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A master of business administration (MBA) is one of the best-recognized and most valuable degrees you can earn.
You might be an undergraduate business major looking to get a jumpstart on your career or a seasoned professional seeking a promotion. You might even be a nurse, engineer, attorney, or other professional looking to switch careers. Whatever your background, you might be perfectly suited for business school.
In October 2023, Payscale reported that people with an MBA earn an average salary of $89,000 per year. The degree can lead to even higher-paying careers. Management analysts, for example, earned a median salary of $95,290 in May 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Top executives, including chief financial officers, brought in a median salary of $100,090 during the same period.
While earning an MBA used to mean taking two years away from work, today's students are earning their degrees online, in accelerated programs, and in executive training options. Schools are also offering market-ready concentrations such as business analytics and supply chain management.
Learn more about how to get started obtaining an MBA.
Online MBA Programs for You
Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.
Getting a Bachelor’s Degree
To be accepted into an MBA program, you must hold a bachelor's degree. Most business schools do not require you to hold an undergraduate degree specifically in business, and it's not even always the most popular major among MBA applicants who are accepted at top schools.
Consider the most popular undergraduate majors among the 2025 MBA class at Stanford. The most popular major among enrollees was engineering, followed by economics. There is no one right or best major for getting into business school. Pre-law, liberal arts, education, and computer science can all make good pre-MBA majors.
Much more important than your major is the credibility of your educational background. Your degree should come from an institutionally accredited college or university. If your business department holds programmatic accreditation, that could be helpful, but it's usually not necessary.
Unless you hold a lot of early college credits or attend an accelerated program, your bachelor's degree will take about four years to earn and require you to complete 120 credits. Most college courses are worth three credits, so you will take about 40 classes. Many of these cover the liberal arts and sciences, but many others will be concentrated into a single major.
As an undergraduate student, you can learn the writing, speaking, math, and critical-thinking skills you need to succeed in an MBA program. You should also gain disciplined study habits and learn to interact with professors and peers in a positive way.
Do You Need to Take the GMAT or GRE?
Historically, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) was a necessary entrance exam for business school. However, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many business schools waived this requirement and have been slow to reinstate it. Your top business school choices may or may not require the GMAT for admission.
What is the GMAT?
You can think of it as a GRE for business school. This computerized, multiple-choice test covers four timed and scored sections — quantitative, verbal, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing. The online GMAT costs $300 and the testing-center version costs $275. It takes about 3.5 hours to complete the GMAT, and you can take the test up to five times in 12 months.
Not every program requires the GMAT for admission. At first, that might seem like a relief — no tough entrance exam — but you may want to think about the benefits of the GMAT before you decide not to take it. Although the test is expensive and time-consuming, doing well on the GMAT could help applicants with less-than-optimal GPAs prove their odds of getting accepted into graduate school.
MBA Programs With No GMAT Requirements
The most selective business schools still require the GMAT for full-time students, so why would you attend a school that doesn't require the GMAT for admission?
The GMAT can be a bridge or a barrier to access, so it's important to discover whether it will help or hinder your application.
The test is expensive, and it may have a negative effect on applicants from historically marginalized groups. Furthermore, the exam may do a better job of winnowing out people who struggle with standardized testing than it does of identifying the best candidates for business school.
It's also important to remember that most MBAs do not come from top schools. Students are pursuing degrees at local institutions, online, or even from international universities. Many learners are also studying new concentrations that a GMAT may not be appropriate for.
Unless you have your heart set on a top-ten MBA from an Ivy League institution, your best choice may be one of the online MBAs that do not require the GMAT.
What About Your GPA?
Admissions committees definitely look at your undergraduate GPA when you apply to business school. The highest-ranked programs often expect a 3.6-4.0 from successful applicants. What can you do if your GPA isn't that high?
You have several options. First, you can do well on the GMAT or GRE. A strong showing on a standardized test can boost your chances even if your top choice is a non-GMAT school. Second, you can wow the committee with your essay or your recommendations. These are the places where strong writers and experienced business professionals can shine. Finally, you can boost your transcript by taking additional undergraduate coursework and earning top grades.
While your GPA matters, most admissions committees are looking at your entire application packet, including your academic background, coursework, life experience, and business career. If your GPA isn't top-notch, you may still qualify for admission.
Additional MBA Requirements
Applying to an MBA program isn't just about getting three new letters after your name. It's about getting an education from the right professors, with the right peers, at the right school.
Research the best schools
Online ranked lists from data-conscious sites can be a helpful place to start, but make sure to thoroughly examine any school you are considering.
Consider class sizes
A manageable cohort of 20-30 students can give you more opportunities to interact one-on-one with your professors and engage with other top learners in the program.
Look for global educational opportunities
An international study opportunity can be vital for your education and career.
Seek alignment with your values
Business is not just about the bottom line. It's also about the people, ideas, and values that make commerce happen.
Keep the alumni network in mind
Your fellow alumni will be some of your biggest advocates after graduation. Make sure the school you choose has a large and active alumni network.
Common Questions About MBA Requirements
Do employers care if you have an MBA?
No degree can guarantee a job, but an MBA can demonstrate that you are smart, skillful, and ambitious — all qualities that matter to employers. That's just one reason that, in 2022, the BLS found that only 1.9% of people with master's degrees were unemployed.
Does your MBA GPA matter for getting a job?
Most employers consider the fact that you have an MBA and maybe where it's from much more critically than they look at your GPA. Many business schools even have a grade non-disclosure policy that prevents them from sharing your GPA with prospective employers.
How do I know if an MBA is right for me?
Would you benefit from a broad business education, one-on-one coaching, a new network of peers, and a valuable credential after your name? An MBA may be right for you. Most MBA students are in early or mid-career stages and are looking to scale up.
What if my GPA is too low to get into an MBA program?
You may be able to offset a low GPA with a high GMAT or GRE score. An excellent job, exceptional accomplishments, or a compelling essay may also help boost your chances of admission.
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