If you are serious about your career in business management or finance, it's likely that you will eventually want to get an MBA. Short of the actual management of a successful company, an MBA is the best opportunity to demonstrate excellence in effective business management for those professionals with specialist, management, or executive aspirations.

A good MBA program will teach the student how to effectively manage businesses of all kinds. Management is a skill, but it is also a science. MBA programs around the country seek to quantify the traits and tendencies of effective leaders, and arm a new generation of entrepreneurs and executives with that information.

MBAs are the most popular kind of business administration degrees, but they aren't the only ones. Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programs provide varying levels of general business administration instruction, and confer attractive credentials for many positions in the private sector.

MBA Career Opportunities:

Over 100,000 people graduate from US MBA programs every year. 5,200 of those graduates were surveyed in a 2009's "Global Management Education Graduate Survey" (GMEGS), the 10th survey in 10 years by the  Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is the issuer of the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) a widely-used standardized test on which many MBA programs require satisfactory scores.

2009's survey returned some interesting results:

"Despite poor economic conditions, a greater percentage of job seekers from the graduating class of 2009 had received an offer of employment at the time of the survey compared with participants during past downturns, such as that of 2002 to 2004."

In the midst of the so-called "Great Recession," the worst recession in decades, MBA graduates reported better job opportunities than those who had graduated during much less severe economic downturns. On the contrary, another Graduate Management Admission Council survey of over 7,500 recent graduates reported that 84% of the MBA class of 2009 had received professional job offers by graduation. Even the 14% of alumni that were not yet working valued their MBA degrees highly – 76% believed that their education had effectively prepared them for professional careers.

It isn't just the MBA who value the education: 77% of employers surveyed by the GMAC reported that they were very or extremely satisfied with their MBA employees. Of the remaining 23%, 21% reported that they were somewhat satisfied, while only 2% reported that they were somewhat dissatisfied. Less than 1% reported being very dissatisfied with their MBA employees.

MBA Earnings:

According to GMAC, the average starting salary of MBAs from the class of 2009 was $70,938. 66% of 2009 MBA graduates reported that their starting salaries met or exceeded their own expectations. Of that 66%, those who said their salary exceeded expectations made a median of $97,000. Those who said their salary met expectation made a median of $83,934. Among the remaining third who did not feel that their salary lived up to expectations, median earnings were still $55,000.

Earnings for recent MBA graduates vary by industry. According to a 2006 GMAC report, MBAs made a total compensation (base salary + benefits) of:

  • $111,477 in healthcare management
  • $103,122 in finance
  • $101,736 in consulting services
  • $100,263 in energy/utilities management
  • $98,621 in technology
  • $98,417 in manufacturing
  • $94,558 in service and retail industries
  • $73,125 in government/nonprofit
Earnings for first-year MBA graduates ranged from $73,125 to $111,477, according to a 2006 survey.Source: Graduate Management Admissions Council

Those figures do NOT include benefits, which are often measured in tens of thousands of dollars for successful management professionals (54% of employers said they would give performance-based bonuses, 40% said they would give end-of-year bonuses).

Finding the right MBA Program:

MBA candidates have a huge selection of programs to choose from, both online and at local colleges and universities. While different schools may categorize their MBAs in different ways, we've simplified it for you:

  • MBA in general business administration – these programs, called simply "Master of Business Administration," are generalized programs with a broad range of practical applications.
  • MBA in a specific industry – programs like MBA: Healthcare Administration or MBA: Hospitality Management teach students the specific elements of effective management in a particular industry. For more information on industry-specific MBAs , including detailed Bureau of Labor Statistics earnings and job growth data, see:
    • Hospitality Management
    • Healthcare Management
    • Education Management
    • Real Estate and Property Management
    • Insurance and Risk Management
    • Sports and Entertainment Management
    • Nonprofit Management
    • Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship
  • MBA in a specialized management field – programs like MBA: Marketing or MBA: Logistics Management prepares students for careers as specialists and managers in specific business positions universal to all industries. From hospitals to restaurants, all businesses have marketing managers and logistics managers, so these graduates have specific opportunities in a broad range of industries. For more information on these specialized MBA areas, see
    • Finance
    • Communications and Public Relations
    • Marketing and Advertising
    • Human Resources
    • Business Information Systems
    • Operations and Logistical Management
    • Organizational Management
  • Other specialized programs, like e-commerce or international businessMBAs, teach important dynamics of specific online and international business models.

  • Dual MBAs – programs that confer both an MBA and another postgraduate degree on the graduate. For example, a RN (Registered Nurse) interested in advanced supervisorial positions or establishing a private practice may pursue a dual MBA/MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) degree.
  • Executive MBAs – specially tailored for working high-level managers and business executives who need flexible requirements

MBAs generally take 2 years of full-time study to complete, though some accelerated programs can be completed in a year.

Because of the wide range of colleges and universities offering MBA programs online, it is possible to earn a dual MBA in many fields (joint MBA/JDMBA/MA, and MBA/MS programs are among the most common). Dual degree programs like these usually provide excellent value, and are generally completed more quickly and at lower cost than two separate graduate degree programs.

MBA Programs Online:

There is a large and quickly growing number of accredited MBA programs offered in the online format. These programs generally have the benefit of being flexible in a way that was once reserved for executive MBAs, making them an attractive option for working professionals seeking to earn advanced credential while working full-time.

According to the 2009 "Global Management Education Graduate Survey" (GMEGS), a stunning 96% of graduates of "other" MBA programs (online, distance, flexible) reported that the value of their MBA program had been "good," "excellent" or "outstanding." 92% said that they would probably or definitely recommend their alternative MBA program to others.

MBA graduates are generally very satisfied with online MBA programs, according to GMAC.Source: Graduate Management Admissions Council

The satisfaction rates for those who had earned online MBA degree were generally HIGHER than all other kinds of MBAs, an indication of the growing effectiveness of online MBA programs in job placement and skills taught.

As with any serious educational decision, do your research when picking an online MBA degree program. Make sure that the school is accredited, and ask your admissions counselor for information on job placement rates and internship placement (earnings for MBAs that complete internships are significantly higher than those that do not).

MBA Educational Benefits:

As the data demonstrates, earning an MBA, online or otherwise, is an excellent way to maximize earnings potential and ensure prime job opportunities.

For many upper-level management positions and careers in finance, an MBA is required for consideration.

MBA programs prepare the graduate for dynamic management careers by teaching a core of business principles, ethics, and leadership skills.

According to GMAC's survey of employers who hire MBA graduates:

"When employers hired MBA graduates, they primarily sought good oral and written communication skills (89%), a proven ability to perform (73%), strategic skills (69%), and sound core business knowledge (67%). Initiative (82%), professionalism (81%), and integrity (81%) were among the most demanded intangible traits and abilities sought in MBA candidates."

However strong your business management abilities already are, earning an MBA is probably a good investment in your career.

Other Business Administration Degrees

MBAs are the most popular business administration degrees, but candidates with an an associate's may consider Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degrees, and candidates with master's degrees may consider Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degrees. These programs generally have similar curriculum focuses as MBAs. BBAs tend to be generalized programs, while DBAs are often even more focused and specialized than MBAs.