Whether it’s an online MBA or a degree earned from a brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning, an MBA can propel your career or further your teaching and research capabilities. However, before embarking on this lengthy and rigorous higher education path, you should be prepared for how the coursework and time spent pursuing this higher degree will affect your life and future work-related pursuits.

Tip

Credit hours for an MBA can range from 48 to 62, depending on the program, school, area of study or concentration.

What Is an MBA?

The Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is a generalist degree. The MBA is one of the most flexible of the master’s degrees and applies to many business functions and professional positions within small and large corporations.

A well-prepared MBA candidate is focused on business organization, how a business functions and more. MBA graduates are well-versed in a wide variety of business-related disciplines of every aspect of a business, from accounts receivable to the CEO’s functions and duties.

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MBA Concentrations to Consider

An MBA program can be general in its structure, covering a wide array of topics, or highly specific, focusing on the student’s primary area of interest, such as accounting or management. Before taking on an MBA program, spend time researching all it has to offer for your specific goals.

There are many specialized programs to consider, including:

  • Human resources
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Information technology
  • Information solutions
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Operations

Benefits of an MBA

The MBA is a more advanced degree than the two-year associate degree or four-year bachelor’s degree in the business industry. It provides a more in-depth education in the practices and concepts of business management in many areas. This can benefit the graduate both professionally and monetarily.

Once you have earned acceptance to a program, your network of business professionals increases significantly. As you navigate the coursework, you will be networking and creating professional relationships with fellow students, industry contacts and professors among other powerful allies. This can help your career immediately after graduation and well into the future as you earn real-life experience.

Even in tight job markets, an MBA can open doors. It shows that you have the experience, skills and ability to carry yourself professionally.

Questions to Ask Before Applying to an MBA Program

In the past, business schools that had MBA programs preferred a student to have at least four to six years of professional, on-the-job experience before tackling a master’s degree. However, that has since changed, and many programs allow candidates to apply straight from a four-year college program.

If you are about to graduate or if you have just a few years of work experience under your belt, then you may be wondering if it is the right time to pursue an MBA. Before you go after an MBA, you should ask yourself a few questions.

  • To graduate with an MBA, how many credits do you need?
  • What’s a credit hour?
  • What are the specific goals that an MBA will help you to achieve?
  • Is an MBA the only way to accomplish your professional goals?
  • How would you be perceived in your field or industry if you had an MBA rather than your current level of education?
  • Will an MBA increase your salary?
  • How much does an MBA cost?

These are very good questions to consider well before you complete the MBA application. A master’s degree means spending more money on education. A typical MBA will cost around $10,000 a year but can vary significantly among schools.

Credit Hours to Earn an MBA

Programs vary, but an MBA can typically be earned in two years for students who attend a program full time. Credit hours can range from 48 to 62, depending on the program, school, area of study or concentration.

The number of credits may not be equal because of how the school counts the work behind the credits. For instance, it may take 62 credits at one school and 52 at another, but the amount of time to complete the credits is relatively the same.

Core Classes for MBA Degrees

The typical MBA program will divide its degree requirements into two categories: core classes and elective courses based on the student’s interests.

The core classes may have slightly different names in each program, but they have the same elements of foundation. Most MBA degree programs require that at least half if not more of the credits come from core courses.

The core classes concentrate on the essential business concepts and practices that an MBA graduate will need. These include:

  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Strategic leadership
  • Data analysis
  • Applied economics
  • Business strategy
  • Management
  • Analytical tools
  • Marketing analysis and development
  • Operations

Elective Requirements for an MBA

The elective courses in an MBA program tend to be specialized classes in a specific area of study. For instance, a student who is planning to use his MBA in the human resources field may choose employee relations and communications courses to further his earning and hiring potential upon graduation.

Applying to an MBA Program

After you have researched which program will be the best in helping you to reach your goals, applying for an MBA program can feel like an overwhelming endeavor. The application process may vary from college to college, but most MBA programs, whether online or on campus, will require a few basic things.

