What Is a STEM MBA Program and What Are the Benefits?

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

Commonly referred to as STEM careers, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics occupations represent rapidly growing industries within the job market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% growth in employment for STEM jobs between 2019 and 2029, more than doubling the projected 3.4% growth for other occupations.

STEM careers include critical management jobs such as IT managers, architectural and engineering managers, and sales engineers. Professionals in these fields may benefit from enrolling in a STEM MBA program.

The U.S. government grants STEM designation to MBA programs that emphasize data analytics, statistics, and technology. MBA STEM skills can increase graduate employment opportunities and salaries.

Why Pursue a STEM MBA?

Pursuing an advanced degree takes time, money, and commitment. Prospective students may wonder whether their educational investments can yield positive returns.

With STEM professionals in high demand in a variety of industries, STEM MBA graduates can take advantage of many career options. Professionals can work in government, manufacturing, software publishing, and finance, with high-paying jobs available across the country. For example, California, Texas, Illinois, and Massachusetts all employ large numbers of IT managers. States employing many management analysts include Florida, Virginia, and New York.

By completing a STEM MBA program, graduates can impress employers with their ability to apply STEM principles to business problems. A deep understanding of how to apply technology to meet an organization’s goals, for example, is a sought-after skill.

Benefits and Challenges of STEM Programs

Knowledge Breadth


With an MBA program, students learn business fundamentals alongside their specialty. A STEM MBA program takes this a step further by focusing on technology skills, data analytics, and techniques for innovation management.>

Career Opportunities


An MBA signals high-level business skills that employers value. MBA students obtain valuable experience, potentially in the form of capstones or internships. Degree-seekers also gain access to STEM-focused networking opportunities with partner companies, peers, and alumni.>

Expertise


General MBA programs may carry STEM designations that point to superior skills in math and technology. Frequently, STEM programs relate directly to a specialized MBA program in business analytics, finance, or supply chain operations, which further hones a student’s niche expertise.>

Time Investment


The pursuit of any degree requires an investment of time. An MBA program typically takes 1-2 years to complete. Enrollees can sometimes study part time while continuing to work. Some accelerated programs require a full-time commitment.>

Cost


An MBA program also involves a significant financial investment. Depending on various factors, MBA tuition can range from $28,000-$64,000 per year. Materials and travel requirements can also increase expenditures.>

Curriculum Depth


The breadth of knowledge covered in an MBA program may suit business-minded learners. However, aspiring STEM professionals hoping to work directly in technical fields like web development, architecture, and civil engineering might find a STEM degree more aligned with their goals.>

STEM MBAs vs. STEM Degrees vs. MBAs

STEM MBA STEM Degree MBA
Credits ~30-52 credits ~30-36 credits ~30-52 credits
Timeline 1-2 years 1-2 years 1-2 years
Typical Career Paths IT manager, management consultant, financial manager, marketing manager, sales engineer Varies widely depending on the program; examples include architect, statistician, web developer, computer programmer, sales engineer General and operations manager, chief executive, management consultant, financial manager, marketing manager
Admission Requirements Accredited bachelor’s degree, with or without business experience. Some programs require 2+ years of work experience. Materials often include a resume, GMAT or GRE scores, essays, and an interview. Accredited bachelor’s degree, often in the area of study. Materials often include GRE scores, recommendations, and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Accredited bachelor’s degree, with or without business experience. Some programs require 2+ years of work experience. Materials often include a resume, GMAT or GRE scores, essays, and an interview.

A STEM MBA program prepares learners to become business leaders. Programs use technology, engineering, and mathematical principles to enhance skills in marketing, management, and sales. In contrast, general MBA programs present the core curriculum through a lens of business analytics, business forecasting, and other quantitative methods.

A STEM degree prepares students to work directly in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. These highly specialized programs focus on areas like computer science, civil engineering, chemical engineering, or mathematics. Graduates work in diverse professions, including statisticians, hardware engineers, biologists, and actuaries.

Types of STEM MBA Programs Available

A general MBA program may seek out a STEM designation if the curriculum focuses heavily on business analytics. Often, though, MBA programs offer STEM-related concentrations in business analytics, finance, marketing, and supply chain operations.

In some cases, a general program may offer only STEM-related electives, which can still boost an enrollee’s resume. Other programs tailor entire majors to STEM, ensuring that the business core includes as much STEM-oriented material as the specialization. For example, students may find STEM MBA majors in technology.

Many STEM MBA programs offer both on-campus and online degree options. Learners can seek out asynchronous course delivery structures, which enable them to access materials and participate in discussions on their own time. Alternatively, students may prefer to log in for real-time synchronous sessions. Hybrid programs offer some combination of in-person and online learning.

