Master of Business Administration

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The Master of Business Administration (MBA or M.B.A.) is a master's degree in business administration. The MBA degree originated in the United States in the late 19th century as the country industrialized and companies sought scientific approaches to management. The core courses in an MBA program introduce the various areas of business such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources and operations management; many programs include elective courses.

Accreditation bodies specifically for MBA programs ensure consistency and quality of education. Business schools in many countries offer programs tailored to full-time, part-time, executive, and distance learning students, with specialized concentrations.


The first graduate school of business in the United States was the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.[1] Founded in 1900, it conferred the first advanced degree in business, specifically, a Master of Science in Commerce, the predecessor to the MBA.

The MBA degree has been adopted by universities worldwide in both developed and developing countries.[12]


Business school or MBA program accreditation by external agencies provides students and employers with an independent view of the school or program's quality, as well as whether the curriculum meets specific quality standards. The three major accrediting bodies in the United States are:

All of these groups also accredit schools outside the US. The AACSB, the ACBSP, and the IACBE are themselves recognized in the United States by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).[14] MBA programs with specializations for students pursuing careers in healthcare management also eligible for accreditation by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

US MBA programs may also be accredited at the institutional level. Bodies that accredit institutions as a whole include:

Accreditation agencies outside the United States include the Association of MBAs (AMBA), a UK-based organization that accredits MBA, DBA and MBM programs worldwide, government accreditation bodies such as the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which accredits MBA and PGDM programs across India. Some of the leading bodies in India that certify MBA institutions and their programs are the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the University Grants Commission (UGC). A distance MBA program needs to be accredited by the Distance Education Council (DEC) in India. The Council on Higher Education (CHE) in South Africa, the European Foundation for Management Development operates the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) for mostly European and Asian schools, the Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation (FIBAA), and Central and East European Management Development Association (CEEMAN) in Europe.


Two-year (Full Time) MBA programs normally take place over two academic years (i.e. approximately 18 months of term time). For example, in the Northern Hemisphere, they often begin in late August/September of year one and continue until May of year two, with a three- to four-month summer break in between years one and two. Students enter with a reasonable amount of prior real-world work experience and take classes during weekdays like other university students. A typical Full-time, accelerated, part-time or modular MBA requires 60 credits (600 class hours) of graduate work.

Accelerated MBA programs are a variation of the two-year programs. They involve a higher course load with more intense class and examination schedules. They usually have less "down time" during the program and between semesters. For example, there is no three- to four-month summer break, and between semesters there might be seven to ten days off rather than three to five weeks vacation.

Part-time MBA programs normally hold classes on weekday evenings, after normal working hours, or on weekends. Part-time programs normally last three years or more. The students in these programs typically consist of working professionals, who take a light course load for a longer period of time until the graduation requirements are met.

Modular MBA programs are similar to part-time programs, although typically employing a lock-step curriculum with classes packaged together in blocks lasting from one to three weeks.

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs developed to meet the educational needs of managers and executives, allowing students to earn an MBA or another business-related graduate degree in two years or less while working full-time. Participants come from every type and size of organization – profit, nonprofit, government – representing a variety of industries. EMBA students typically have a higher level of work experience, often 10 years or more, compared to other MBA students. In response to the increasing number of EMBA programs offered, The Executive MBA Council was formed in 1981 to advance executive education.

Distance learning MBA programs hold classes off-campus. These programs can be offered in a number of different formats: correspondence courses by postal mail or email, non-interactive broadcast video, pre-recorded video, live teleconference or videoconference, offline or online computer courses. Many schools offer these programs.

Blended learning programs combine distance learning with face-to-face instruction.[16] These programs typically target working professionals who are unable to attend traditional part-time programs.[17]

Dual MBA programs combine a MBA with others (such as an MS, MA, or a J.D., etc.) to let students cut costs (dual programs usually cost less than pursuing 2 degrees separately), save time on education and to tailor the business education courses to their needs. Some business schools offer programs in which students can earn both a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in four or five years.

