What is an MBA degree? What Does MBA Stand For?

student working on a mba degree

Students wanting to take their careers to the next level might consider pursuing a master’s in business administration, also known as an MBA. So what is an MBA? An MBA is a graduate degree that gives a broad overview of several interrelated areas, ranging from marketing and management to finance and economics. Students not only gain technical expertise in areas such as accounting and technology, but they also learn soft skills, including communication, teamwork, and adaptability. MBAs provide students with a general business background, as well as opportunities to specialize in areas of particular interest.

According to Ramon Corona, professor of marketing and management at National University (NU), a master’s in business administration (MBA) provides a solid foundation in business fundamentals but also gives students opportunities to develop the more intangible qualities necessary to be a successful business leader or entrepreneur. “An MBA is like a package of different elements that are necessary to start your own business or to run an existing business,” he says. “We want to teach our students the skills they need to work effectively across the organization.

How Long Does it Take to Get an MBA?

The answer to this question can be impacted by several factors, like whether you are pursuing your degree on a full-time or part-time basis; the core requirements for your program and, where applicable, your specialization; any elective courses you’re taking; and whether you take time off between courses or semesters. With that potential for variability in mind, the average time to complete an MBA degree program is generally one to two years.

According to MBA.com — the official site of the GMAT exam, an important topic you can learn more about here — some accelerated programs may be possible to complete in as little as 11 months. At the other end of the spectrum, some part-time MBA programs may be closer to six years in duration.

Considering the substantial range that exists, it’s important to choose a program whose duration and required time commitment are in line with your goals and schedule. MBA programs at National University can generally be completed in one year, such as our Center for Creative Leadership MBA, which consists of one to two courses per month for 12 months — for example, Introduction to Leadership (LMBA 601) and Data-Informed Decision Making (LMBA 602) during Month 2 of the program.

Whether your objective is to complete your coursework and earn your degree at an aggressive pace, or you need to find a flexible online MBA program that won’t clash with your busy work schedule, there are options suited to every student. To learn more about the available options, scroll down to the section on different types of MBA programs. Otherwise, continue reading to learn about the seven MBA specializations that are offered at National University.

two people talking about mba program specializations

MBA Program Specializations

What can you do with an MBA, and what are some career options for MBA graduates? There are numerous fields and career paths to consider exploring. Specializing within a field enhances your earning potential by helping you train, prepare, and qualify for more complex and demanding roles. Students enrolled in National University’s MBA program have the option to choose from seven unique specializations, which we’ll discuss in more detail below, including:

  1. Bank Management
  2. Financial Management
  3. Human Resource (HR) Management
  4. International Business
  5. Marketing
  6. Organizational Leadership
  7. Supply Chain Management

Read on to learn whether one of these specializations could be a good fit with your interests, skills, and professional goals.

Specialization in Bank Management

The Specialization in Bank Management provides students with conceptual and theoretical insights into the state of the global banking industry. Students in this specialization area will focus on topics like real estate, international bank operations, and credit management, in addition to the management of banks and financial institutions.

Specialization in Financial Management

The Financial Management Specialization covers coursework such as growth and diversification policies, evaluation and management of securities portfolios, investment banking and merger strategies, and related topics. This specialization is suitable for students with an interest in financial management and consulting careers.

Specialization in Human Resource (HR) Management

Do you think of yourself as a “people person” who thrives when you work with teams or individuals? Consider the Specialization in HR Management, where you’ll learn how to recruit, select, train, compensate, and evaluate employees.

Specialization in Marketing

Students in this specialization will focus on the application of effective marketing practices, learn how marketing impacts the operation of businesses, and explore how to integrate marketing into a broader business strategy.

Specialization in International Business

This specialization immerses students in the complex cultural, economic, and legal issues that impact international business deals in today’s globalized world. Students in this specialization have the opportunity to visit other countries to gain first-hand experience with the operation of financial markets abroad.

Specialization in Organizational Leadership

The Specialization in Organizational Leadership is designed to provide students with deeper insights into the processes that create leadership opportunities — and how those opportunities can be leveraged to help bring out the best from your team, completing projects on time and within budget.

Specialization in Supply Chain Management

The Specialization in Supply Chain Management covers a variety of topics, from inventory to transportation networks. Students in this specialization area learn about the operational aspects of business, providing deeper practical insight into how to handle distribution-related and operational challenges.

student working on a mba degree

Benefits of Earning an MBA

An undergraduate degree in business administration, such as a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), is a useful asset to possess in today’s competitive workforce, particularly for individuals with an interest in pursuing careers in accounting, marketing, human resources, project management, or financial management. The Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is a graduate degree that builds and expands upon the skills and knowledge developed in an undergraduate BBA program.

Whether you’re an undergraduate considering whether the MBA is right for you, or an adult learner looking to hone the skills you’ll need for launching and running your new business, there are a variety of ways your career can benefit by earning your MBA. From building your professional network to boosting your earning potential and marketability, here are five benefits to earning your MBA degree.

Strengthening of Soft Skills

Faculty at National University continually monitor the latest employer and industry surveys to refine the MBA program to make sure they are producing graduates that have the skills that match what employers are looking for. A 2018 LinkedIn survey of 2000 business leaders, for instance, found that 57 percent of leaders value soft skills over hard skills. These include leadership, collaboration, communication, and time management.

The MBA curriculum at NU gives students opportunities to develop these skills while they are learning disciplinary content. “Students learn communication when they present a business case in class, or teamwork when they are working in groups to solve a problem,” Corona says.

