What is an MBA? History and Description


What is an MBA?

The “inventor” of management theory was Frederick Winslow Taylor (America). A mechanical engineer, he believed that workers should be made to do small, specialized, repetitive tasks. Their work rate could be ratcheted up by pouring extra dollars into their wage packets.

The realism of Taylor was quickly countered by the “human relations” school of management theory, led by theorists such as Elton Mayer, who believed that if you treated the workers like your own family, they might treat you like family back.

But it was James Oscar McKinsey, a Chicago accountancy professor, who turned management theory into money by founding a company of consultants who claimed not merely to heal unhealthy companies but to make healthy ones great. McKinsey died in 1937, but his “fellow visionary” Marvin Bower continued to advise McKinsey and Company until his death – by which time it was serving seven out of ten of Fortune magazine’s most admired companies. By the Fifties it was almost mandatory in the US, if you wished to run a company, to get a masters degree in business administration – an MBA.

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a maters’s degree in business administration, which attracts people from a wide range of academic disciplines. The core courses in the MBA program are designed to introduce students to the various areas of business such as accounting, marketing, human resources, operations management, etc. Many MBA students select an area of concentration as part of their graduate program and focus approximately one-third of their studies in this area. For example, someone with a concentration in marketing may take additional courses focused on digital marketing, international marketing, etc.

Accreditation bodies exist specifically for MBA programs to ensure consistency and quality of graduate business education, and business schools in many countries offer MBA programs tailored to full-time, part-time, executive, and distance learning students, with specialized concentrations.

Basic types of MBA programs

Two year MBA programs normally take place over two academic years (i.e. approximately 18 months of term time). For example in the Northern Hemisphere beginning in late August/September of year one and continuing until May of year two, with a three to four month summer break in between years one and two. Students enter with a reasonable amount of prior real-world work experience and take classes during weekdays like other university students.

Accelerated MBA programs are a variation of the two year programs. They involve a higher course load with more intense class and examination schedules. They usually have less “down time” during the program and between semesters. For example, there is no three to four month summer break, and between semesters there might be seven to ten days off rather than three to five weeks vacation.

Part-time MBA programs normally hold classes on weekday evenings, after normal working hours, or on weekends. Part-time programs normally last three years or more. The students in these programs typically consist of working professionals, who take a light course load for a longer period of time until the graduation requirements are met.

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs developed to meet the educational needs of managers and executives, allowing students to earn an MBA or another business-related graduate degree in two years or less while working full time. Participants come from every type and size of organization – profit, nonprofit, government — representing a variety of industries. EMBA students typically have a higher level of work experience, often 10 years or more, compared to other MBA students. In response to the increasing number of EMBA programs offered, The Executive MBA Council was formed in 1981 to advance executive education.

Distance learning MBA programs hold classes off-campus. These programs can be offered in a number of different formats: correspondence course by postal mail or email, broadcasts video, pre-recorded video, live teleconference or videoconference, offline or online computer courses. Not all of these programs will be professional. Potential students should check the school’s accreditation before undertaking distance learning coursework.

Dual MBA programs combine MBA degree with others (such as an J.D. or a MS) to let students cut costs (dual programs usually cost less than pursuing 2 degrees separately), save time on education and to tailor the business education courses to their needs. Some business schools offer programs in which students can earn both a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an MBA in four or five years.

Program content

Most top MBA programs cover similar subjects within their core required courses. For information about the typical content of an MBA program’s core curriculum, see the overview at the Wikiversity MBA topic page.


MBA programs expose students to a variety of subjects, including economics, organizational behavior, marketing, accounting, finance, strategy, operations management, international business, information technology management, supply chain management, and project management. Students traditionally study a wide breadth of courses in the program’s first year, then pursue a specialized curriculum in the second year. Full-time students typically seek an internship during the interim.


Many programs allow students to specialize or concentrate in a particular area. Standard concentrations include leadership, management consulting, accounting, corporate strategy, decision sciences, property management, economics, entrepreneurship, finance, general management, human resources, international business, marketing, information systems / information technology, telecommunication, organizational behavior, project management, operations management, supply chain management, and sustainable business. Unspecialized MBA programs often focus second-year studies on strategic management or finance.

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