the 2022 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Prospective Students Survey, more than 4 in 5 candidates worldwide agree that a graduate business degree helps you stand out at work.
The MBA is a valued and prestigious degree because it helps students acquire critical skills and knowledge in operations management, finance, marketing, business communications, leadership, information technology, human resources, data analytics, and planning. It provides hands-on training and networking opportunities with peers and potential employers, all while adding a respected credential to your résumé. In 2022, MBAs earned an average starting salary of $115,000. Nearly 80 percent of MBA graduates agree that the degree has increased their lifelong earning potential.
So, what skills does an MBA provide? This article answers that question and discusses the following:
- Why get an MBA?
- The 7 most important skills you'll develop in an MBA program
- Why pursue an MBA online?
Why get an MBA?
An MBA can help you land senior-level roles in marketing, finance, human resources, sales, information technology, and executive positions within large organizations. However, an MBA doesn't necessarily punch your ticket to the c-suite. Moving to the top of the organizational chart requires lots of effort and hard work.
An MBA can unlock the door to more than just executive roles. It can also prepare you for success in entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and other business ventures.
The Harvard Business Review identifies these four reasons to get an MBA:
- The MBA provides career readiness
- The MBA can prepare you for a career pivot to a different industry or down a separate entrepreneurial path
- The MBA can accelerate your career path toward leadership roles
- The MBA expands and diversifies your professional network
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that management occupations (common among MBA graduates) earn an annual median wage of $102,450. While some management roles may accept candidates with a bachelor's degree, higher earning potential often comes with advanced education and preparedness derived from an MBA.
The 7 most important skills you'll develop in an MBA program
An MBA program equips prospective candidates with many skills applicable to various industries. We've outlined seven essential MBA skills that give you a leg up on the competition. From core coursework in accounting, finance, marketing, management, statistics, and operations to networking with your professors and classmates, the education and experiential learning gained from MBA programs can help lead you toward success.
MBA programs teach aspiring management, senior-level, and decision-making leaders essential leadership skills. For instance, the MBA program at Butler University includes a leadership course in its core curriculum. In addition, it offers a leadership concentration that includes the following course titles:
- Developing and Managing Teams
- Issues in Ethics and Social Responsibility
- Managing People in Global Organizations
- Perspectives on Leadership
- Venture Planning
Leadership includes providing guidance, delegating responsibilities, boosting staff morale, and helping others understand a company's long-term vision. The GMAC survey indicates that candidates who prefer full-time MBA programs consider leadership one of the "must-have" core skills.
If you're already an executive at your company, you may qualify for an Executive MBA program like the ones offered by Howard University, Georgetown University, Cornell University, and the University of Tennessee.
Analytics are useful in monitoring market movement, analyzing consumer habits, and forecasting business trends. While other analytic-heavy degrees explore big data (e.g., a Master of Science in Data Analytics or a Master of Science in Business Analytics), an MBA teaches analytic skills within the context of business administration and leadership, providing electives, concentrated tracks, or dual degree opportunities.
The Stevens Institute of Technology MBA program offers eight concentrations, including financial analytics and business intelligence and analytics. Coursework within these pathways concentrates on marketing analytics, supply chain analytics, social network analytics, risk management, data visualization, and other analytics or technology-focused courses.
Strategy and decision-making skills go hand-in-hand. Decision-making doesn't just mean jumping the gun and making a rash decision or telling people how things have to happen because "chief" is the first word of your job title. On the contrary, great leaders typically collaborate with department heads in accounting, finance, marketing, and operation to ensure any decision made is for the good of the company as a whole.
Decision-making, considered a soft skill, also has some elements of a hard skill that an MBA program can finesse. It may come naturally for some to take the initiative and develop solutions. However, an MBA can teach you how to tactfully, ethically, and strategically approach these decisions. To build this skill set, MBA programs offer courses like Strategic Management, Legal and Ethical Operation of Business, or International Business Strategy.
The science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field is integral to every modern business. As a result, some schools have either blended STEM into their MBA programs, dedicated a concentrated pathway, or included course electives within their curricula. Below are some programs that have followed one of these models:
- Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business
- Emory University's Goizueta Business School
- Georgia Institute of Technology's Scheller College of Business
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management
- Purdue University's Krannert School of Management
- Stevens Institute of Technology
- University of Chicago's Booth School of Business
The Stevens Institute of Technology offers foundational coursework that leverages analytics to improve decision-making at technology-driven companies across various industries. Potential career fields include marketing, finance, sales, and general or operations management, all of which can bring in over six-figure salaries.
Businesses need professionals with deep expertise in their practice areas. Engineers, technicians, marketing professionals, operations managers, human resources leaders, accountants and financial analysts all contribute the vast array of skills and knowledge required to drive a successful business.
Businesses also need people who can aggregate all the information provided by each of these experts, people who can contextualize and prioritize inputs to develop a vision for the company as a whole. MBA programs cultivate the big-picture thinking required to accomplish this critical business role. By teaching managers and executives to understand and value data analysis, strategic cost analysis, managerial economics, and strategic management, MBA programs create tomorrow's effective business leaders.
The 2022 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey lists strong communications skills (73 percent), versatility (68 percent), and strategic thinking (66 percent) among the top reasons employers have confidence in business school graduates.
Communication skills, one of the most used and valuable skills, include both verbal and written aptitude. MBA programs include foundational coursework to help grow your interpersonal skills, including effective communication, leadership, collaboration, empathy, and active listening.
Relatively few MBA programs offer a communications concentration. However, dual degree programs blend these two disciplines, like the MBA/MA option at Johns Hopkins University. If you prefer to complete your MBA in a more timely fashion, pursue these types of foundational courses or electives:
- Managing and Leading People
- Power and Influence
- Strategic Leadership
- Managing Change
- Perspectives on Leadership
Networking might overwhelm the introverted leader. However, closing business deals, launching your business from the ground up, or expanding your professional network requires making those connections. An MBA can help build your network in the following ways:
- Forging student connections with people from diverse backgrounds
- Joining a professional alum network
- Participating in MBA program-sponsored networking events
- Understanding the inner workings of the business world through experiential learning
- Forging relationships that can expand career opportunities or help close future business deals
The MBA program at Southern Methodist University offers a course called Managing Your Career, which discusses building and leveraging a professional network, exploring career options, and finding a career focus.
While few courses can teach you exactly how to network, an MBA presents opportunities to put you in the same room with someone who might become a business partner or a mentor or give you a solid reference when seeking an executive role.
Why pursue an MBA online?
Deciding whether to pursue an MBA on campus or in-person requires considering many factors, including the balance between synchronous and asynchronous content, types of electives and specializations offered, and flexibility for working professionals. The asynchronous content offered by most online programs provides a self-paced option for students to access courses when most convenient. Synchronous content and immersive experiential learning may require students to adjust their schedules slightly, but are typically scheduled in the evening to accommodate busy professionals.
Many online MBA programs provide full-time, part-time, and accelerated learning options ranging from as little as one year to over three years to complete.
Today, nearly 50,000 students attend online MBA programs. That's a greater number than the total for full-time on-campus MBA students. More and more, part-time online MBAs are becoming the norm, and for understandable reasons: they are more convenient for professionals who want to continue working while they earn their degrees. Online programs typically duplicate (or nearly duplicate) the content and standards of their host institution's on-campus programs, so there's no reason for employers not to value online degrees just as highly as those conferred by traditional programs. Where online excels is in convenience: for many students, the ability to study online is the difference between being able to pursue an MBA and not being able to.
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