News & Events

What’s Included in an MBA Curriculum

Aug 16, 2022
Jennifer Escalas, Associate Dean of Academic Programs, breaks down a typical MBA curriculum

By Arial Starks

Jennifer Edson Escalas

MBA Programs typically have a number of courses that make up the core curriculum. During the first couple months of a program, students will gain knowledge in areas ranging from accounting to operations, finance, and marketing. In addition to the core courses, students also usually have some sort of ethics and leadership training. Jennifer Escalas, Associate Dean of Academic Programs at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, breaks down some of those core MBA courses and explains why they are important for students’ success. 

What’s included in an MBA curriculum?

In most MBA programs, students will take courses in the early months of their first year that constitute the core curriculum, focusing on topics such as accounting, finance, marketing, economics, operations and organizational studies. Later, students will dive into those elective courses that feed their individual interests. Escalas notes that the diversity of MBA classes is representative of the wide range of job industries students will enter after graduation. 

“We are really training people with the MBA to be well-rounded business professionals,” Escalas says. “They will have their specialization, and they will probably start their careers in a specific area, but if they want to switch into a different industry, or get promoted to manage people in different areas, they have the knowledge, ability, and skillset to know what’s going on in an entire organization.”  

What will I learn from an MBA program? 

An MBA teaches students foundational business management skills that they can take with them and apply to any job industry. The core classes that most MBA programs offer, such as finance and accounting, will teach students skills  like cost analysis, financial reporting, and how to work with a budget in any field. Students will also take classes like ethics and leadership, where they will learn those soft skills that will make them more equipped to lead others in an organization, while upholding the moral and ethical values of themselves and the company.

Once students move past those core classes and begin taking electives, their learning will be more focused on industry-specific elective courses, like a marketing research class Escalas teaches at Vanderbilt Business called ‘Consumer Insights for Marketing Decision Making’. 

“In this course, I start filling their toolkits and familiarizing them with a lot of the different ways that we can figure out what consumers want and what they are doing,” Escalas shared. “The whole idea of marketing is knowing what your consumers want and giving them what they want and then you don’t have to do the hard sell.” 

Escalas teaches students how to conduct focus groups, how to create a survey, and how to make online and traditional marketing observations.

“At the end of the class, I don’t expect them to be experts in data analytics, but they will be knowledgeable and competent in all of the different marketing research techniques out there,” she adds . 

What is Vanderbilt’s MBA Curriculum like? 

At Vanderbilt Business, MBA candidates have to take a minimum of 62 credit hours over the course of 2 years to earn the degree. The curriculum is broken up into a modular system, where students take 4-5 classes during each “Mod,” which essentially equates to  half of a traditional  semester. Escalas points out at Vanderbilt Business, the MBA curriculum is specially designed so that students can complete a significant amount of their  core curriculum during Mods 1 and 2, along with a couple of electives, to provide them with the foundational tools they will need during recruiting for summer internships.

During year one, students take 11 core courses centered around management and some electives before diving into ethics and more customized electives in year 2. During their time in the program, MBAs also have the opportunity to complete up to 3 concentrations in areas such as  accounting, finance, general management, health care, human and organizational performance, marketing, operations and analytics, and strategy. 

“Our faculty develops a curriculum with insight from recruiters, students, other schools, and industry leaders, to try and put together a set of courses that will make our students attractive for the job market, and also equip them with a skill set for long-term success,” Escalas says.

To learn more about what’s included in Vanderbilt’s MBA curriculum, click here

Other Stories

Want to learn more about MBA?