What is an MBA?

An MBA, known as the Master of Business Administration is a postgraduate degree tailored to professionals with work experience, willing to upskill or update their knowledge of key business practices.

Motivations for taking on the MBA vary and aside from answering what is an MBA degree, we will also deconstruct different types of MBA programs available and typical content you could expect from an MBA degree. The successful completion of an MBA degree can lead to improved job prospects, higher salary and expanded business network.

To begin with, it’s important to place the MBA degree in the right spot of the higher education spectrum. Although an MBA is a Master’s degree at the outset, it’s not a natural next step after Bachelor. Majority of good business schools require at least two years of work experience before applying. This makes the MBA title slightly different to a typical master’s degree. You’ll also see typical modes of delivery and the content is tailored towards participants with existing work experience. Through a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical application, MBA programs aim to transform working professionals into business leaders who can navigate complex business environments with confidence. Students often engage in case studies, group projects, and real-world simulations to gain insights into real-world business challenges. Having pre-existing understanding of business practices is therefore important and MBA is good for taking them to the next level. In their 2019 MBA Applicant Survey, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) surveyed a sample of just over 900 MBA applicants. Majority of the sample pointed out to career-related factors such as career change, networking, salary increase or promotion. Applicants put priority on upskilling which crystalizes the idea that MBA is a specialized degree focused on experienced applicants.

The Factors with most influence in decision to apply for MBA studies e.g. Promotion and Salary increase.

When tackling the question of “What is an MBA?” it is also important to recognize that an MBA is an opportunity for networking and building relationships with professionals from diverse backgrounds, fostering a rich environment for collaboration and learning. Many MBAs offer the space to complete additional projects, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field and explore various career paths. Overall, an MBA serves as a gateway to career advancement, enabling individuals to pursue leadership roles in various industries or even embark on entrepreneurial ventures. It equips graduates with the skills, knowledge, and networks necessary to thrive in today’s dynamic and competitive business landscape.

What is an MBA and the different names it comes under?

The market for MBA programs grew exponentially over the last few years offering variety of set-ups and options to target different markets. Answering the question “What is an MBA?” is relatively easy and the definition does not change so much depending on the different modes of delivery, however, to give a full picture, we’ll briefly cover a few types of MBA modes of delivery.

 Target groupMode of deliveryDurationMain factor driving the applicants
Full-time MBAApplicants who can take a career break for full-time studyIn-person12-18 monthsCareer change, networking, salary increase
Part-time MBAApplicants willing to complete studies beside their full-time jobIn-person with some online elements, possibly including weekends18-48 months (depending on the programme)Upskilling, salary increase, networking, promotion
Online MBAApplicants willing to complete studies beside their full-time job very likely to be located certain distance from the schoolRemote studies with “study blocks” conducted in person at specific times of the year18-48 months (depending on the programme)Professional credentials, career change, making positive impact, salary increase
EMBA (Executive MBA)Applicants with more extensive work experience who can be on a career-break or study part-timeIn-person with blended learning, possibly including weekends12-24 monthsPromotion, salary increase, upskilling, networking, making positive impact

In the table above, we have collated some information about typical modes of study on MBA programs. Depending on geographical location, business schools typically differ in their approaches when it comes to the ratios of in-person to online studies which are increasingly popular. Another flexible metric is the duration which is often quoted by schools as an estimate, in reality, depending on thesis progress it may vary a little. Our table presents factors likely to motivate applicants to select particular programme, however, these again may differ and the motivations are quite an individual factor when it comes to the programme selection.

What is an MBA full-time programme?

A full-time MBA (Master of Business Administration) program is an intensive graduate-level education designed for individuals seeking to enhance their business knowledge and leadership skills. Typically, 12-18 months, though duration may vary, these programs require students to commit to their studies on a full-time basis, engaging in coursework, extracurricular activities, and professional development opportunities.

Full-time MBA degrees cover a broad spectrum of business disciplines such as finance, marketing, operations management, strategy, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Through a combination of lectures, case studies, group projects, and experiential learning, students gain a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of modern business environments. One of the hallmarks of full-time MBA programs is the opportunity for students to apply their learning in practical settings through internships, consulting projects, and other hands-on experiences. These opportunities not only deepen students’ understanding of business concepts but also provide valuable networking connections and real-world problem-solving skills.