  • Transcripts – Any accredited master’s degree program will ask for your undergraduate transcripts when you apply. Make sure to prepare official transcripts along with a valid state identification card or passport.

  • GMAT or GRE – Admissions offices often use the GMAT or GRE test score as a screening tool. A low test score will help them to weed out those who aren’t serious about their schooling. If you are at all nervous about taking the test, then you should consider taking preparatory classes or seeing a tutor before sitting down to take these important exams for school.

  • Resume – The professional experience you gained during your undergraduate program should reflect the area of study you hope to pursue in your MBA program. This can be a major selling point for admissions officials.

  • Admissions Interview – After all the work of structuring an application, it can be a relief to be asked for an interview. It can also be the most stressful part of the application process. Be prepared to have your resume, admittance essay (if applicable) and test scores memorized as well as your motivation bullet points for attending this particular program.

GPA for an MBA

If your grade point average in undergrad school is low, such as hovering around the 2.0 mark, you may want to raise it before applying to the MBA school of your choice. Check that the typical GPA of applicants is around your GPA or less before you go through the sometimes arduous process of applying. On average, an accredited MBA business school will look for applicants with a GPA of 3.5 to 3.7.

To raise your GPA, take some courses that are in your area of interest in which you feel you can excel. Ask professors for extra credit in classes where you may be lagging.

Low GPA Options

If you are stuck with a low GPA, then you still have some options. Ask for letters of recommendation from instructors with whom you have worked well recently or in the past. Any community organizations or local businesses to which you have contributed can also be able to raise your standing with an admissions office with a glowing letter describing your work ethic or any adversities or challenges you had to overcome.

Benefits of Online MBA Programs

Earning an online master’s degree has become much more popular, as employers are more comfortable with remote work and the quality of online MBA programs. A well-structured online MBA program allows students with job or family duties to study and complete coursework on their own time.

Online programs tend to be less expensive and yet offer the same professional networking opportunities as a traditional business school’s degree program. The coursework is just as rigorous for an online student going after this popular master’s degree. A part-time MBA can take three to five years online, while a full-time degree can be completed in two years or less by an ambitious student.

Some of the top-rated online MBA programs have a few things in common, including:

  • They are accredited
  • Tend to be more cost effective
  • Flexible hours to complete lectures and exams to a reasonable degree
  • Easy access to lectures, professors and student community for support
  • Offers a wide variety of core and elective classes

Best Online MBA Schools

There are many accredited online MBA degree programs.

  • Pepperdine University – Students can complete this highly regarded MBA program in as little as 20 months. There are scholarships available to qualifying students, particularly if they can show a hardship.

  • Whitman Syracuse University – This top-ranked online MBA allows those who are already in the field to network and advance their career while working toward their MBA. The program takes about 24 months to complete. There are GMAT waivers available, and all applicants must have a bachelor’s degree.

  • Walden University – This general Master of Business Administration degree teaches students strategies to enhance an organization’s effectiveness through the university’s ACBSP-accredited program. Graduates are revered for the business and leadership skills they gained through Walden University’s online MBA program that is tailored to their specific company’s challenges.

  • University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business – The Hough Graduate School of Business has an online MBA degree program that teaches practical and theoretical approaches to important business administration concepts, from accounting to communications to marketing. It requires 48 credit hours and has online college courses in professional writing, legal environment of business, corporate finance, economics of business decisions and much more.

  • St. Bonaventure University Online – This is the first Catholic-Franciscan university in the United States. It is known for creating talented communicators, collaborative leaders and confident MBA graduates. It has a large network of professionals dedicated to helping students before and long after graduation.

Will an MBA Increase My Salary?

It is generally a reasonable expectation that the more education you have in a specific area, the more you will be compensated. While this may not happen immediately upon graduation, most MBA graduates can expect to significantly increase their earnings within a few years of earning the degree.

The Graduate Management Admissions Council estimates that graduates earn close to six figures. Much of it depends on location and work experience along with the degree itself. States with a large population in concentrated areas, such as California and New York, tend to pay top dollar for newly minted MBA degree holders.

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.