A Masters in Business Administration (MBA) can lead to executive positions and higher earnings. But how difficult is an MBA program? What do you learn during an MBA? And what do professors expect in MBA programs?

Aspiring MBA applicants should also consider their ability to concentrate, the difference between part-time and full-time formats, and online MBA programs. You should think about both the academic and personal aspects of enrolling in an MBA program – including how to balance coursework with assignments outside of school.

The acquisition of an MBA appeals to many professionals looking for career advancement and higher paying positions. Our guide answers all of your questions about what to expect in business school.

How difficult is an MBA program?

How difficult is an MBA? The answer depends on the business school, the format, and the student’s own strengths and weaknesses.

MBA programs require the ability to analyze qualitative data. The most demanding MBA courses rely on problem-solving skills and creative thinking. In addition to academic strengths, MBA students need time to complete challenging projects and internships.

An MBA program also requires commitment and self-motivation. Students struggling with difficult concepts should seek early support to ensure that they are able to overcome any obstacles and are ready for the next progressive challenge in the program.

While MBA programs can be challenging, many students are able to rise to the challenge. Students who want to acquire an MBA can improve their chances even before enrolling. Studying business concepts, choosing a part-time course or focusing on certain specializations can make an MBA more manageable.

What to Expect in an MBA Program

What do you learn in an MBA program? The business school imparts core competencies in the areas of finance, accounting, marketing and management. Through courses and projects, learners strengthen their public speaking, analytical and strategic thinking skills.

The skills acquired during an MBA program depend on the business school and MBA concentration. For example, students in the Entrepreneurship program take different courses than those in the health management major.

Core and elective courses of the MBA program

During an MBA course, learners complete core courses and electives. In most programs, students begin by meeting the core requirements. Then they choose electives to tailor the program to their interests and professional goals.

These MBA courses provide the knowledge and skills required for leadership roles in business. Note that the number of electives and course options vary widely depending on the business school.

Examples of core courses

  • Organizational behavior
  • Marketing management
  • Strategic decision making
  • Management finance
  • Data analysis

Examples of elective courses

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • International finance
  • Business strategy
  • Sustainable business strategy
  • Strategic project management

Hard and soft skills that you learn in an MBA program

An MBA program builds both hard and soft skills that help graduates achieve success in the workplace. Programs emphasize technical skills such as data analysis, quantitative decision-making, project management, and logistics. Depending on the MBA focus, learners also acquire industry-specific hard skills in areas such as health management, human resources or marketing.

MBA programs also build in-demand soft skills, including creative thinking, communication, and public speaking. These soft skills help graduates to manage people, lead teams and develop visions.

Part-time vs. full-time MBA course planning

MBA programs offer part-time and full-time enrollment opportunities. Students can also choose an accelerated, one-year MBA degree. The course load requirements, expectations, and program duration depend on the format of the program. Students in accelerated or full-time programs have a tighter schedule but graduate faster. Those who choose to study part-time gain flexibility, but need longer to complete their studies.

Flexibility in lifestyle

A full-time MBA program requires a full-time commitment. Most MBA programs advise full-time students not to work during school hours. However, some full-time online MBA programs are designed for working professionals. Part-time programs often cater to working adults as well. Before applying for an MBA program, find out about the time commitment and flexibility for that specific program.

Number of courses per semester

The number of courses that students take per semester varies depending on the format. In a full-time MBA program, learners usually take three courses per semester. In part-time MBA programs, graduates can take 1-2 courses per semester. Accelerated programs often split the semester into two semesters, with students taking two courses per semester, for a total of four per semester. Prospective students should find out about the curriculum before applying.

Duration to completion

Most full-time students get their MBA in two years. The typical schedule includes one year of core courses, a summer internship and one year of specialty courses. Part-time MBA programs are extended over a period of time, usually around three years. Students can also choose a one-year MBA program or a 15-18 month accelerated MBA.

Academic rigor

Regardless of the format, MBA programs have strict academic requirements. Both full-time and part-time students complete a similar number of courses and workloads. Full-time and accelerated courses, however, place higher demands on students who take several courses per semester. As a result, while the same courses and materials are often used in part-time programs, the program can feel less challenging for students.

What to Expect from MBA Programs

MBA courses train students in advanced business concepts. MBA students need to be prepared to participate in class, complete multiple projects, and view class as a networking opportunity.

Each MBA program presents unique challenges and students will face different circumstances depending on the delivery format and concentration. Still, MBA students should understand the expectations in MBA courses.

You are expected to actively participate in the class.

MBA programs expect a high participation rate. During classroom teaching, professors can randomly invite students to answer questions or share their analysis of case studies. In online courses, instructors can use chat features or discussion forums to encourage participation. Class grades often flow into participation, so sitting out can mean lower grades.

Expect to work with case studies.

Case studies form the backbone of many MBA courses. A case study presents the students with a business scenario. Some case studies use real-world examples, while others use an imaginary business problem. Students need to read the case study, identify the problem, and recommend solutions. Teachers can ask students to discuss case studies in class, analyze a longer case study to present conclusions, or write a paper based on a case study.

Prepare for group work and projects.

The business school builds strong collaborative skills. MBA courses encourage teamwork and collaboration through group work and projects. Group projects replicate the work experience of many graduates. Strengthening these skills during business school helps professionals in the workplace.

Group work can only last one lesson, with groups analyzing case studies and presenting their conclusions, or an entire semester. Many projects include a written report or presentation that enhances public speaking skills.

You will read, prepare, and take home a lot.

Outside of class, MBA students dedicate time to reading and homework. Instructors can assign textbooks, case studies, and books. Students also need to stay up to date on business and business news.

Some classes allocate an overwhelming amount of reading. Students need to learn to read efficiently and take away the most important information from their assignments. It is important to prepare the readings before class in order to participate in class discussions.

You want to network within your program.

MBA programs all place emphasis on networking. Many students focus on networking outside of their program during an internship. However, building relationships with colleagues and professors also helps post-business school professionals. Current fellow students become future contacts, so students have to invest in their network during the MBA course as well. Students can also connect to their school’s alumni network during class.

You need to be aware of how to balance your lifestyle with an MBA program.

An MBA program is very time-consuming. Students must balance their studies with their responsibilities outside of school, including family and work. Working high school students and students in accelerated programs, in particular, rely on their time management and organizational skills to balance school with other commitments.

Some goals may have to wait until after they complete. Other priorities, such as travel, might fit an MBA. Many business schools offer international internships and other travel options.

What do you need to know before going to business school?

Before attending a business school, prospective students should evaluate their academic preparation. You can also research what to expect in the business school to prepare.

Can You Fail an MBA Program?

Yes, students cannot pass an MBA program. Students with poor grades or failed academic achievements cannot complete their studies. MBA programs reserve the right to expel students for poor academic performance.

What kind of math is used in an MBA program?

MBA students often use statistics, probability, and algebra to forecast income, assess risks, and create budgets. Most MBA programs do not require advanced math concepts.

This article was written by Krystal Covington, MBA. checked

Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of marketing and public relations experience. Your company, Go Lead Consulting, offers its customers basic tools for building new customer and customer relationships.

Covington founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, hone leadership skills, and connect with other high performing women. Covington received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.

Krystal Covington is a paid member of Red Ventures Education’s freelance evaluation network.