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Guide to the MBA and How to Earn One

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A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a graduate degree designed to help people learn the management skills necessary to assume a leadership position in a business or organization. Most people who earn an MBA are seeking to further their career or boost their earning potential.

In this Article

Steps to Earn Your MBA

Explore the field.

Before choosing an MBA program, consider your end goal. You may want to change careers, advance in your field, or start your own business. People with MBAs usually work as managers, directors, or executives in a company. Explore what opportunities might be available in your chosen field by looking at job postings or talking to people who work in management positions.

Consider getting some work experience.

It's common for people to enter an MBA program after working in a business-related field for a few years. The experience can help you decide on your career goals and can give you a competitive advantage in your classes. You could use your real-world knowledge to contribute to class discussions and course assignments. A few people, especially in traditional two-year MBA programs, will transition directly from their undergraduate degrees to business school.

Find out if your employer will fund your MBA.

Check to see if your employer offers tuition reimbursement as part of your benefits package. An MBA can be an advantage to both you and your employer, so it's not unusual for large employers to pay at least some of the tuition for an MBA to help develop their talent. You may have to commit to staying the company for a specified period of time. Some companies also require a minimum grade point average or other proof of progress before renewing the tuition benefit for the next term.

Explore specializations.

After taking general business courses at first, you can then decide to specialize in a certain field by choosing elective courses concentrated in a specific field such as finance or project management.

Check out schools and programs.

Marco De Novellis, senior editor for Graduate Management Admission Council's BusinessBecause networking site and GMAC Media, recommends that you check out several MBA programs before deciding what's right for you. "Do as much research as possible," he says. "Read the websites, read reviews by alumni, and talk to admissions directors. Talk to people who have done what you want to do."

Take the GMAT.

The GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) is a test that measures your abilities in verbal, quantitative reasoning, and writing. Most traditional MBA programs still require you to submit your scores as part of the application process, but that is changing. Some MBA programs will waive the GMAT if you have other qualifications such as management experience.

Get your MBA!

You can earn your MBA in several different ways—full-time, part-time, on-campus, online, or a combination of modes. Consider what schedule will fit best with your career goals and your lifestyle.

Find a job.

While you're studying, you should start preparing for the next step in your career. You should find opportunities to join student business associations or professional organizations of people in your chosen career path. Attend recruiting events and conferences, and volunteer with groups in your community. Networking can open many doors for you.

How Long Does it Take to Get an MBA?


It takes anywhere from about one year to three years or longer to get an MBA, depending on the program and the delivery mode you choose. The traditional full-time MBA takes two years. Online programs can be shorter, and part-time programs can take longer.

How Much Can I Earn?

Earning an MBA can help boost your salary or lead to a higher-paying job. The majority of people with an MBA make more than people with bachelor's degrees. However, exact salaries are influenced by a number of factors, including specialization, location, and experience.

Is an MBA Right for Me?

You're likely to do well in an MBA program if you're able to:

  • Work creatively under deadlines
  • Articulate your ideas clearly and succinctly—even in high-pressure situations
  • Effectively manage your time
  • Define what you want to get out of a particular experience—and then maintain your focus on these objectives despite distractions
  • Develop good working relationships with team members of diverse personality types and backgrounds
  • Maintain a high energy level while meeting the demands of a rigorous schedule

Written and reported by:

Karen S. Hanson
Contributing Writer

With professional insight from:

Marco De Novellis, Senior Editor
BusinessBecause and GMAC Media