What Type of Education Can You Expect From an MBA Program? | TopMBA.com

What Type of Education Can You Expect From an MBA Program?

By QS Contributor

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The core components of an MBA program, as explained by MBAPrepAdvantage's Michael Cohan.

Business school academics usually consist of an MBA core curriculum, electives, majors, experiential learning opportunities, and leadership training. The pedagogy tends to take the form of case studies and lectures.

The specific curriculums, programs and courses of the schools mentioned below serve as an indication of the different offerings and approaches available to MBA candidates. The focus is on two-year programs at US schools.

MBA Core Curriculum

The first year of your MBA program is designed to give you a strong foundation in each of the business disciplines. It will, therefore, consist of core classes in financial accounting, microeconomics, corporate finance, human resources (sometimes called organizational behavior), marketing management, operations management, statistics, and business strategy.

MBA core curriculums differ in flexibility and the number of required classes as well as in approach. HBS’s ‘Required Curriculum’, for example, covers the entire first year and is designed to give students a common foundation in business while Columbia’s ‘Core Curriculum’ is more streamlined, so students can more quickly focus on electives.

Chicago Booth has advanced alternatives that can substitute for basic courses students might have already taken (such as Accounting & Financial Analysis I or II instead of Financial Accounting). Yale SOM, on the other hand, integrates cross-functional perspectives such as competitor, customer, investor, sourcing funds, which touch upon multiple business disciplines.

MBA Electives & Majors

MBA elective coursework allows you to acquire specific competencies and knowledge for your future career. Some MBA programs  offer majors (sometimes called specializations or areas of emphasis). These majors delve down deeper into one of the functional areas you learned in the core courses, like strategic management, statistics, operations, marketing, human resources, finance, economics, and accounting.

Certain majors will encompass multiple disciplines like entrepreneurship, marketing and operations management, while others will be industry-focused like Wharton’s Health Care Management major. If a business school has an industry-focused major this often indicates that a specific specialization is a strength, something to consider when selecting MBA schools.

Haas’ Energy and Clean Technology area of emphasis is an example. This specialization not only includes tailored coursework, but also career recruiting, related research centers and a speaker series focused on this subject matter.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning opportunities are those where you learn by doing. These MBA courses or programs involve company participation, immersion in another country, starting up a company in a lab, and serving on a board of a non-profit, among other things.

UCLA Anderson’s Field Study Program has been around since 1967 and requires students in groups of four to six to work on a half-year strategic consulting assignment with a partner company. This could involve a new market entry or product launch or an analysis of potential acquisitions.

The Chazen Institute of International Business at Columbia Business School organizes Global Immersion Programs and International Study Tours. Global Immersion Program classes bridge academic and experiential learning by combining classwork and team projects.

These engagements are done in collaboration with business executives and government officials from the region. Global Immersion Program classes have been conducted in Argentina, India, North Africa, Turkey, Chile, Brazil, and Cuba.

International Study Tours last approximately a week and a half and includes visits to businesses, government entities, non-profit organizations, factories, and cultural landmarks to expose students to a new global region while giving them the opportunity to build relationships which could result in potential internships or jobs.

Kellogg’s Sustainability Lab focuses on the environment and combines group consulting engagements for external organizations and companies with classroom lectures. Similar to industry-focused majors, a school’s experiential learning courses indicates diverse pedagogy and specific specializations, so should factor in your school-selection process.

Leadership Training

Finally, MBA programs often involve integrated leadership training that includes coursework, executive mentorship, online and peer assessments, and regular coaching support. Your leadership competencies will improve in the areas of teamwork, influence, interpersonal communication, presentation, managing and conflict, for example.

Schools often have fellows programs in which students can focus even more on enhancing their leadership. These fellows then guide first-year students in the required leadership training. Stanford GSB’s Arbuckle Leadership Fellows Program selects high-potential MBA students to facilitate, mentor coach first year students in Leadership Labs and the GSB Executive Challenge.

By Michael Cohan

Founder of MBAPrepAdvantage, Michael Cohan has been an MBA admissions consultant for 10 years. Besides writing as a guest blogger on QS TopMBA.com, Michael Cohan has been referenced as an expert on MBA admissions in many leading and domestic publications, including The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Financial Times and Crain’s New York Business. His analysis is also frequently featured in online media, such as MBAPodcaster. Michael earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Communications from Northwestern University and his Master of Business Administration degree from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.


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