MBA in General Business

MBA programs can have specific focus - such as accounting, marketing, human resources, or information technology - or they can take a more generalized approach. Whatever MBA program students choose, they will receive indepth, yet well-rounded, business instruction. Students will be taught the skills necessary to effectively analyze business trends, understand an organization's finances, and manage a team of workers.

MBAs are highly marketable degrees. Forbes Magazine recently reported that many graduates of prestigious business schools were earning six figure salaries a mere five years after graduating. Tuition can be a significant investment, but earning an MBA can be well worth it. Graduates of MBA programs frequently get promoted to management positions and enjoy generous compensation packages, bonuses and career advancement opportunities.

Who should get an MBA?
So who should earn an MBA? The merits of earning an MBA are often touted, but is an MBAfor everyone? To this question it's important to first determine if your expectations of an MBA are in line with what an MBA will likely do for you. There are three salient benefits that most good MBA programs offer. These include the following.

1. Practical leadership and management skills.
Historically, management training has focused almost exclusively on quantitative analysis (ex. finance, operations, supply chain management, etc.) However, in recent years management training has experienced a significant shift from quantitative and analytical training to include training in all aspects of organizational development--such as organizational behavior, strategy and leadership. MBAs are no longer just the number crunchers and "bean-counters" like they used to be. They're trained to tackle the myriad of challenges faced by managers in the real world.

The traditional "MBA" skills such as accounting, finance and operations have now become a more standardized aspect of any good MBA program. What sets exceptional MBA programs apart from other programs is their ability to provide top notch training in leadership and other interpersonal skills. It's difficult to teach leadership. It's something that is developed through experiential learning and real-world experiences. Developing the ability to be an effective leader doesn't occur in a traditional classroom based on the lecture method.

While quantitative and analytical skills are still important, they can be acquired through means other than an MBA. The advantage a MBA is its ability to develop leadership and interpersonal skills in a group setting through group and experiential learning.

2. A credential that sends a message.
Unlike a JD degree which is required to practice law, or an MD which is required to become a doctor, and MBA is an optional degree. No one career path absolutely requires an MBA. In fact, many business professionals, managers and entrepreneurs have become quite successful without earning an MBA. So what value is their in having an MBA? Well, another good reason to earn an MBA is that it sends a message. The message being sent will depend on the reputation of the MBA program. Many top corporations routinely seek out graduates at the nation's top MBA programs, including Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton. However, other companies avoid these schools altogether because the have a reputation for entitlement and arrogance. You need to choose an MBA program that supports your future career goals and professional aspirations.

3. Group learning and networking.
As an MBA student you'll be a member of a student team. Your other team members will come from diverse backgrounds with varying professional experiences. Many of your fellow students will have worked as senior managers, business owners and entrepreneurs. Chances are that you'll learn as much from your fellow MBA students as you will from the faculty.

You'll also establish meaningful friendships and relationships with students, faculty and alumni that will benefit you for years to come. In fact, the network you develop during your time as an MBA student could quite possibly be the most valuable thing you walk away with.

Some MBA programs are better at fostering team development and learning opportunities than others. Some MBA programs foster within their ranks a sense of obligation to help fellow alumni and students. When considering MBA programs, you'll want to find out what type of alumni network the school has. How active is the network? Does the program foster a sense of comradery among students and alumni? What support does the school provide to its alumni network? Are alumni involved with the program?

Should you specialize or go general?
In recent years there has been a proliferation of specialized MBAs. A common concern among aspiring MBAs is whether they should pursue a general or specialized MBA. The answer to this question is "it depends". There isn't a one fit solution. There are seeral factors to consider when determining which MBA program is best for you.

Background
Your background is one of the most important factors in choosing a specialized vs. general MBA program. If you have a bachelor's degree in marketing, and all your work experience is in marketing, you'll be best served by pursuing an MBA degree that focuses marketing. A general MBA is a good choice for career changers, but not so good a choice if you have a strong foundation in one of the management functions.

Career Goals
Do you envision your MBA as a means of getting a promotion, positioning you for new career opportunities, or developing new skills and knowledge? If you have a clear post-MBA career in mind, specializing is a good route. If you're simply wanting to qualify yourself for new promotion opportunities in your current career, you may consider a general MBA--depending on the industry you work in.

Curriculum
Curriculum should be a major consideration in your decision to pursue a general MBA or a specialized track of study. Most first year MBA peograms will require students to complete a general business education, taking courses in finance, marketing, operations, accounting, leadership, negotiations and strategy. Some general MBA programs allow students to select their own curriculum, focusing their studies in areas of interest or creating a quasi-specialized tract of study. Other general MBA programs have a set curriculum that students can't deviate from.

Program Duration
Full-time MBA programs typically take two-years to complete. However, some schools offer accelerated 1 year MBA programs or part-time executive MBA programs. 1 year and executive MBA programs typically offer general MBAs, with few exceptions. There just isn't enough time in these programs to allow students the opportunity to specialize. In a full-time, 2-year MBA program students will usually spend the first year completing fundamental business education courses. In the remaining 12 months, they have the opportunity to pursue a specialized track of study. In a 1 year MBA program, at most, students will have 3 months of specialized study.

Who values specialist MBA programs?
One of the most important characteristics of a specialist MBA program is that it prepares students for jobs within a specific domain. This in turn increases a student's ability to find a job relatively quickly upon graduation. To this end, many MBA programs offer specialities in areas that are in line with the demands of the local business community. For example, the Essec Business School in Cergy-pontoise Cedex, located just outside Paris (the fashion capital of the world) recently introduced an specialist MBA program in luxury brand management. Their program uniquely qualifies their students to take advantage of career opportunities in the luxury fashion industry just down the street.

Who values general MBA programs?
The General MBA provides students a with a broader understanding of business management, administration and leadership as they relate to the various functions and departments in a company. Students who complete a general MBA are well prepared for a variety of business managment and leadership roles.

During times of economic volatility, specialist MBAs tend to fair better than generalists. However, many factors, including local market and industry conditions, influence demand for specialists during both up and down economies. Competition for career positions where a general MBA is a pre-requisite is going to be high. If you're going to pursue a general MBA make sure to earn your degree from a reputable business school.

Below you'll find a list of featured business schools offering both online and campus-based specialist and general MBA degree programs.

MBA Degree Programs

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