News & Events

What Do You Learn in an MBA? Answering Your FAQs

Oct 7, 2019
Get answers about what MBA stands for, what an MBA teaches you, and other commonly asked questions about the MBA curriculum

By Jong Eun Jung

An MBA program provides value to students in many ways, from career coaching to alumni networking to increasing potential earnings. One of the primary benefits of an MBA program is the curriculum and the foundation of business knowledge it provides. “An MBA is a really transferable degree, and there are a lot of items within the curriculum that you can use in different career paths,” explained Bailey McChesney, Director, MBA Recruiting and Admissions.

Nancy Lea Hyer, Vanderbilt Associate Dean of Curriculum and Learning

Nancy Lea Hyer

“Our MBA curriculum equips students to lead confidently. They become well-versed in business fundamentals and acquire deeper knowledge in a business discipline of their choosing,” added Nancy Lea Hyer, Associate Dean of Curriculum and Learning. “The modular curriculum with its seven-week format also provides students the flexibility to explore a wide range of business topics which contributes to their breadth of knowledge. Finally, the team-based component of many courses strengthens students’ abilities to work well with others, an essential skill in today’s increasingly collaborative workplace.”

Below, we cover the meaning of the MBA abbreviation, explore what you learn in an MBA, and more.

What does MBA stand for

MBA stands for “Master of Business Administration.” According to FindMBA, the MBA is currently the most popular professional degree program globally. This degree helps students develop a toolbox of quantitative and soft skills in business and management, which they can use to advance in their career. If you enroll in an MBA program, you’ll learn to speak the language of business, lead a team, and create and evaluate company strategies.

What does a typical schedule look like

Usually, the first year of the two-year MBA consists of core courses, which teach students the basics of general management. These classes give you a solid foundation that you can use to build a specialized skillset. Later on, you take classes — usually electives — that dive deeper into a field or industry.

Bailey McChesney Vanderbilt Director, MBA Recruiting and Admissions

Bailey McChesney

When you begin taking electives and how many you can take varies from school to school. At Vanderbilt Business School, MBA students take one elective during their second mod, and the number of electives increases from there. This gives students the chance to take more electives early on so they can explore potential concentrations and other subjects outside it.

“You don’t have to take courses just within your concentration. You can take some outside of your area of focus to help you get a more general idea about the workplace and your department — things that you think would add value in your career or in the short term,” McChesney said.

What kind of courses are available

The core curriculum consists of courses in accounting, economics, finance, human and organizational performance, marketing, operations, and strategy. Outside the core, students can take more electives to dive deep into these areas, or pursue more specialized classes such as negotiation and data analytics.

The balance of core classes vs. electives — and the level of customization available to students — also varies by b-school. At Vanderbilt Business, the curriculum is flexible and personalized for each student. For example, if your concentration is healthcare but you’re also interested in human and organizational performance (HOP), you can take HOP classes in addition to your healthcare classes.

“At Vanderbilt, you can study two completely different areas. It doesn’t necessarily have to be strategy and operations, which go together a lot. It can be two completely different things. You can customize,” McChesney said.

Outside a student’s concentration or specialization, there are also plenty of opportunities to engage in learning experiences across a variety of disciplines. At Vanderbilt Business School, these experiences include international trips, career treks, club activities, and even the chance to interact with physicians at Vanderbilt Medical Center through Healthcare Immersion.

What does you Learn in an MBA

The MBA curriculum will teach you basic business and management skills that will be useful whatever industry or field you choose to enter. For example, operation courses that are part of the core curriculum are valuable since you will see an operational procedure and structure in most jobs. You’ll also learn soft skills for the workplace such as leading teams and coaching reports.

In particular, the MBA curriculum includes numerous quantitative classes that are vital to any career. For instance, if you take a finance course, you’ll be able to use the information you learn when you’re managing a budget, even if you don’t get a job in investment banking or corporate finance. “I would say that all the quantitative core courses are probably some of the most valuable things candidates would learn because of the transferable nature of those,” McChesney said.

Other Stories

Thinking about an MBA?