The National University master’s in business administration is also focused on helping students find a practical application to the knowledge and skills they gain in the classroom. According to Corona, 90 percent of MBA instructors at National University are practicing professionals in their respective fields, which gives students a direct link to industry.

Maximize Leadership Effectiveness

Unfortunately, being skilled at a job doesn’t always equate to being skilled at leading others in the same job. Completing an MBA program can help you cultivate and strengthen your leadership and management skills. By emphasizing self-reflection, collaborative teamwork, the conditions that help foster innovation, and the significance of corporate and social responsibility — all while providing students with invaluable business experience — MBA programs can take your managerial skills to the next level, preparing you for a variety of executive roles.

Building Your Professional Network

You don’t need a degree to start or run a business — but academic credentials aren’t the only benefits of enrolling in an MBA program. You’ll also forge invaluable connections with other students, professors, and professionals, creating a larger and more productive network of connections and resources that will help you advance your career by exposing you to more opportunities.

Enhanced Marketability

A master’s degree like an MBA helps distinguish you from other job candidates in an increasingly crowded and competitive field of employees — particularly when it’s paired with additional credentials or qualifications, such as a Certificate in Agile Project Management, Graduate Certificate in Banking, or Certificate in Nonprofit Management.

Increased Earning Potential

The data is clear: an MBA, like other types of master’s degrees, has the potential to dramatically increase your earning potential. According to expert sources, during the period from 2009 to 2018, researchers “found that MBA graduates increased their salaries by an average of $36,742, from $79,505 before seeking their degree to $116,248 after earning their degree.”

More broadly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employees and workers with master’s degrees earned a median weekly pay of approximately $1,570 in 2021, compared to about $1,330 for employees and workers with bachelor’s degrees. If you’ve been wondering whether an MBA is worthwhile, take the potential for increased earnings into consideration.

What Types of MBA Programs Are Available?

Students have a range of options when comparing and applying to accredited MBA programs. For example, many of the universities and colleges that offer MBA programs — including National University — provide students with the option to enroll in an online or on-campus program, offering flexibility to busy professionals and adult learners.

In addition to online and in-person options, which are discussed in more detail below, National University also offers a unique Creative Leadership MBA program with options to attend classes online or on-campus. Read on to learn details about each of these options and consider which approach might be right for you.

On Campus, In-Person MBA Program

While online courses offer flexibility and convenience, some students prefer to take a hands-on approach with in-person classes. National University’s MBA program lets you choose your preferred format, including hybrid options that blend elements of online and on-campus learning.

Like its online counterpart, the on-campus MBA at National University is designed for students who are looking to develop the leadership, management, and soft skills needed to operate and oversee a business successfully. The program incorporates coursework in marketing, global business, supply chain systems, and other topics, and is designed to help students stand out in the competitive business field and prepare effectively for its challenges.

Online MBA Program

Its convenient online format makes this program ideal for busy professionals, allowing students to easily access course materials, get support from faculty members, and engage with online student communities. Our online MBA is accredited by the IACBE and is reassessed every year to ensure that course materials are up-to-date, relevant, and focused on meeting the needs of graduates. Additionally, class sizes are restricted to ensure that students receive one-on-one feedback and engagement.

Center for Creative Leadership MBA Program

The Center for Creative Leadership MBA degree program at National University is a dynamic online curriculum designed to equip students with both the hard and soft skills to become innovative business leaders. Conveniently available on campus or online, NU’s Center for Creative Leadership MBA program blends traditional MBA coursework, such as coursework in economics, with essential leadership skills like the management of a diverse and multicultural workforce.

Curious to discover more about this yearlong program, which culminates in a capstone project on strategy? Read about the Center for Creative Leadership MBA program at NU in this press release, or learn more about program cohort options and how they can be tailored to your organization.

professor teaching an mba class

The Value of an MBA

Many students choose to pursue an MBA because they need additional skills or knowledge at their current job, they want to start their own business, or they want to pursue a management or leadership position. While some students choose to specialize in specific areas, MBAs can prepare graduates to work in a variety of industries, including healthcare, finance, government, the nonprofit sector, education, accounting, retail, and manufacturing.

NU’s MBA program currently offers seven specializations: international business, supply chain management, marketing, human resource management, managerial accounting, organizational leadership, and financial management.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) Alumni Perspectives Survey 2018, two of the most valuable aspects of an MBA are increased earnings power and preparation for leadership positions. Other benefits include preparation to work in culturally diverse organizations. Overall, most of the 11,000 MBA graduates surveyed by GMAC reported that their graduate education was a personal, professional, and financially rewarding experience.

MBAs have now become a requirement for many leadership positions in the business world. “When I was in school, having a bachelor’s degree was the ultimate goal,” Corona says. “Now having an MBA has pretty much become a requirement for many jobs at the director level.”

Preparing and Applying for An MBA Program

An undergraduate degree in business is helpful, but not mandatory, to qualify for an MBA program. On the contrary, students may enter MBA programs with academic backgrounds as diverse as engineering, the humanities, and numerous other subjects.

Each MBA program has its own unique set of requirements for applicants, such as requirements involving prerequisite coursework and the completion of a bachelor’s degree, GPA minimums, and other criteria for acceptance. For details about applying to one of our MBA programs, such as our online MBA program, explore the “Degree and Course Requirements” section on the relevant program page, or contact our friendly enrollment counselors for more information about graduate admissions at National University. You may also wish to review our graduate admissions checklist.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Ready to challenge yourself, cultivate new skills, enhance your marketability, and build rewarding professional networks? Consider pursuing your MBA through an online or on-campus program at National University. Get in touch with our admissions office for more details about our MBA and CCL MBA, or start your online application today.

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