Mini-MBA is a term used by many non-profit and for-profit institutions to describe a training regimen focused on the fundamentals of business. In the past, Mini-MBA programs have typically been offered as non-credit bearing courses that require less than 100 hours of total learning. However, due to the criticisms of these certificates, many schools have now shifted their programs to offer courses for full credit so that may be applied towards a complete traditional MBA degree. This is to allow students to verify business related coursework for employment purposes and still allow the option complete a full-time MBA degree program at a later period if they elect to do so.

Admissions criteria[edit]

Many programs base their admission decisions on a combination of Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), a resume containing significant work experience, academic transcripts, essays, references and letters of recommendation or personal interviews. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is also accepted by some schools in lieu of the GMAT.[18] Some schools are also interested in extracurricular activities, community service activities and how the student can improve the school's diversity and contribute to the student body as a whole. All of these qualifications can be important for admission; however, some schools do not weigh GMAT scores as heavily as other criteria, and some distance learning programs do not require the GMAT for admission. In order to achieve a diverse class, business schools also consider the target male-female ratio and local-international student ratios. Some MBA degrees do not require students to have an undergraduate degree and will accept experience in lieu of an undergraduate degree. In the UK for example an HND or even HNC is acceptable in some programs.

Depending on the program, type and length of work experience can be a critical admissions component for many MBA programs.[19] Many top-tier programs require five or more years of work experience for admission.[20][21]


In general,[22] MBA programs are structured around core courses (an essentially standard curriculum[23]), typically taken at the start of the MBA, and elective courses allowing for a subject specialty or concentration. Thus, in the program's first part (first year), students will acquire the analytical tools necessary for academic training in the key management functions, as well as a working knowledge of these functions; while in the second part (second year) students pursue a specialized curriculum. Full-time students generally seek an internship during the interim. The degree culminates with coursework in Business Strategy. A dissertation or "Major Project" is usually a degree requirement, and similarly follows the completion of coursework. Topics in Business ethics may be included in the first or second part (or both), with a correspondingly different focus. For Executive MBAs, the curriculum will be largely similar, but the focus will differ, taking on a macro view, and emphasizing real-world applicability, in contrast with the more fundamental and functional orientation of traditional programs.[24]

MBA Course Structure
Analyticalaccounting, economics, operations research, organizational behavior, statistics
Functionalfinancial management, human resource management, marketing management, operations management
EthicsBusiness ethics, corporate social responsibility
Specializationentrepreneurship, finance (including corporate finance and investment management), international business, management information systems, management science, marketing, operations management, organizational design, project management, real estate, risk management and strategy, among others.
CapstoneStrategyBusiness Strategy, Business Leadership
Researchresearch methodology, Dissertation/ Major Project

The specialization and typical[23] core courses are as aside. The analytical courses may treat financial- and management accounting separately, and often focus on managerial economics as opposed to the more traditional introductory treatment. Sometimes business law and tax may be included. In many programs, applicants with appropriate background may be exempt from the analytical coursework. For the functional courses, some programs specify further advanced coursework. Here, the first (sub-)course provides an overview, while the second revisits the subject in depth. Alternatively, the first addresses short-term, tactical problems, while the second addresses long-term, strategic problems (e.g. "Financial Management I" covers working capital management, while part II covers capital investment decisions). In these cases, the additional work is accommodated either via an extended first part, or offered in parallel to the specialization. Information systems / technology is often included as a functional course. Ethics training is often coupled with coursework in corporate social responsibility.

For the Business Strategy component, the degree “capstone”, the focus is on the long-term positioning and management of the entity as a whole — i.e. business administration proper — and the key functions are thus synthesized and / or integrated into an overall view. Corresponding training in business leadership may also be scheduled, while related participation in a business simulation or game is a common degree requirement. "Strategy" may be offered as a sequence of courses, beginning in the first part (theory) and culminating in the second (execution), or as a single intensive course, offered during the second part. A specialization in “strategy” is not always offered; management consulting (or the like) is often offered instead, and substantially addresses the same issues.

