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What is an MBA? | What, How, and Why to Study

Nathan Wilgeroth

The world is changing at a rapid pace, and ongoing advancements in technology are making societal, economic, and professional relationships more and more complex. It’s no wonder why so many are turning back to school to get a leg up in their career.

Essentially, a Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is a graduate degree in business. That sounds simple enough, but it is so much more than it seems at first glance. No matter the field, an MBA s an invaluable option for anyone hoping to remain adaptable in a dynamic, competitive job market. And we mean anyone—whether you’re a business undergrad, an art undergrad, or anything in between, an MBA is a useful investment that can boost your career to the next level.

As with any kind of higher education, there are many things you should look out for in order to make the work toward your degree a worthwhile journey. What will you study? How are the classes structured? How will you pay for it and fit it into your schedule? Consider the information below to see what your options are for all things MBA, from the pace of your courses to the topics of the courses themselves.

MBA Programs Should be Accessible

Coursework
While all MBA programs vary, their curricula typically have a similar foundation. Most often, programs begin with the fundamentals of business practice, after which they veer off into courses related to specific concentrations.

MBA concentrations delve deeper into different aspects of business with high-level coursework, ranging from such topics as accounting, management, leadership, entrepreneurship, supply chain and logistics, marketing, human resource management, and health care—but the list doesn’t end there! If you’re looking to enter or excel in a certain industry, do your research and choose an MBA program that allows you to specialize.

MBA programs teach students in either of two main formats: through individual study or through an established cohort model.

Through individual study, students take their required coursework on their own time and move through the program at their own pace. In a cohort model, students are grouped together and take the same classes at the same time, usually to facilitate ongoing discussion and collaboration.

Resources
MBA programs are often offered at flexible times throughout the day so that students may continue to work and take care of their responsibilities. This is a serious benefit for adult learners, but it means that many classes may take place while nothing else is operating on campus.

Look for Business Schools that offer specific resources that are available during MBA students’ working hours. Some schools provide 24/7 library and lab access, mentoring in the evenings or during the weeked, and/or consistent access to their advisors and professors through an online portal.

MBA Programs Should Accelerate Your Time to Completion

Type
An MBA program can come in many formats and span many different lengths. Take into consideration your own lifestyle and what you can feasibly handle before you decide to enroll. Every institution has their own selection of degree plans, each of which will follow the structure of one of these main types:

  • Traditional – A traditional program is one that is most similar to the conventional idea of a college education. It is typically a residential or otherwise full-time program whose classes take place on campus. Traditional programs best fit those who aren’t currently working a 9-5 job and have little to no work experience.
  • Professional – This part-time program is typically offered in the evening, on weekends, online, or in a blended (combination of face-to-face and online) format. The program comes with flexible hours and course options that make it easier for those with a full-time job to complete their degree.
  • Executive – For those with multiple years of work experience, an Executive program provides an advanced education to mid- to senior-level professionals. These programs bring together a cohort of similarly matched professionals and meets once or twice a month for low-residency courses.
  • Global This program is aimed at students who desire to get involved in business at an international level. The Global MBA usually includes a concentration in International Business as well as the chance to work and study abroad for an extended amount of time.

MBA Programs Can Be Made Affordable

Cost of an MBA
When you’re looking into how much your MBA will cost, take a look at how different institutions price their programs to see which the best fit for your budget.

  • Per credit – This is particularly helpful for those who aren’t able to join a cohort program and/or may need to spread out their courses and stretch their degree slowly over a longer period of time.
  • Per term – If you are able to take on a full course load for an entire semester, you can pay this flat fee to enroll in the combination of courses you need.
  • Full program – The option to pay for the full program is typical for an Executive MBA. The entire degree comes at one cost, which usually includes all the credits, fees, books, etc. needed for completion.
  • Financial aid – Most MBA programs accept some form of financial aid, whether that be through the FAFSA or any kind of school-specific awards. Consult your potential school’s coordinator to understand what types of aid you qualify for.
  • Tuition deferment/reimbursement – Oftentimes, many companies support their employees by contributing to the cost of tuition. Check with your boss to see whether they offer any resources to employees looking to further their education. Additionally, many colleges have established partnerships with companies to facilitate tuition deferment and/or reimbursement.

MBA Programs Should Advance Your Knowledge, Skills, and Professionalism

Experiential components
Any MBA program that is preparing you for a leadership position in the “real world” should address the workplace throughout its curriculum. There are a number of ways schools have implemented hands-on learning into their student experience:

  • Immersions – Many MBA programs offer immersive components that teach students lessons for the workplace through true, lived experiences. Business exposure can take the form of one-on-one work with a faculty member or a semester of work at a large corporation.
  • Trips abroad – Typically part of a Global MBA program, trips abroad expose students to how some businesses in different countries operate and make an international impact. Trips abroad have students live, work, and study in a perspective-expanding culture.
  • Internships – For those who are not already employed, many MBA programs partner with area organizations to help students find internships. These experiences are especially useful if you’re still exploring career options and looking to get your feet wet in a particular industry.
  • Networking – Built into every MBA is a network of professionals who have the potential to bolster your career and make further connections. An MBA program is taken and taught by professionals with industry experience, and so the simple act of enrolling makes you part of a broad network of leaders. See how your potential school maintains an alumni network and allows you to interact with others in your program.
  • Corporate partnerships – Through partnerships with companies in the area, schools are better able to assure their students hands-on experiences in the business world. Corporate partnerships streamline internship and job transfers, tuition breaks, and networking opportunities.

Benefits
There are countless ways an MBA can benefit you. The advanced degree can not only give you the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in a leadership position at work, but its ability to help you reach your full potential can bring about promotions and salary increases. Importantly, the decision to continue your education also solidifies your commitment to lifelong learning, and with your curiosity comes the skill to adapt with the ever-changing workplace.

An MBA puts you on the front lines of what’s new in business. With your degree, you will be able to think critically and solve problems with a creative, strategic mindset.

At Abound, we start the search for you. Your unique needs require a school that will cater to your lifestyle while also providing a comprehensive and powerful education. Abound: MBA narrows down your options and gets you in touch with schools that we can confirm are Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced.

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