Home Blog What Do You Need to Pursue an MBA? An Explainer

What Do You Need to Pursue an MBA? An Explainer

February 14, 2018
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What Do I Need to Get Into an MBA Program?

Choosing whether to go back to school to earn an MBA is a big decision. Any graduate degree is an investment in yourself, and as with any investment, you want to weigh all your options and choose the one that provides the most dividends.

In some cases, the payoff of an MBA is obvious. Research indicates that MBAs earn an average of $12,000 to $15,000 more per year than those with only a bachelor’s degree and have more opportunities for higher level positions and promotions.1 However, the right program can do more than just give your career a boost. Earning an MBA helps you expand your professional network, discover new perspectives and build your self-confidence.

The first step to attaining these benefits is choosing the right MBA program and getting admitted. By following a step-by-step process, you’ll stay organized, increase your chances of admission and find the program that’s the perfect fit for you and your goals. But what skills, experiences and education are most important for setting you up to succeed on this path? Read on to find out exactly what you need to get into an MBA program.

Undergraduate Degree

Typically, MBA programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree to be considered for admission. There are some exceptions to this rule, particularly for Executive MBA programs that cater to professionals who are further along in their careers, but in general you need to have completed a bachelor’s degree.

However, that degree does not have to be in business or a related subject. In fact, only 34 percent of MBA candidates have a bachelor’s in business, with most students coming from other disciplines.2 While they may not be looking for a specific background, admissions committees are, however, looking for specific qualities in your undergraduate experience. These include:

  • Challenging courses within your major
  • A GPA that meets or exceeds your MBA program’s minimum requirements
  • A personal statement that makes the connection between your educational experience and the MBA curriculum
  • Specific goals for your MBA studies, and a plan for achieving them

Regardless of your undergraduate major, you need to demonstrate that you are ready for MBA coursework.

Work Experience

One question that many students have when it comes to getting an MBA is whether they should enroll directly after earning a bachelor’s or wait until they have some work experience under their belts.

In general, MBA admissions committees prefer students to have some work experience before beginning their studies. Real-world experience and insights are invaluable in the MBA classroom. Not only do students with experience have a better understanding of how certain principles are applied (or not) and bring specific examples and scenarios to classrooms discussions and activities, but a greater breadth of experience allows students to learn from each other as well as from faculty. A student who has worked in healthcare, for instance, will have different ideas and experiences than a classmate with experience in finance, and each can learn from the other.

There are some benefits to heading straight to business school, however. The biggest benefit is that you’ll still be in “school mode” and won’t need to rebuild your study skills. You’re also less likely to enter the program with preconceived notions or rigid ideas about how things should be. Still, to get the most out of the program, a few years of experience is generally preferred.

Researching Programs

Beyond ensuring that you have the proper education and experience for an MBA program, you also need to do your homework regarding the programs themselves in order to be sure you find the right program for you and your goals.

There are almost as many types of MBA programs as there are MBA students themselves. Factors you’ll need to weigh when choosing a program include:

  • Specialization: A traditional MBA program typically focuses on building general business skills that are applicable to any industry. However, many programs also offer specializations, including healthcare administration, marketing, entrepreneurship, finance and more. Your goals should determine the type of program you choose.
  • Part time vs. full time: Many of the best MBA programs are part time. This allows you to work while you earn your degree. Not only does this mean you can continue earning a salary while you learn, you can also apply your learning to your work immediately. On the other hand, full-time MBA programs can usually be completed more quickly.
  • Online vs. in person: Taking courses online offers a great deal of flexibility (and again, allows you to keep working). Advances in technology have allowed online programs to offer many of the same experiences as in-person courses, particularly in terms of collaboration.
  • Costs: Earning an advanced degree is an investment in yourself. When choosing a program, you need to weight the cost of the opportunity against the benefits. Remember that an MBA typically translates to a higher salary and more opportunities, and that in many cases, your employer will provide tuition assistance or reimbursement if you continue working. At the same time, you will need to make some sacrifices of time and energy that you must take into account.

The best thing to do as you weigh your options is to communicate. Talk with Admissions Advisors from programs that you’re considering, and reach out to people in your personal network who have earned MBAs to discuss their experiences and perspectives. Gather information from a variety of sources to make the most informed decision.


For many people, applying to an MBA program is the most challenging—and nerve wracking—aspect of the entire graduate school process. It doesn’t have to be.

Every school is different when it comes to admissions, but typically MBA programs are looking for a diverse mix of students for their MBA cohorts. What this means is that there isn’t a “formula” for a successful MBA applicant, per se, but rather a general collection of qualities that are sought after. These usually include a solid undergraduate GPA, relevant work experience, demonstrated leadership skills, a track record of achievement and an essay that shows the committee what sets you apart and make you a great candidate for the program.

In most cases, this means that you can expect to submit transcripts from all the colleges you have attended, a resume and GMAT scores, if required. Not all MBA programs require a GMAT, so carefully review the requirements of your target schools. Most schools will also require letters of recommendation from supervisors, professors or others who are familiar with your work.

Perhaps the most important part of your MBA application package is the essay. Not only does the essay indicate your written communication skills, but it also gives the admissions committee more insight into who you are and what you will bring to the table. Be sure that your essay meets all the requirements listed on the application, answers the question asked honestly and provides real, unique insights into who you are and why you want to earn an MBA.


Congratulations! You’ve been accepted and now you are ready to enroll. Your school will walk you through the steps of getting set up and registering for courses. Be cognizant of deadlines; often, graduate courses will have pre-assignments to complete before the beginning of the term, meaning that you’ll need to acquire any text books and review the syllabus well in advance of the first day of class.

Stay abreast of any orientations you need to attend and start making a schedule of your assignments and when you will study and get your work done. You’re about to embark on an exciting journey into the future—one that will have significant benefits for your career long after you graduate.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of an Online MBA from California State University, Monterey Bay and what you need to pursue the degree, schedule an appointment with one of our Admissions Advisors or fill out the form to the right for a free brochure.


  1. Retrieved on January 29, 2018, from gmac.com/market-intelligence-and-research/research-library/measuring-program-roi/2012-alumni-perspectives-survey-report.aspx
  2. Retrieved on January 29, 2018, from beatthegmat.com/mba/2009/11/20/which-undergrad-major-is-most-preferred-by-the-top-mba-programs