Programs may also include (coursework-based) training in the skills needed at senior levels of management: soft skills, such as (general) leadership and negotiation; hard skills, such as spreadsheets, project management and foreign languages; thinking skills such as innovation and creativity. Training in areas such as multiculturalism and corporate social responsibility is similarly included. Company visits (including overseas travel), and guest lectures or seminars with CEOs and management personalities may also occur. These, with the core subjects, provide the graduate with "breadth", while the specialty courses provide "depth".

The MBA Dissertation (or Thesis in some universities) will, in general, comprise the following in some combination:[25] a discussion of the literature, providing a critical review and structuring of what is known, with a view to addressing a specific problem; a case study that goes beyond simple description, containing the analysis of hitherto unpublished material; a test of the application or limitations of some known principle or technique in a particular situation, and / or suggested modifications. As an alternative to the Dissertation, some programs instead allow for a "Major Project".[26] Here (part-time) students will address a problem current in their organization; particularly in programs with an action learning orientation, these may be practically oriented.[26] Most MBA programs require additional course work in research methodology, preceding the dissertation or project. Some programs allow that the research component as a whole may be substituted with additional elective coursework.



In 1957, INSEAD (French name "INStitut Européen d'ADministration des Affaires", or European Institute of Business Administration) became the first European university offering the MBA degree, followed in 1959 by ESADE, EDHEC Business School and ICADE in 1960 (who had started offering in 1956 a "Technical Seminary for Business Administration"),[27] IESE (first two-year program in Europe) in 1964, UCD Smurfit Business School and Cranfield School of Management in 1964, Manchester Business School and London Business School in 1965, The University of Dublin (Trinity College), the Rotterdam School of Management in 1966, the Vlerick Business School in 1968[28] and in 1969 by the HEC School of Management (in French, the École des Hautes Études Commerciales) and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. In 1972, Swiss business school IMEDE (now IMD) began offering a full-time MBA program, followed in 1974 by AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow, Poland. EADA Business School in 1989. In 1991, IEDC-Bled School of Management became the first school in the ex-socialist block of the Central and Eastern to offer an MBA degree. Because of technology advances, distance or online MBA programs have recently emerged in Europe. Several business schools in the United Kingdom now offer distance MBA programs. In 2007, ESCEM became the first French Business school to offer their own distance or online MBA.

Bologna Accord[edit]

In Europe, the recent Bologna Accord established uniformity in three levels of higher education: Bachelor (three or four years), Masters (one or two years, in addition to three or four years for a Bachelor), and Doctorate (an additional three or four years after a Bachelors). Students can acquire professional experience after their initial bachelor degree at any European institution and later complete their masters in any other European institution via the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.

Accreditation standards[edit]

Accreditation standards are not uniform in Europe. Some countries have legal requirements for accreditation (e.g. most German states), in some there is a legal requirement only for universities of a certain type (e.g. Austria), and others have no accreditation law at all. Even where there is no legal requirement, many business schools are accredited by independent bodies voluntarily to ensure quality standards.


In Austria, MBA programs of private universities have to be accredited by the Austrian Accreditation Council (Österreichischer Akkreditierungsrat). State-run universities have no accreditation requirements, however, some of them voluntarily undergo accreditation procedures by independent bodies. There are also MBA programs of non-academic business schools, who are entitled by the Austrian government to offer these programs until the end of 2012 (Lehrgang universitären Charakters). Some non-academic institutions cooperate with state-run universities to ensure legality of their degrees.

Czech Republic[edit]

January 1999 saw the first meeting of the Association of the Czech MBA Schools (CAMBAS). The Association is housed within the Centre for Doctoral and Managerial Studies of UEP, Prague. All of the founding members of the Association to have their MBA programs accredited by partner institutions in the United Kingdom or United States of America.


