How an MBA Curriculum Prepares Students for the Workplace

A businessperson leads a team meeting in a conference room.

Data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) tells the story: Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs bestow skills that are valuable for graduates and their employers alike.

A 2021 GMAC report shows that nearly 9 in 10 graduates believe their graduate business education increased their employability. And a 2022 GMAC survey of nearly 1,000 corporate recruiters and staffing firms around the world revealed that more than 9 in 10 respondents planned to hire new MBA graduates that year.

Among the key reasons that recruiters and staffing firms cited for seeking out MBA graduates were their strong communication skills and strategic thinking.

For bachelor’s degree holders already in the workplace, part-time and online MBA programs can simplify the process of pursuing an MBA—and gaining the workplace-ready skills that can come with it.

What Does an MBA Curriculum Look Like?

An MBA is a graduate degree that aims to build leadership skills and teach advanced business concepts. The typical MBA curriculum features courses related to the following subjects:


MBA programs generally focus on teaching students to manage employees and lead teams within an organization. Leadership-related topics in the curriculum can include:

  • Problem-solving techniques
  • Decision-making strategies
  • Leadership philosophies
  • Performance management
  • Behavioral science
  • Business communication

Finance and Accounting

Another common area of emphasis in an MBA curriculum is finance and accounting. Courses that cover this subject matter teach students about budgeting, financial decision-making, and the role of accounting in a company’s activities. Finance and accounting concepts that MBA programs generally cover include:

  • Financial reporting
  • Stock and bond valuation
  • Financial statement analysis
  • Capital costs
  • Corporate governance

Operations Management

Operations management, a key business concept, relates to converting materials and labor into products and services as efficiently as possible. MBA programs cover several operations management topics, including:

  • Establishing business forecasts
  • Operations management techniques
  • Supply chain management
  • Inventory control

Data Analysis

Through MBA programs, students often learn how data can drive business decision-making as well as how to analyze that data to find trends and predict outcomes. Data analysis topics can include:

  • Collaboration with data analytics professionals
  • Selecting data analysis tools and techniques
  • Developing forecasting models
  • Following a decision-making process

MBA Concentrations

Students often select a concentration as part of an MBA curriculum. Courses in that concentration can help them determine a specific career path and develop the specialized skills they’ll need to succeed in that field. Examples of common MBA concentrations include:

  • Marketing: provides an in-depth look at tactics to create value for customers
  • Finance: offers education in financial management and banking principles
  • International business: explores how to conduct business in international markets
  • Hospitality management: examines approaches to navigating travel and tourism trends

How Can an MBA Prepare Students for the Workplace?

The collaborative, interactive nature common in MBA programs sets them apart from bachelor’s degree business programs. Advanced business degrees emphasize a broad range of skills that are essential for working in—and leading—teams in any organization.

More than 85% of the corporate recruiters whom the GMAC surveyed for its 2022 report were either highly confident or confident that graduate degrees in business, including MBAs, would help employees succeed in their organizations. In fact, 7 out of 10 recruiters reported that their companies’ leaders typically hold graduate business degrees.

MBA Job Skills

Graduate business programs aim to prepare students to carry out responsibilities that recruiters often cite as important to their companies. Among the responsibilities that an MBA curriculum can prepare professionals to take on are:

  • Formulating business strategies: using strategic thinking to establish goals and determine the most effective ways to achieve them
  • Conducting data-driven analysis: drawing on data analysis skills to evaluate statistics to test theories and develop plans
  • Leading teams: leveraging knowledge about employee attitudes and behaviors to inform decisions and actions in leading organizations and teams
  • Collaborating across job functions: exhibiting strong teamwork skills in interacting with coworkers with diverse backgrounds, worldviews, and responsibilities
  • Leading workplace presentations: relying on solid communication skills to present business updates and plans clearly and concisely
  • Embracing new challenges: showing adaptability in navigating technological disruptions and complex business environments

MBA Careers

Armed with a variety of advanced business skills, MBA graduates can pursue many different professional roles. Some common careers for MBA graduates include:

  • Chief financial officer (CFO): manages business investments, debt and equity, and income and expenses
  • Finance director: makes high-level decisions about an organization’s financial health, guiding the work of finance and accounting personnel
  • Marketing director: leads programs that attract customers and encourage them to purchase a company’s products and services
  • Business development manager: oversees efforts to meet sales, marketing, and business development goals
  • Sales director: determines ways to improve sales processes and procedures
  • Operations director: works to control costs through efficient supply chain management
  • Hotel manager: directs employees and budgets to ensure outstanding service for facility guests
  • Human resource manager: plans and directs procedures for staff hiring and disciplinary actions

How Do You Find the Time to Finish an MBA Degree?

An MBA curriculum’s focus on preparing students for new careers and leadership roles makes it attractive to working professionals. But if you have a full-time job or other obligations, how do you find the time to finish an MBA degree?

Thanks to part-time and online options, any time can be the right time to earn an MBA—even for individuals who have responsibilities at work and home. Pursuing an online MBA may be an effective way to manage school and work.

Online MBA programs often provide students with scheduling options that are more flexible than in-person education, allowing them to finish at their own pace. Many online MBA programs, for example, allow students to complete the work more quickly than the typical two years that a full-time, in-person program requires.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) reported in 2022 that the number of online MBA programs had doubled compared with 10 years prior. The increasing number of online options has proved invaluable to students seeking this type of programming in recent years due to COVID-19 restrictions, as well as work and family commitments. AACSB noted that, in 2020–2021, enrollment in online master’s programs had increased 158% from the previous year.

Improving time management by sticking to a routine is another strategy for finding the time to finish an MBA degree. Strong organization and compartmentalizing tasks also can be beneficial in juggling school and other commitments.

Qualify for Leadership Roles With an MBA

With courses and projects designed to build leadership skills and teach advanced business concepts, an MBA curriculum can prepare students for workplace success. Students seeking the career benefits that an MBA degree can provide and the flexibility that online programming can offer should explore Washington State University’s Online Master of Business Administration program.

With a focus on global business perspectives and an online curriculum you can complete in as little as 22 months, the program can serve as a springboard to pursuing a new career or advancing in a current role. Discover how WSU’s Online MBA can help you pursue your business leadership goals.


Recommended Readings

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