Upon completion of a full-time MBA program, graduates are well-equipped to pursue diverse career paths in various industries and functional areas within business. The program’s rigorous curriculum, combined with experiential learning opportunities, prepares students to tackle complex challenges and lead organizations toward success in today’s dynamic global marketplace.

What is an MBA part-time programme?

A part-time MBA (Master of Business Administration) program is designed to accommodate working professionals who wish to pursue further education while continuing their careers. Unlike full-time MBA programs, which typically require students to dedicate themselves to studies on a full-time basis, part-time MBA programs offer a more flexible schedule that allows students to balance their academic pursuits with work and personal responsibilities.

Part-time MBA programs often extend over a longer duration compared to full-time programs, typically ranging from two to four years, allowing students to spread out their coursework and complete their degree at a pace that fits their lifestyle. While part-time MBA programs cover the same fundamental business concepts as their full-time counterparts, they may offer fewer elective courses and extracurricular activities due to the constraints of accommodating working professionals’ schedules. Additionally, part-time students may have fewer opportunities for internships and experiential learning compared to full-time students.

Despite these differences, part-time MBA programs still provide students with a comprehensive education in business administration, equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to advance their careers and pursue leadership roles within their organizations. The choice between part-time and full-time MBA programs ultimately depends on an individual’s professional and personal circumstances, with each offering its own unique advantages and opportunities for career growth.

What is an MBA online programme?

Online MBA programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional full-time and part-time MBA programs, catering to individuals who require the convenience of remote learning due to work, personal commitments, or geographical constraints. One of the primary advantages of online MBA programs is their flexibility. Students have the freedom to study at their own pace and schedule, allowing them to balance their coursework with professional and personal obligations. Additionally, online MBA programs often offer asynchronous learning, enabling students to access course materials and lectures at their convenience, regardless of time zone differences.

However, online MBA programs may differ from traditional full-time and part-time programs in terms of networking opportunities and hands-on experiences. While virtual networking events and online discussion forums facilitate interaction among students and faculty, the lack of face-to-face interactions may limit networking opportunities compared to on-campus programs. Similarly, online MBA programs may offer fewer opportunities for internships and experiential learning, although some programs incorporate virtual projects and simulations to provide practical experience.

In summary, online MBA programs offer flexibility and accessibility for individuals unable to commit to on-campus programs, but they may differ in terms of networking opportunities and hands-on experiences compared to traditional full-time and part-time programs. Ultimately, the choice between online, full-time, or part-time MBA programs depends on individual preferences, career goals, and lifestyle constraints.

What is an MBA for executives programme?

What is an EMBA (Executive MBA) program in comparison to a typical MBA? EMBA programs are tailored specifically for experienced professionals who seek to enhance their leadership skills and advance their careers while continuing to work. Unlike traditional full-time or part-time MBA programs, EMBA programs are designed to accommodate the busy schedules of mid to senior-level executives, often offering weekend classes or intensive modules that allow students to complete their studies without interrupting their professional commitments.

One of the key differences between EMBA programs and other MBA formats is the emphasis on practical application and real-world experience. EMBA students typically bring significant industry experience to the program, and the curriculum is often structured to capitalize on this expertise through case studies, group projects, and peer-to-peer learning. Additionally, EMBA programs often incorporate executive coaching and leadership development components to help students hone their management skills and strategic thinking abilities. While EMBA programs share similarities with traditional MBA programs in terms of core business curriculum, they tend to focus more on leadership and executive management topics. Unlike online MBA programs, which offer flexibility through remote learning, EMBA programs typically require in-person attendance for classroom sessions and networking events, providing executives with valuable face-to-face interaction opportunities.

In summary, Executive MBA programs cater to experienced professionals seeking to elevate their leadership capabilities while continuing to work. Their emphasis on practical application, leadership development, and in-person networking distinguishes EMBA programs from traditional full-time and part-time MBA programs, as well as online MBA offerings.