In Finland, as in most countries, MBA does not have the status of official degree. MBA programs are run by various universities including the top universities in the country.

France and French speaking countries[edit]

In France and in the Francophone countries such as Switzerland, Monaco, Belgium, and Canada, the MBA degree programs at the public accredited schools are similar to those offered in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Most French Business Schools are accredited by the Conférence des Grandes Écoles, which is an association of higher educational establishments outside the mainstream framework of the public education system.


Germany was one of the last western countries to adopt the MBA degree. In 1998, the Hochschulrahmengesetz (Higher Education Framework Act), a German federal law regulating higher education including the types of degrees offered, was modified to permit German universities to offer master's degrees. The traditional German degree in business administration was the Diplom in Betriebswirtschaft (Diplom-Kaufmann; Master's degree equivalent) but since 1999, bachelor's and master's degrees have gradually replaced the traditional degrees due to the Bologna process. Today most German business schools offer the MBA. Most German states require that MBA degrees have to be accredited by one of the six agencies officially recognized by the German Akkreditierungsrat (accreditation council), the German counterpart to the American CHEA. The busiest of these six agencies (in respect to MBA degrees) is the Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation (FIBAA). All universities themselves have to be institutionally accredited by the state (staatlich anerkannt).


Italian MBAs programs at public accredited schools are similar to those offered elsewhere in Europe. Italian Business Schools are accredited by EQUIS and by ASFOR.


There are several MBA programs offered in Poland. Some of these are run as partnerships with American or Canadian Universities. Others rely on their own faculty and enrich their courses by inviting visiting lecturers. Several MBA programs in Poland are also offered also in English.


There are several schools in Switzerland that offer an MBA, the most prominent being the International Institute for Management Development and St. Gallen MBA-HSG. Both programs offer full-time, part-time and executive education programs. Switzerland is slowly becoming a hub for management education with new institutes being introduced and promoted. Among the new foundings, former International Institute for Management Development director Peter Lorange has established his own business school, named after him. He introduces new business school didactics, mingling corporate education and post-graduate education. [29]


Recently MBA programs appeared in Ukraine where there are now about twenty schools of business offering a variety of MBA programs. Three of these are subsidiaries of European schools of business, while the remaining institutions are independent. Ukrainian MBA programs are concentrated mainly on particulars of business and management in Ukraine. For example, 2/3 of all case studies are based on real conditions of Ukrainian companies.[30]

United Kingdom[edit]

The UK-based Association of MBAs (AMBA) was established in 1967 and is an active advocate for MBA degrees. The association's accreditation service is internationally recognised for all MBA, DBA and Masters in Business and Management (MBM) programmes. AMBA also offer the only professional membership association for MBA students and graduates. UK MBA programmes typically consist of a set number of taught courses plus a dissertation or project.


The Financial Times in its Executive Education Rankings for 2012 included 5 African business schools.


Business schools administered as colleges within the traditional universities offer a variety of MBA programs. In addition, a few standalone business schools allied with foreign business schools exist.

South Africa[edit]

In 2004 South Africa’s Council on Higher Education (CHE) completed an extensive re-accreditation of MBA degrees offered in the country.[citation needed]


Business schools of the traditional universities run a variety of MBA programs. In addition, foreign accredited institutions offer MBA degrees by distance learning in Ghana.


MBA programs are offered in many public and private universities.

Students choose to specialize in one of the following areas: Accounting, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Insurance and Human Resources. The course takes 4 semesters of about 4 months each.


International MBA programs are acquiring brand value in Asia. For example, while a foreign MBA is still preferred in the Philippines, many students are now studying at one of many "Global MBA" English language programs being offered. English-only MBA programs are also offered in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. For international students who want a different experience, many Asian programs offer scholarships and discounted tuition to encourage an international environment in the classroom.

