Is an MBA Right for Someone Without a Business Degree?

Contrary to what may be popular belief, you don’t have to have an undergraduate background in business to go back to school for it. Almost all majors are considered acceptable preparation for an MBA program as it is not a degree that builds upon previous education, such as a more traditional academic degree like a Master’s of Arts or Master’s of Science. An MBA is actually considered a professional degree, meaning that it is purposed to prepare individuals for higher-level positions by focusing on the practical side of business management.


MBA programs take more of an interdisciplinary approach to education combining various types of business courses to help students develop advanced skills required in management positions. These types of degree programs are also designed more for the professional who already has a few years of work experience and wishes to obtain a business education for the purpose of career advancement. Not only do they educate students about business principles, practices, and functions, but help them develop a myriad of skills relevant but not limited to the corporate world. Additionally, business is an interdisciplinary field, meaning that its practices are applied in practically just about every industry. Therefore, MBA programs provide students with an educational toolset that is highly applicable in just about any and every career path they may consider.

The Development of Skills

While students in MBA programs receive foundational business education, much of the coursework focuses on the development of essential skills and abilities. Why is this? Because when communication, leadership, and organizational abilities are combined with that critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, the result is a qualified professional who is ready to take on the responsibilities of almost any position. Even though the head knowledge gained in an academic degree program is important, when it comes to navigating through the world of business, it’s how you apply that knowledge that counts. Perhaps this is one reason why MBA programs are open to individuals of all educational backgrounds and not exclusive to business majors.

Multiple Paths to an MBA

When it comes to applying for an MBA program, there is no single path that determines acceptance and each school is different as to what is considered appropriate academic preparation. Minimum qualifications for students applying to MBA programs vary according to school, although you can pretty much count on the fact that a bachelor’s degree is always a requirement for acceptance. Business schools take many things into consideration when it comes to who qualifies for enrollment into their MBA programs. While an applicant doesn’t necessarily have to have a business degree, some schools do have preferences concerning one’s undergraduate major and will consider aspects such as difficulty of major, skills obtained in major courses, and levels of academic achievement.

There are schools that favor applicants who majored in a technical field like science or engineering, while others may prefer a student with more of a liberal arts major, such as English, philosophy, or foreign language. Still others may look for applicants who had a career-oriented major like consumer merchandising, journalism, or advertising. And while we’re speaking of careers, many programs prefer applicants who have already begun theirs and have a certain amount of professional work experience under their belt. Still, given the versatility of an MBA program, it may not matter at all what your major was in college as long as you received a broad, well-rounded education in which you developed quantitative and analytical skills. Many courses that most students are required to take in undergrad aid in the development of these skills which MBA curriculum will further develop. Additionally, some schools may not consider one’s previous education so much as their GMAT score. Otherwise known as the Graduate Management Admissions Test, this standardized examination is used to measure aptitude and predict one’s potential for success in a management education program.

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Catching Up to Business Majors

While all educational backgrounds are appreciated, those with an undergraduate degree in a business-related field do have an advantage when it comes to credits. This is because they are more likely to have already completed the necessary course prerequisites and therefore are less likely to have to take additional classes before they can begin an MBA program. As curriculum involves graduate-level business courses, it is not uncommon for MBA programs to require non-business majors to take undergraduate courses in subjects like mathematics, statistics, economics, finance, accounting, marketing, and management. Prerequisite requirements ensure that students are adequately prepared for and possess the basic business skills necessary to succeed in an MBA program.

Diversity in MBA Education

The MBA is often referred to as one of the most versatile degrees out there, not only because it can be applied to just about any field but because it is attainable for people with various backgrounds. When it comes to the MBA student population, the word typical does not exist and diversity is often a characteristic of MBAs. In fact, a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found that MBA students in the United States were the most diverse of all those in graduate programs. One of the things about MBAs that make them so diverse is that they can come from all walks of life, professional experiences, and educational backgrounds. Another thing that contributes to the diversity of this particular student population is the fact that they are actually professionals choosing to earn an MBA for many different reasons.

First, an MBA program can provide individuals with essential leadership, organizational, and management skills relevant to all professions. It can make them better managers, directors, executives, and business owners, as well as give them that extra credential needed to be promoted to these types of positions. Also, combining a specialized undergraduate education and solid work experience with that of a professional graduate degree can make you a triple threat hard to ignore and vastly improve your job opportunities. When it comes to money, sometimes the only thing standing in between someone and a higher level of pay is a graduate-level education. According to College Board’s Education Pays , professional degree holders, such as MBAs, had median annual earnings of $100,000 compared to the $67,300 earnings of those with a traditional master’s degree and $55,700 of those with a bachelor’s degree.

All things considered, no matter what your background you can put it to good use in an MBA program. The world of business is big and full of various industries, fields, products, and services, all of which need professional experts who are business-minded. The varied backgrounds of MBAs are actually extremely beneficial as each individual has something different to bring to the table regarding ideas, plans, strategies, and ventures. So depending on your career goals, an MBA might be right for you with or without an undergraduate business degree.

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