What is an MBA? Content of a typical MBA degree program

In the dynamic landscape of business education, MBA programs serve as platforms for nurturing future business leaders and entrepreneurs. These programs encompass a diverse array of modules designed to equip students with a comprehensive understanding of various facets of business management and leadership. From digital marketing to managerial accounting, each module plays a crucial role in shaping the skillset and mindset of MBA graduates. Different schools offer different combinations of these, some also offer them as elective modules or label them differently. Nonetheless, you can look into some of the modules that determine what is an MBA at a specific institution.

Digital Marketing

In the era of digitalization, understanding the basics of digital marketing is imperative for aspiring business professionals. Modules on digital marketing cover topics such as search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, content marketing, and data analytics. Students learn to leverage digital platforms effectively to enhance brand visibility, engage with target audiences, and drive business growth. Case studies and hands-on projects enable students to apply theoretical concepts to real-world marketing scenarios, fostering critical thinking and innovation in marketing strategies.

Business Ethics

Ethical considerations are integral to responsible decision-making and sustainable business practices. Business ethics modules delve into ethical frameworks, corporate social responsibility (CSR), stakeholder management, and ethical dilemmas faced by businesses. Through interactive discussions and ethical case analyses, students develop a deep appreciation for ethical principles and learn to navigate complex ethical challenges in diverse organizational contexts.

Business Strategy

Business strategy modules provide students with a strategic toolkit to formulate and execute business plans effectively. Topics may include industry analysis, competitive positioning, strategic alliances, and innovation strategies. By studying successful and failed business strategies across industries, students gain insights into strategic decision-making processes and learn to develop coherent strategies aligned with organizational objectives.

Corporate Finance

Finance modules are quite standard at MBA level, however, what is an MBA is not a finance-specific qualification. Understanding financial principles is fundamental for effective managerial decision-making and value creation. Corporate finance modules cover topics such as financial statement analysis, capital budgeting, risk management, and valuation techniques. Through financial modeling exercises and case studies, students learn to evaluate investment opportunities, optimize capital structure, and assess financial performance to maximize shareholder value.

Cultural Psychology

In an increasingly globalized business environment, cultural competence is essential for effective leadership and collaboration. Cultural psychology modules explore the impact of culture on individual behavior, communication styles, and organizational dynamics. By examining cultural dimensions and intercultural communication strategies, students develop cross-cultural awareness and learn to navigate cultural differences sensitively in multicultural workplaces.

Leadership Foundation

Effective leadership is essential for driving organizational success and inspiring teams to achieve their full potential. Leadership foundation modules explore leadership theories, styles, and practices, emphasizing self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills. Through experiential learning activities and leadership assessments, students enhance their leadership capabilities and cultivate a personal leadership philosophy grounded in ethical principles and inclusive leadership practices.

Managerial Accounting

Managerial accounting modules equip students with the tools and techniques to interpret financial information and support managerial decision-making. Topics may include cost behavior analysis, budgeting, variance analysis, and performance measurement. By mastering managerial accounting concepts, students learn to assess business performance, allocate resources efficiently, and make informed decisions to enhance organizational profitability and sustainability.

Operations Management

Operations management modules focus on optimizing business processes to achieve operational excellence and deliver value to customers. Topics may include supply chain management, quality management, process improvement methodologies, and lean manufacturing principles. By analyzing case studies and conducting process simulations, students learn to identify bottlenecks, streamline operations, and implement continuous improvement initiatives to enhance productivity and customer satisfaction.

Organizational Management

Organizational management modules explore the principles of organizational behavior, structure, and change management. Students examine topics such as motivation, leadership, teamwork, organizational culture, and strategic human resource management. By understanding the dynamics of organizational dynamics and leadership strategies, students learn to foster a positive work environment, cultivate high-performing teams, and lead organizational change initiatives effectively.

