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MBA Programs Now Offer Variety and Flexibility

Jul 1, 2008
The MBA, or Master's in Business Administration, is the most sought after degree for individuals looking for a career as a business executive. Whether you are going into banking, finance, manufacturing or the service sector, having an MBA can give you an edge as you move up the corporate ladder. A few decades ago, the traditional path to take was to get your Bachelor's degree in a particular business discipline and then go directly into an MBA program. Today, however, MBA programs are more flexible and can adapt to your work schedule and lifestyle.

Before you decide to pursue an MBA, you should understand just what it is and what you can expect to gain from it. This Master's degree program is specifically designed to give you skills beyond those you learn at the Bachelor's degree level in business management. Many people get a Bachelor's degree in a field such as finance, government or economics, and then pursue their MBA to round out their managerial skills.

Courses you will typically take in an MBA program include finance, leadership skills, organizational dynamics, marketing, sales, management, advanced economics, government and statistics. You may also choose to specialize in a particular area by choosing a "concentration" such as the healthcare or hospitality industries.

The typical MBA program takes about two years to complete, although there are now programs for non-traditional students designed to be completed more quickly. Among these are the Executive MBA programs that have become increasingly popular with successful business men and women who are returning to school for their MBA while working.

These Executive MBA programs usually feature online coursework and special seminars throughout the year that are relatively short in length but very intensive. This way, they can be worked into the schedules of busy executives. These programs also make the most of the experiences and talents of their students by using round table discussions, real world scenarios and interactive projects as parts of the curriculum.

There are some fields in which an MBA is a prerequisite for advancement to the highest levels. In particular, investment banking, management consulting and international finance corporations very much favor MBA's in the upper levels of their management teams. While it isn't necessary in other fields, it can certainly give you an edge when you are being considered for a promotion. Keep in mind that salary is also often based on both merit and education, so having an MBA can significantly affect your pay scale as you progress in your career.

Career flexibility is also something to keep in mind. If you are an engineer or scientist, you may enjoy research and development for a number of years but then find that you would like to move into management. Combining a Bachelor's degree in the sciences with an MBA can make you a rare and valued asset to businesses that are involved in research and healthcare.

A good MBA program is a unique combination of hard knowledge in areas like marketing, finance, and operations. "Soft skills" are also focused upon. It is the soft skills that make an MBA degree so valuable to many businesses. They are the skills related to how to manage people, keep values in place in the workplace, and the factors that go into making a good leader.

If you are interested in pursuing an MBA, whether directly after your Bachelor's degree or as a returning executive, talk to some executives you know about what programs they recommend. And, be sure to review the curriculum to find one that offers the content you need for your career goals to become a reality.
About the Author
Andy West is a writer for Best Careers and Best Schools.
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