Do I Need an Undergraduate Business Degree to Get My MBA?

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Friday, November 3, 2017
By Hannah DeBevoise
Image via iStock
The MBA degree can benefit all professionals, regardless of the discipline of your educational background.

So, do you need an undergraduate business degree in order to pursue your MBA? The short answer is no. In general, schools do not require a specific undergraduate major in order to apply for a Master of Business Administration. An MBA can further your career goals, whether your undergraduate degree is in music, medicine, engineering, or liberal arts.

In fact, having an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than business can often be seen as favorable to admissions officers—and later on to employers. Having a variety of students with skills in areas outside of business adds a diversity of viewpoints to business school classrooms. An MBA is a professional degree that can boost your leadership and management skills, no matter what your educational background is.

Still, even knowing an undergraduate business degree is not a requirement for an MBA, students interested in obtaining a graduate business degree might have concerns about whether they will have the necessary preparation and ability to succeed in the program.

Will I Be the Only Non-Business Major in the Program?

No. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council’s (GMAC®) 2017 Prospective Students Survey Report, only 47 percent of MBA applicants studied business prior to obtaining a master’s degree. The other 53 percent of candidates studied everything from engineering and science to humanities and law.

All prospective MBA or graduate business students are entering the program with the desire to learn and cultivate new business, leadership, and management capabilities. No matter the undergraduate or previous master’s degree a candidate holds, they are bringing a skill set that is beneficial to business practice. For example, a liberal arts graduate can offer a different perspective to problem-solving that a finance student might not have thought of.

What Do I Need to Succeed in the Program?

Though all institutions have their own unique steps and requirements for admission, and depending on a student’s previous area of study, common MBA prerequisites for admissions are a respectable GPA, a well-written essay or personal statement, a professional resume with valid work experience, references, and scores from standardized admissions tests like the GMAT® (Graduate Management Admission Test) or the GRE® (Graduate Record Examination).

Undergrads who do not have a strong analytical or math background often worry that they will be unable to succeed in a business master’s or MBA program. Frequently, though, universities offer pre-MBA prep courses to help students with limited experience in finance or accounting gain the basics they need to thrive throughout their MBA journey. Further, spending some time researching GMAT and GRE preparation tools can not only prepare you to ace the standardized tests but can also be a great refresher course on foundational math that might be used during the program.

Another concern for applicants might be their lack of professional experience. Many MBA programs prefer that their incoming students have two or more years of adequate work experience. However, to give consideration to students applying for an MBA directly out of undergraduate study, some universities accept internships or co-ops as satisfactory work experience.

Having a conversation with an admissions officer will help you solidify the background experience and materials you already have that will assist in your success as well as in making decisions about necessary preparations. An advisor will be able to evaluate your current skill set and compare it with what they look for in applicants. A candid discussion can be the starting point to ensuring you are confident in your application, regardless of your educational background.

Will an MBA Benefit Me If I Don't Have a Business Background?

An MBA absolutely can be a benefit to anyone, whatever discipline they originally studied. The ecosystem of business is full of industries and fields that are not limited to the traditional “business” ideology. From medical to music, plenty of companies are in need of leaders with the business expertise that can be gained from an MBA.

The MBA provides individuals with essential tools that make them better managers, business owners, directors, and executives. The crucial leadership, organizational, and management skills taught in the MBA program are relevant to all professions, regardless of industry.

Individuals who complete graduate management education, such as an MBA, often find that their advanced degree gives them the credentials they need to be promoted or gain an increase in salary. A recent survey reveals that nine out of 10 alumni of graduate management programs say their education increased their earning power. Five years after graduation, the majority of alumni were senior level or higher in their organization.

Should I Apply?

Yes! If you are committed to working hard, there are a myriad of advantages to pursuing your MBA, whether you have an undergraduate degree in business, medicine, law, or the liberal arts. If you are organized and ready to make the preparations you need to succeed in the admissions process and beyond, you can begin to pursue an MBA and start your path to a degree that will be both personally and professionally rewarding.

Hannah DeBevoise
Social Media Manager, AACSB International
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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