Rankings have been done for Asia Pacific schools by the magazine Asia Inc. which is a regional business magazine with distribution worldwide. The importance of MBA education in China has risen, too.[31]


Bangladesh was one of the first countries in Asia to offer MBA degree. There are now more than 50 business schools in Bangladesh offering the MBA, predominantly targeting graduates without any work experience. Most MBAs are two years full-time. There is little use of GMAT. The Business Schools conduct their own admission tests instead. The medium of teaching is English.


There are many business schools in India offering two-year MBA programs accredited by AICTE or UGC. The students are a mix of fresh graduates as well as with experience and get either at public or private schools depending on entrance examinations. Typically programs offer full-time, part-time and executive education programs. The premier institutes in India the IIMs offer the prestigious PGDM instead.


In Japan, the concept of an MBA is still not considered mainstream as traditional companies still perceive that knowledge and learning with respect to business and management can only be effectively gained through experience and not within a classroom. In fact, some companies have been known place recent MBA recipients in unrelated fields, or try to re-acclimate their Japanese employees who have spent years overseas earning the degree. As a consequence, academic institutions in Japan are attempting to reinvent the perception of the MBA degree, by taking into account the local corporate culture.[32] Globis University Graduate School of Management is considered as a significant indicator to the acceptance of the MBA system in Japan.[33]


Pakistan first offered an MBA program outside the United States in 1955 in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania. Now in Pakistan, there are 87 Universities/Institutes which are recognized by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, offering MBA programs to students and professionals.[citation needed]


In Australia, 42 Australian business schools offer the MBA degree. Universities differentiate themselves by gaining international accreditation and focusing on national and international rankings. Most MBAs are one to two years full-time. There is little use of GMAT, and instead each educational institution specifies its own requirements, which normally entails several years of management-level work experience as well as proven academic skills.

Ratings for Australian MBAs are carried out by the Graduate Management Association of Australia, which publishes an annual Australian MBA Star Ratings.

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, most universities offer MBA classes, typically through part-time arrangement or evening classes. There is one university in Dunedin, Otago, that offers full-time classes conducted on-campus in the day, complete with a suite of career enhancement activities. Entry to this program requires GMAT, work experience and an undergraduate degree as well as interview with a panel. Many MBA programs are accredited including this full-time program.

Program rankings[edit]

As MBA programs proliferated over time, differences in the quality of schools, faculty, and course offerings became evident. As a means of establishing criteria to assess quality among different MBA programs, a variety of publications began compiling program information and ranking quality. Different methods of varying validity were used. The Gourman Report, which ran from 1967 until 1997, did not disclose criteria or ranking methods,[34] and these reports were criticized for reporting statistically impossible data, such as no ties among schools, narrow gaps in scores with no variation in gap widths, and ranks of nonexistent departments.[35] In 1977 The Carter Report published rankings of MBA programs based on the number of academic articles published by faculty. Also in 1977, the Ladd & Lipset Survey relied on opinion surveys of business school faculty as the basis for rankings, and MBA Magazine ranked schools based on votes cast by business school deans.[36]

Most recently, publications such as US News & World Report, Business Week, Financial Times, The Economist, the Wall Street Journal and the Forbes publish rankings of selected MBA programs. Often a schools’ rank will vary significantly across publications, as the methodology used to create the ranks is different among each publication. The U.S. News & World Report ranking incorporates responses from deans, program directors, and senior faculty about the academic quality of their programs as well as the opinions of hiring professionals. The ranking is calculated through a weighted formula of quality assessment (40%), placement success (35%), and student selectivity (25%).[37] The BusinessWeek rankings are similarly based on student surveys, a survey of corporate recruiters, and an intellectual capital rating.[38] The Financial Times incorporates criteria including survey responses from alumni who graduated three years prior to the ranking and information from business schools. Salary and employment statistics are weighted heavily.[39] Rankings by the Economist Intelligence Unit and published in The Economist result from surveys administered to business schools (80%) and to students and recent graduates (20%). Ranking criteria includes GMAT scores, employment and salary statistics, class options, and student body demographics.[40] Although the Wall Street Journal stopped ranking full-time MBA programs in 2007, its ranking are based on skill and behavioral development that should lend toward career success, such as social skills, teamwork orientation, ethics, and analytic and problem-solving abilities.[41] In contrast to the aforementioned rankings, the Forbes MBA ranking only considers the return of investment five years after graduation. MBA alumni are asked about their salary, the tuition fees of their MBA program and other direct costs as well as opportunity costs involved. Based on this data, a final "5-year gain" is calculated and determines the MBA ranking position.[42]

