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What Does MBA Stand For?

An MBA stands for Master of Business Administration. It's a graduate-level degree geared toward current and aspiring business professionals.

Two professionals learning what MBA stands for as they sit in a business meeting with the text Master of Business Administration

Perhaps you've seen "MBA" listed as a preferred or required job qualification. Or maybe leaders in your organization have those three letters listed beside their names in business communications.

But what do they mean? And what is an MBA degree, exactly?

MBA stands for Master of Business Administration. It's a master's degree that offers a broad-based business education designed to teach skills that can help you succeed in any business area, from economics and marketing to financial management and social responsibility.

What Does Having an MBA Mean For You?

Dr. Charlene Spann with the text Dr. Charlene Spann If you’re considering whether you should get an MBA, you’re likely wondering what kind of return on investment you can expect – and how soon you can get it.

There are many reasons why you might earn an MBA, including increased salary potential and personal achievement. However, Dr. Charlene Spann, adjunct instructor at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), said the credential will be the most beneficial to you if you're seeking ongoing growth in knowledge and skills.

"If one is seeking an MBA to truly understand the nuances of business so that their skills after graduation can expand and grow... I believe it can future-proof a career," she said. "The key is that the person needs to continue developing their skills after the schoolwork is done."

How long it takes to get an MBA depends on the program you choose and your preferred pacing. For example, at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), you could start and finish your MBA online in just over one year if you take two classes per 10-week term. That means you can begin reaping the credential's rewards sooner.

What is the Salary Potential of an MBA Professional?

An infographic piece with the text GMAC reports MBA grads earned a median starting salary of $115,000 in 2021.While your income as an MBA degree holder can vary significantly based on the industry and position you work in, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) shows that employees with a master’s degree earn a median income of 18% more than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

Still, with so many advanced business degree options out there, you may be wondering, “Why get an MBA?”

Data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) indicates a greater starting pay with an MBA degree. Its 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey revealed that the annual median starting salary is $115,000 for U.S. MBA hires compared to $65,000 for those with just a bachelor's degree (GMAC PDF source).

A blue infographic piece with the text GMAC’s 2021 survey reports 9 in 10 recruiters expect to hire MBA graduates this year.Achieving the advanced credential could also increase your job security – even during a pandemic. In 2021, workers with a master’s degree faced an unemployment rate of 2.6%, compared to 3.5% for workers with only a bachelor's degree and 8.3% with no degree, according to BLS data.

MBAs are in demand across a range of industries and organizations. Nine in 10 recruiters expected to hire MBA graduates in 2021, according to the GMAC report, with the top employers in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, consulting and technology.

Types of MBA Programs

While broad-ranging business knowledge is one of the key values of an MBA, if you know you want to enter a particular area of business, choosing from more than 15 types of MBA concentrations could add even more value to your business degree.

From information technology management, public administration and leadership to international business, engineering management and finance, MBA concentrations are a great way to strengthen the skills most relevant to you. They are designed to help you gain the fundamental business acumen you need to be flexible and think strategically in today’s ever-changing economy.

Some other types of MBAs include:

A blue infographic piece with the text Choose from 15+ MBA ConcentrationsSelecting a concentration when earning your MBA can also provide valuable experience if you plan to use your degree to change careers.

Are you currently working in finance but want to move into a marketing career after completing your degree? An MBA in Marketing can help give you the marketing know-how you need to stand out to employers and succeed in a new field.

Is an MBA Hard to Get?

The MBA curriculum varies by institution, but some colleges and universities ensure their students have a chance to apply what they're learning to situations they might encounter in the real world. Scenario-based learning – the approach SNHU's MBA uses – and other methods like it can help you grow the skills you need as you increase your business knowledge.

"Using real-life scenarios, students can apply what they are learning immediately and then adapt the scenario to their current work function," Spann said. "I have had several students say that they immediately applied what they learned in class to their job."

Through scenario-based learning, Spann said students are also strengthening their technical skills. For example, in one of her classes, students are assigned middle management roles at an auto company and must create an innovation strategy to present to the Chief Technology Officer. "The students aren’t just reading and writing papers, but they need to use data analytics, PowerPoint, and Excel to convey their information to senior leadership," she said. "It’s exactly like what happens in the real world."

Dr. Mark Hobson with the text Dr. Mark HobsonHigh-demand workers not only need a strong understanding of their chosen field but also a strong foundation of basic business principles. With courses ranging from leading people, organizations and change to organizational strategy and success measurement, what you learn in an MBA program can give you the universal skills you need to succeed across various industries.

Some schools, such as SNHU, offer courses that weave various aspects of the business together. "The 2021 MBA learning design uses 'interleaving,' where students mix ... two or three topics to improve learning and help make (information) stick," said Dr. Mark Hobson, a senior associate dean of business at SNHU. "Students revisit information ... throughout the program, yet in different contexts or scenarios."

He said this learning method, as opposed to learning about different areas individually, improves long-term retention.

So, Is it Worth Getting an MBA?

The value of an MBA can be far-reaching: from potential career and salary growth to personal and professional development. It can also prepare you for the future, equipping you with industry-relevant credentials and important hard and soft skills. In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven economy, employers are seeking workers who can be flexible and learn and adapt on the fly.

Monique Jordan with the text Monique JordanBack in 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted that as technology advances, employers would place a higher value on workers with leadership and management skills, including complex problem-solving, critical thinking, coordinating with others and decision-making.

By 2021, recruiters noticed that talent pools were lacking candidates with some of these important soft skills. There's a shortage of applicants with problem-solving and critical thinking skills in particular, despite their growing need in an increasingly automated workforce, McKinsey & Company reported in a recent McKinsey Quarterly briefing.

Future-forward MBA programs can help to solve this issue. "Businesses will continue to need employees who have a blend of critical thinking, analytical and communication skills to help them make well-informed decisions," said Monique Jordan, a senior associate dean of business at SNHU. Course designers at SNHU kept these needs in mind as they recently developed the MBA in Business Analytics, a concentration that's intended to train business professionals to interpret data and leverage it throughout their organizations.

Thomas A. Woolman with the text Thomas A. WoolmanTo better prepare for ongoing workforce automation, Thomas A. Woolman, MBA, MS, MS, an SNHU adjunct faculty member and subject matter expert with more than 25 years of consulting experience, wanted students to have an opportunity to interact with some of this technology in the classroom, using self-learning algorithms in conjunction with real-world scenarios. "I specifically incorporated aspects of AI/machine learning into the course as it pertains to quantitative analytics," he said.

Earning your MBA can help you develop both the hard and soft skills needed to future-proof your career.

Discover more about SNHU’s MBA program: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you’ll learn and how to request information about the program.

Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

Two students walking in front of Monadnock Hall

SNHU is a nonprofit, institutionally accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.