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What Do You Learn in an MBA Program?

December 1, 2021

Some of the most powerful and well-known CEOs and business leaders in the world hold an MBA — like Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg and the CEO of Walmart, Doug McMillon, just to name a few. It’s a popular stepping stone to the C-suite for jobs at large corporations and a potential advantage for many budding entrepreneurs.

What is an MBA?

A Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is a graduate business degree designed to help students master business fundamentals and managerial skills while gaining a deeper knowledge of a specific business discipline (e.g. accounting, business analytics, finance, or digital marketing). Graduates from MBA programs typically earn higher salaries than their counterparts without a graduate business degree. The average starting salary for MBA graduates in 2020 was $105,000 annually, according to the GMAC recruiter survey

Part-time vs. full-time MBA

MBA programs are generally offered in two formats: part or full time. For the most part, deciding between the two is ultimately about which will better fit your lifestyle.  

Because students aren’t able to hold a full-time job during the program, full-time MBA programs are most popular among younger students who’ve recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree. The workload of a full-time program is greater, the class schedule more demanding and the expectation that students regularly attend class and on-campus events is greater. 

Part-time programs are geared more toward students with established careers who aren’t in a position to leave the workforce for two years. A part-time program can offer the same opportunities for raises and career advancement, though the time it takes to earn your degree is typically longer.

Is an MBA right for you?

If the potential for upward mobility and increased earnings has you curious about what you stand to gain from pursuing an MBA, you probably have a lot of questions. A couple we hear most often from students who are starting their research into business school at the graduate level include:

  1. What do you learn in an MBA program?
  2. Does it matter where you get your MBA?

If you’ve been ruminating on these ideas as you consider your career path and where you’d like it to take you, here is an outline of what to expect in an MBA degree program and how to choose a worthwhile program for your goals.

MBA Student Learning Outcomes

The MBA is still the most widely recognized graduate degree for managerial positions and above. While many specialized Master’s degrees can help you with your first job or expand your knowledge of a particular field, an MBA is key for a career as a leader. In addition to mastering basic business skills and developing expertise within your concentration, MBA students learn how to manage the most valuable asset that a company has: its people, their skills and their creativity.

Interpersonal skills

To be a truly effective leader, you must have the interpersonal skills to engage and motivate employees and foster meaningful relationships within your team and your organization. 

The best leaders are able to bring out the best in their team — they engage and motivate their employees and foster meaningful relationships with peers, direct reports and other leaders. You can enhance your own interpersonal skills by working in groups — something you’ll do often throughout your MBA degree program. 

Group projects, presentations and case studies with your classmates will not only provide opportunities to work with people from a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise. They’ll also teach you how to collaborate, communicate and compromise more effectively.

Strategic thinking

As a leader, you need to be able to solve complex problems and plan for the future. Strategic thinking skills are among the most highly desired competencies for leadership positions. Why? Because employees who can think through projects and opportunities critically and logically can have a significant impact on a business’s growth and success. 

The MBA curriculum is designed to teach you how to identify and think past your own biases, seek out and analyze relevant information and plot the best course of action.

Entrepreneurial skills

Successful entrepreneurs know how to turn obstacles into opportunities. They think ahead of the curve and seek out change rather than waiting and adapting. Companies, in turn, seek employees who can employ these same tactics to develop fresh new ideas and drive innovation. 

Your MBA will help you develop a sharp business acumen and teach you how to identify gaps in the market and make sense of trends. You’ll hone these abilities through group and individual projects that encourage you to think one step ahead.

Learn to Lead Into the Future with an MBA From Shu

At SHU, recently ranked as a Best Business School in 2022, we take a unique approach to the MBA. Our MBA curriculum combines managerial skills with technical skills, so graduates not only develop a deep understanding of how various functions in a business work together, but also gain the interpersonal, critical thinking and entrepreneurial skills to effectively lead and manage people and teams.

You can learn more about how our forward-thinking curriculum and cutting-edge teaching labs will prepare you for the 21st-century career landscape in our guide to Sacred Heart’s Jack Welch College of Business and Technology.

Discover how we're changing "business as usual" at SHU.

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Download the Guide

SHU Graduate Admissions Team

About the Author

We are the graduate admissions team at Sacred Heart University. We aspire to create a welcoming and supportive environment for students looking to continue their education while empowering them in mind, body and spirit. We hope you find our resources helpful and informative as you explore and pursue a graduate degree at Sacred Heart!

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