An often overlooked differentiator among MBA rankings are the weights attributed to the participating groups and their answers. At first glance, for instance, the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking seems to provide more emphasis to the opinion of schools' representatives than to alumni: Schools provide data for 11 out of 20 criteria whereas alumni only contribute to 8 criteria. The answers of the alumni, however, are weighted by 59 percent whereas the schools' answers are weighted only by 31 percent. Hence, the ranking strongly builds on the opinion of alumni. In contrast, the Economist MBA Ranking primarily relies on the data provided by business schools and the Bloomberg Businessweek MBA Rankings equally emphasizes the opinion of alumni and corporate recruiters.[43]

Other rankings base methodologies on attributes other than standardized test scores, salary of graduates, and recruiter opinions. The Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranking, published by the Aspen Institute is based on the integration of social and environmental stewardship into university curriculum and faculty research. Rankings are calculated on the amount of sustainability coursework made available to students (20%), amount of student exposure to relevant material (25%), amount of coursework focused on stewardship by for-profit corporations (30%), and relevant faculty research (25%).[44] The 2011 survey and ranking include data from 150 universities.[45] The Quacquarelli Symonds QS Global 200 Business Schools Report compiles regional rankings of business schools around the world. Ranks are calculated using a two-year moving average of points assigned by employers who hire MBA graduates.[46] Since 2005, the UT-Dallas Top 100 Business School Research Rankings ranks business schools on the research faculty publish, not unlike The Carter Report of the past.[47]

The ranking of MBA programs has been discussed in articles and on academic Web sites.[48] Critics of ranking methodologies maintain that any published rankings should be viewed with caution for the following reasons:[49]

One study found that objectively ranking MBA programs by a combination of graduates' starting salaries and average student GMAT score can reasonably duplicate the top 20 list of the national publications.[49] The study concluded that a truly objective ranking would be individualized to the needs of each prospective student.[51] National publications have recognized the value of rankings against different criteria, and now offer lists ranked different ways: by salary, GMAT score of students, selectivity, and so forth. Other publications have produced “rankings of the rankings”, which coalesce and summarize the findings of multiple independent rankings.[52][53] While useful, these rankings have yet to meet the critique that rankings are not tailored to individual needs, that they use an incomplete population of schools, may fail to distinguish between the different MBA program types offered by each school, or rely on subjective interviews.


The Financial crisis of 2007–2010 raised questions about the value and content of MBA programs. Graduates reportedly tend to go into finance after receiving their degrees.[54] As financial professionals are widely seen as responsible for the global economic meltdown, anecdotal evidence suggests new graduates are choosing different career paths.[55]

Deans at top business schools have acknowledged that media and public perception of the MBA degree shifted as a result of the financial crisis.[56] Articles have been written about public perceptions of the crisis, ranging from schools' acknowledgment of issues with the training students receive[54][56] to criticisms of the MBA's role in society.[57]

See also[edit]

Related graduate business degrees[edit]



Accreditation agencies[edit]


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  44. ^ "Methodology". Beyond Grey Pinstripes. Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
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  50. ^ Hemel, Daniel J (12 April 2004). "HBS Blocks Media Access to Students". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 29 January 2008. 
  51. ^ The Official MBA Guide uses this approach, allowing researchers to rank a large population of MBA programs based on a range of criteria and combinations.
  52. ^ Milton, Ursula (29 January 2007). "How to read the rankings: How the raw data are processed". The Financial Times. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
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External links[edit]