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MBA: A closer look into this popular management degree

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The Master of Business Administration or MBA for short, is the most popular and well-recognised graduate management degree. Source: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP

The Master of Business Administration — or MBA for short — is the most popular and well-recognised graduate management degree out there. These three letters often hold the key to help you stand out to employers and even boost your career and salary prospects. 

During an MBA, you are expected to build your business and management knowledge while growing your professional network. But as a generalist degree, this programme lays out the fundamentals of business management across areas such as marketing, finance and accounting. It enables students to develop both soft skills and those needed for leadership. 

Here’s everything you need to know about what an MBA really is and how it developed to be highly respected by companies and business schools all over the world: 

History of MBA

 

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With roots in Boston, Massachusetts, the MBA was introduced in 1908 by Harvard University Graduate School of Administration (now known as Harvard Business School). At that time, it was the first and only graduate management degree that attracted a class of 80 students taught by 15 faculty members.

The MBA was developed in response to a rapid globalising and industrialised world. It was also meant to fill a gap in the changing job market for business graduates who were well-equipped with a holistic understanding of how a business works. 

As an effort to improve industrial efficiency, American engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor’s research and management principles were used as a guide to design the MBA curriculum. In effect, the first ever MBA students were trained to hone both their soft skills and develop an analytical mindset through the famous case study method

Read on here if you’re interested to find out how an MBA now differs from before. 

What came before the MBA?

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The formal business school concept emerged in France at the first business school Ecole Spéciale de Commerce et d’Industrie (today known as ESCP Business School), almost a century earlier. Source: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP

Although the Harvard Business School was the first university to offer an MBA degree, the concept of a formal business education didn’t start in the US. In fact, the concept emerged in France at the first business school Ecole Spéciale de Commerce et d’Industrie (today known as ESCP Business School), almost a century earlier.

It was only later in the century that the US followed suit and gave birth to Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1881. The university was named after industrialist Joseph Wharton who had a goal to prepare university graduates for the evolving business landscape in the US. 

Unlike at the Harvard Business School, Wharton’s first programme was a bachelor of finance and eventually establishing the Wharton MBA in 1921. 

Who is the MBA programme for? 

Historically, MBA programmes were mainly reserved for business, finance or consulting students. Today, that is no longer the case.

There is no such thing as a typical MBA student. Classes are filled with students from various professional backgrounds. To demonstrate, the Harvard MBA class of 2022 included students from the tech industry, healthcare, non-profit to even media graduates. This evidently shows how management degrees such as the MBA benefits everyone from different disciplines. 

There are many benefits and reasons to get an MBA. Among the career motivations of prospective MBA students are: promotion to senior positions, people management skills and having an internationally recognised qualification to be able to work around the world. 

Regardless of the motivations, an MBA is a well-rounded management degree programme that will advance your career and enhance your management skills. It is one that’s flexible and offers insights into the business world that will help you thrive regardless of the industry you are in.

International students, have you made the decision to pursue an MBA but are not sure which to specialise in? This article will serve as a guiding light.