Why should I play for the MBA?
May 9, 2012 8:30 AM   Subscribe

What exactly do they teach in MBA programs?

I keep hearing that MBA programs are extremely useful for networking. But I assume that there's some importance to the educational component as well. What education actually happens in MBA programs? What skills/knowledge would I learn if I enrolled in one?
posted by taltalim to Education (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Managerial accounting (balance sheets, corporate financial statements, etc). and economics, among other things. Vandy's program also provides for focus in particular areas: healthcare, marketing, finance, HR, etc.
posted by jquinby at 8:42 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Different schools are known for different thins. Wharton is known for finance, Yale is known for non-profit administration, etc.

The best way to answer your question is to identify the skills you want to acquire and see how tey compare to a particular MBA curriculum.
posted by dfriedman at 8:44 AM on May 9, 2012

Have you looked through the curriculum of various MBA programs?

What skills/knowledge would I learn if I enrolled in one?

You'll learn basic, useful accounting. Then a tiny bit each of marketing, economics, corporate strategy, finance and operations. Not enough to be useful, but enough to have a very basic conversation about the topic.

Then you will concentrate on one of those areas and usually this is what makes up the bulk of the second year. In whatever area you pick, you'll learn enough so that you're not completely useless when you start a job in that field. You won't be an expert by a long shot.
posted by mullacc at 8:59 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just as with undergraduate degrees, you can get an MBA in a variety of disciplines, as noted already above. I have my MBA in Organizational Behavior, Information Technology, and International Business.

What education happens depends on what you want to do. Most programs lean towards group work, projects, case studies and real-life simulations.
posted by rich at 9:00 AM on May 9, 2012

At the risk of appearing to take your question lightly, 101 Things I Learned in Business School might be a good start. I own it. It's actually pretty good. Obviously it isn't meant as a substitute, and it certainly isn't heavy reading, but I do think it does a decent 'nutshell' job of answering this type of question.

Some of its 101 lessons are fundamentals (e.g., forms of business, double-entry bookkeeping), some are academic (e.g., risk-homeostasis theory, Pareto principle), and others are just common sense (e.g., "Running a restaurant well is about more than being a good chef.").
posted by cribcage at 9:05 AM on May 9, 2012

One of the biggest things you'll learn getting an MBA is how to work in a group. Just about every class outside of accounting and finance will have a large group project component. This is especially fun if you are going to State U where the MBA program is a mix of young recent college grads, bored housewives, executives, and recently retired military, part time, and full-time students.

Why yes, we did have some epic clashes in group dynamics. Why do you ask?
posted by COD at 9:27 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Piggybacking on cribcage, "Complete MBA for Dummies" is also a good book - I found it to be a nice refresher for many of the things I learned while getting my MBA. Believe it or not, MBA programs were originally developed for non-business types (like scientists, laborers, and even artists) to learn just enough to navigate the business world so their ideas could flourish. Even though the MBA now has a reputation for being a degree for lazy entitled WASPs, the curriculum still reflects the original intention.
posted by rjacobs at 9:30 AM on May 9, 2012

Another good book giving an overview of the MBA program content is The Ten Day MBA.

An account of getting an MBA is Snapshots from Hell by Peter Robinson.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 9:48 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Personal MBA aims to cover the MBA curriculum in business books. I don't know if that's good or bad or possible or impossible but the books will give you an idea of what gets covered.
posted by mendel at 10:53 AM on May 9, 2012

Seconding the work-in-groups thing. In my experience, you met your group in the first week and you did everything together, for the entire curriculum.

The other big mindset orientation was that this was a masters of business administration. Emphasis on all three words individually. You were learning to master the administration of business. Not start a business (although it's helpful), not talk about business and not learning to administer, say, a school. Administer a business -- an ongoing still-gonna-be-here-tomorrow enterprise devoted to hiring people, making products and selling products in order to make money. Period. It was almost never theoretical or scholarly.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:57 AM on May 9, 2012

* networking
* you have the name on your resume
* internships

This are the three important things. They teach you nothing that an intelligent person could not pick up easily in a book. What is a disadvantage: they teach you a lot how to think and apply in frameworks and this somehow contradicts creative and strategic thinking.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:25 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

ThisIsNotMe: "An account of getting an MBA is Snapshots from Hell by Peter Robinson."

I'll second that. Loved that book. Another good one is Year One: An Intimate Look Inside Harvard Business School by Robert Reid.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:26 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

[Folks, maybe make your comments without insulting other posters? thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:12 PM on May 10, 2012

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