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MBA Requirements: What Does It Take to Graduate From Business School?

Posted July 12, 2016 by Giselle Weybrecht - Author, Advisor, and Speaker - Sustainability and Business

In the world of MBA degrees, you have many options to choose from. There are one- or two-year degree programs, full or part time. Some are now fully online, while many are a blend of online and in-person classes. Others take place in the evening or on weekends to allow you to continue working. If you have several years of work experience, you might be more interested in an Executive MBA, or EMBA, program.

Regardless of which MBA format you choose, the general requirements for graduation will be similar.

How Are MBA Programs Structured?

In most cases, MBA degrees require you to fulfill similar criteria in order to graduate. The main part of your degree will focus on completing coursework, which is broken down into several categories:

  • Core Courses: At the beginning of your MBA program, you’ll be required to complete a number of core courses that provide a foundation in business, including marketing, accounting, finance, operations, organizational behavior, strategy, and ethics.
  • Elective Courses: You can then choose elective courses to explore other areas of business. While core courses teach similar content around the world, electives are unique to each school and region, so it is worth looking at the course catalog during your application process to see if a school has courses that interest you.
  • Specialization Courses: More MBA degree programs now are providing additional opportunities to specialize. You can choose from a concentration in marketing or operations, or even a more focused area, such as healthcare management or renewable energy. You will be required to take a number of related courses to gain this specialization.

What Are MBA Courses Like?

Most courses will be taught as lectures by a professor—but it’s not always “lecture and learn.” Business schools are continually innovating the classroom experience, incorporating real-time case studies, industry experts as guest speakers, experiential learning, simulation games that test your knowledge and decision-making against your classmates’, group assignments (with presentations), and even in-class pitch competitions or debates. Course structure and format varies among business schools—and among professors—so you can expect a diverse, dynamic, and stimulating learning environment.

Online and hybrid programs have also come a long way. They are made up of video lectures—some live and others recorded—online texts, discussion forums, and collaboration spaces. The course material is brought to life with videos of live case studies and opportunities for students to speak up and participate, even if they are on the other side of the planet.

What Other MBA Requirements Are There?

Apart from core and elective courses, schools that offer MBA degrees can have a range of other requirements for graduation:

  • Language Requirement: Many business schools, especially international ones, require students to study a second language (other than English) during the program. If you already speak a second language, you can most often apply for an exemption.
  • Exchange Program: Most schools have arrangements with other business schools and MBA degree programs around the world that allow students to spend a term studying abroad, which provides a great opportunity to gain valuable exposure to international business, build your network, and experience another culture. If you are considering a career at an international company, exchange programs are a key component to your success.
  • Personal Development: Career coaching and leadership coaching are just a few examples of how business schools are preparing graduates for success. Some MBA programs have specific professional development components built into the curriculum, while others are simply made available for you to pursue. Always keep in mind that classwork is only one component of your education—developing skills like negotiating, team-building, and enhancing your leadership style will benefit you greatly.
  • Special Projects: Another requirement might be completing an independent project or a group consulting project. For example, Cambridge Judge Business School MBA requires that student complete four practical projects during their degree, two of which are consulting projects with real-world business clients.
  • Internships: In order to gain more experience, many schools offer students the chance to participate in internships (while some schools require them for graduation). This may happen between your first and second year or at the end of your degree, depending on the duration of your program. An institution’s career services center may provide support in finding these opportunities.

You have many factors to consider when selecting an MBA program. But no matter the format you enroll in, the MBA provides a wide range of ways to engage in the topic of business and to develop and grow professionally and personally.

Giselle WeybrechtGiselle Weybrecht is an author, advisor, and speaker in the areas of sustainability and business. Her bestselling book, The Sustainable MBA: A Business Guide to Sustainability, brings together all the pieces of the business and sustainability puzzle in an easy-to-understand format. Weybrecht presented a TEDx Talk, "How to Make Anything More Sustainable." She is on Twitter @gweybrecht.