In conclusion, what is an MBA program will also be determined by a diverse range of modules designed to provide students with a holistic understanding of business management and leadership. From digital marketing and business ethics to corporate finance and organizational management, each module plays a pivotal role in shaping the skillset and mindset of future business leaders. By engaging with theoretical concepts, practical applications, and real-world case studies, students develop the knowledge, skills, and perspectives necessary to navigate complex business challenges and drive organizational success in an ever-evolving global marketplace. Globally set accreditation rules mean some elements such as financial accounting, marketing or leadership are standard across the curriculum. Specialized modules are often a domain of the schools respectively.

Munich Business School offers its MBA in General Management on full-time basis and whilst the school’s domain is innovation, the MBA in specific focuses on delivery of skillset that does not make an expert of the student but a well-grounded individual who has the confidence to take executive roles. Something that differentiates this program is the heavy emphasis on careers post-graduation. With a carefully designed programme aimed at seamless transition of students from classroom into the workplace, what is an MBA to Munich Business School is an opportunity to deliver a bespoke programme in parallel, raising the value of the MBA overall considering many years of experience and successful case studies to back up this approach.

What is an MBA? Simple answer, many options

In conclusion, the question “What is an MBA?” encompasses a multifaceted answer that extends beyond a mere definition of a postgraduate degree in business administration. An MBA serves as a transformative journey for professionals seeking to elevate their careers, enhance their leadership capabilities, and navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape. Through a combination of theoretical knowledge, practical application, and experiential learning, MBA programs equip students with a comprehensive understanding of various facets of business management and leadership.

Across different modes of delivery, whether full-time, part-time, online, or executive, MBA programs offer flexibility and accessibility to cater to diverse needs and preferences. Full-time MBA programs provide an immersive experience, allowing students to focus entirely on their studies for an intense period typically lasting one to two years. Part-time MBA programs, on the other hand, allow working professionals to pursue further education while continuing their careers, with classes typically held in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate their schedules. Online MBA programs offer the flexibility of remote learning, allowing students to study at their own pace and convenience, regardless of geographical location. Executive MBA (EMBA) programs are tailored for experienced professionals, providing weekend classes or intensive modules to accommodate their busy schedules while offering a curriculum focused on practical application and leadership development.

The content of MBA programs encompasses a wide range of modules designed to provide students with a holistic skill set and mindset necessary for success in today’s dynamic business environment. From digital marketing and corporate finance to organizational management and leadership foundation, each module plays a crucial role in shaping the capabilities and perspectives of MBA graduates. Digital marketing modules equip students with the tools and strategies to leverage digital platforms effectively, while corporate finance modules provide a deep understanding of financial principles essential for managerial decision-making. Leadership foundation modules focus on developing self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills necessary for effective leadership, while operations management modules delve into optimizing business processes to achieve operational excellence.

Furthermore, an MBA serves as more than just an academic pursuit; it cultivates an environment for networking, collaboration, and personal growth. Through interactions with peers, faculty, and industry professionals, MBA students can forge valuable relationships, broaden their professional network, and gain insights from diverse perspectives. Many MBA programs also offer opportunities for internships, consulting projects, and hands-on experiences, enabling students to apply their learning in real-world scenarios and acquire practical skills highly sought after by employers. Munich Business School exemplifies this with its cutting-edge Career Pathways program, running alongside the MBA curriculum, illustrating the varied philosophies and approaches in addressing the question, “What is an MBA?” Ultimately, the value of such MBA programs extends beyond the confines of the classroom, translating into enhanced job prospects, better preparedness for the job market and increased earning potential. Whether embarking on a full-time program for immersive learning, pursuing a part-time option to balance work and study, opting for online flexibility, or enrolling in an executive program tailored for seasoned professionals, an MBA serves as the cornerstone for individuals to flourish as leaders in today’s fiercely competitive business landscape.

Maciej Kapron
About Maciej Kapron 24 Articles
Maciej Kapron has been a Study Advisor as well as Program Manager for the MBA programs at Munich Business School since June 2023. Previously, he was also responsible for the DBA program. He holds a BA in Diplomacy with Law and an MSc in International Management from Loughborough University and completed part of his degree at Universidade Catolica Portuguesa in Lisbon. During his MSc degree, he focused on marketing, specifically within the area of brand management and services marketing however, in his thesis he evaluated entry strategies to new markets of a global automotive manufacturer.