6 Things You Can Learn While Getting an MBA

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is an increasingly popular degree that offers students the opportunity to advance their career in various facets of the business world. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that business was the most popular subject area for master’s degrees in 2015, with about 189,000 degrees conferred. Furthermore, according to The Economist, nearly 700,000 students took the GMAT—the unofficial entrance exam for MBA programs—in 2014 alone.

The popularity of the MBA is in large part due to the practical skills and knowledge that you will gain while earning your degree. While the exact courses and assignments vary by program, there are six specific topics that are emphasized in any MBA program to prepare graduates for a career in business:

1. Management and Leadership

An important part of succeeding in the business world is knowing how to effectively manage a group of people and bring out the best in your team. Consequently, this is an important focus of MBA programs.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the way that management is taught has changed significantly over the last few decades. While it used to focus on quantitative analysis of finance and similar topics, programs have expanded to accommodate changing views of management education. Today, coursework covers topics such as strategy, leadership, and organizational behavior.

While completing your MBA, you will not only learn leadership and management strategies, but be able to practice these principles during courses. Most programs include a good deal of group collaboration, which is excellent practice for future projects in the workplace.

These skills will be valuable in your career after graduation. By being an effective manager and building positive relationships with your team, you will be able to make the best decisions for your business. For instance, with the right skillset, you can recognize when an employee is unhappy in your workplace and act accordingly, said Lynne Sarikas, workplace expert and director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University’s D’Amore McKim School of Business.

“Often a manager will see clues that an employee is getting ready to leave based on their behavior,” she says. “Other clues can be more subtle, but if you know your employees well you are likely to pick up on these”.

2. Marketing

Whether you want to start your own business, work in a major international firm or somewhere in between, the ability to market your product or service is critical. Marketing effectively spreads the word about your company, builds your reputation and brand, and can lead to increased sales. Being able to market yourself is also important. In an entrepreneurial effort, convincing others that you are a worthy investment will help you gain financial backers and attract the right employees.

In an MBA program, you will learn both the mathematical side of marketing, such as analytics, and the softer skills, like communication. Other topics you may cover include branding, product strategy, and consumer insight. Depending on the program and your interests, you may also learn about specialized areas of marketing, such as digital, retail, and e-commerce.

3. Business Operations

While you may have previously worked in a business-related field, it is likely that your opportunities to learn about business operations have been limited. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that contributes to the success of business ventures. Learning the day-to-day functions that go into making a company successful is an important part of an MBA program.

According to Philip Delves Broughton, author of The Art of the Sale: Learning From the Masters About the Business of Life, in a guest article for Bloomberg, mastering the challenges brought by business operations early on can set you up well for a successful career.

“How many MBA students go to business school eager to learn operations management? It’s one of those subjects, like leadership, that most students suffer through only to wish once they are out in the world that they had paid more attention,” Broughton wrote. “Operations may not have the immediately obvious career appeal of finance or strategy. But anyone who makes it their focus will have an enormous advantage when they graduate”.

Ultimately, an MBA should not only train you in how to run a business, but teach you how to think like a business person. Understanding everything that goes into operating a successful company is a good start.

4. Finance

Finance is the field that deals with the science of money management. Whatever your business goals, knowledge of this area is likely necessary for your workplace success. This includes knowing how to manage large amounts of money, through understanding topics such as investments, assets, liabilities, and funds. The field is divided into public, corporate, and personal finance.

By studying finance in your MBA program, you may qualify for positions in banking, financial planning, accounting, corporate finance, and related fields.

5. Entrepreneurship

Even if you do not want to start your own company, entrepreneurship is an important part of succeeding in the business world. The ability to think innovatively is valued by employers across a variety of positions and industries and will serve you well no matter your specific career goals. Skills that are included in studying entrepreneurship in an MBA program that are valuable in the workplace include decision making, leadership, strategy, and finance.

If you do not want to be an entrepreneur now, you may find that you change your mind down the road. According to a 2016 survey by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, 81 percent of surveyed professionals under the age of 36 reported that they are interested in starting their own business at some point. An MBA leaves that option open for you by providing you with the skills and knowledge you need to launch an entrepreneurial effort.

6. Networking

While you may not enroll in an MBA program specifically to make connections, it is a definite perk of earning your MBA.

“At business school, you’ll interact closely with talented individuals from all over the globe, which enhances the experience by exposing you to different business practices, cultures and points of view,” wrote Stacy Blackman, author of The MBA Application Roadmap: The Essential Guide to Getting Into a Top Business School, in an article for U.S. News & World Report. “The connections you make are, for many, the single most valuable aspect of the MBA, so make sure you capitalize on the opportunities in and out of the classroom during your MBA studies. Your alumni network helps you stay connected to the university as well as to countless professional opportunities you can tap into throughout your career”.

As the saying goes, sometimes it is not what you know but who you know. Having the right connection can get your foot in the door at your next workplace or put your resume in front of the right person.

Although you likely will not take an actual course on networking, you should take advantage of networking events during your program and get to know the other students in your program. Someone that you work with on group project could be a future coworker.