What to Expect From a STEM MBA Program

Like a general MBA program, a STEM MBA can take about 1-2 years to complete. Some schools allow enrollees to extend their studies through part-time coursework, while others expect lockstep cohort-style completion. Many programs follow accelerated timelines, allowing students to graduate sooner and head into the job market.

Credit requirements for a STEM MBA program vary. Generally, STEM MBA degrees require around 30-52 credits. Learners typically take core business courses in accounting, leadership, and marketing. These courses may blend with STEM specialization tracks. Enrollees then engage in concentration-specific coursework like marketing strategy or technical product development.

Often, an MBA program also involves a hands-on capstone project or internship.

While tuition rates also differ, prospective students can expect costs ranging from about $27,000-$64,000 per year.

Admissions Process for STEM MBA Programs

To qualify for admission to a STEM MBA program, applicants need to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Some programs require previous academic experience in business but may accept prerequisites like accounting and finance in place of a full degree. A minimum of two years of professional experience may be required for some programs, while others welcome business and STEM newcomers.

Application materials for a STEM MBA program usually include GMAT or GRE scores, written essays, video essays, recommendations, and an interview. Application fees typically range from $75-$250.

For those applying to online programs, the school may specify technical requirements like internet speed and access to a web camera.

Popular STEM MBA Courses

Each STEM MBA program operates differently. Curricula can vary depending on program focus and structure, including whether the STEM-designated part of the program runs as a subset of the main program. Still, prospective students can generally expect to complete core business courses plus STEM electives or concentration requirements.

  • Managerial Accounting

    A staple of the MBA core, accounting courses prepare learners to create financial reports. Students collect data into reports, gain familiarity with common software, and learn to assess findings. Managerial accounting involves making business decisions based on the information presented in financial statements.

  • Economics

    Business leaders need to understand how the economy can impact their company’s operations. Many MBA programs require courses in microeconomics as a part of the core curriculum. Students explore actionable topics like supply and demand, plus theories related to production costs. Macroeconomics, by contrast, examines large-scale trends, often in global markets.

  • Business Analytics

    Business analytics coursework is a major aspect of many STEM MBA programs. This course presents the basic principles of data mining, including necessary tools. Topics may cover spreadsheet modeling, predictive analytics, and enterprise data management. Students obtain critical thinking skills and the ability to make crucial decisions based on factual evidence.

  • Asset Valuation and Strategy

    Often appearing as part of a finance concentration, asset valuation and strategy deals with portfolio theory and diversification, asset pricing theory, and derivative securities. Learners also explore techniques related to investment and interest rate risk, plus tools for pricing and selling financial securities.


Typical Costs for STEM MBA Programs

Many factors can impact the cost of a STEM MBA program. The school’s location, delivery method, and prestige can affect tuition rates. Students should also consider additional costs like living expenses, materials including hardware and software, and travel. Generally, annual tuition rates range from $27,000-$64,000.

Online programs may charge lower fees or offer students in-state tuition rates regardless of their location. Public schools tend to differentiate between residents and nonresidents, charging lower rates to those who live and pay taxes in the state. Private schools may charge one flat rate, but costs often run higher, particularly if the school boasts a prestigious reputation.

STEM MBA students can apply for financial aid to access low-interest federal loans when they complete a FAFSA. Grants and scholarships can help reduce the cost of pursuing a degree. Some employers offer tuition assistance.

What Jobs Are Associated with a STEM MBA?

By completing a STEM MBA, graduates enter the job market with in-demand skills. The BLS reports that management occupations earned a median annual wage of $109,760 as of May 2020, making it the highest-earning occupational category.

Many specific jobs within the management offer even higher salaries. For example, financial managers earn a median salary of $134,180, while computer and information systems managers earn $151,150.

With STEM jobs representing a rapidly growing corner of the job market, MBA degree-holders can leverage specialized skills to impress potential employers.

  • Computer and Information Systems Manager

    Working in diverse industries, computer and information systems managers oversee the technology operations for their organizations. Industries employing these professionals include computer systems design, finance, insurance, and manufacturing. Also known as IT managers, they recommend technology to serve the company’s goals. They manage aspects of computer-related operations, including hardware and software installation and updates, security measures, and personnel supervision.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s at a minimum; MBA often preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +10%
    Median Annual Salary: $151,150

    Learn More About IT Managers

  • Architectural and Engineering Manager

    Heavily employed in manufacturing, engineering, and related services, architectural and engineering managers handle big-picture operations for their companies. They manage program-specific budgets, supervise staff, and develop master plans for each project. They also visit construction sites, perform quality assurance tasks, and coordinate staff teams.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s at a minimum; master’s degree or MBA often preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +3%
    Median Annual Salary: $149,530

  • Marketing Manager

    Marketing managers work in industries like scientific and technical services, finance and insurance, manufacturing, and wholesale trade. They perform in-depth market research to understand the connection between the products their company offers and the needs of potential customers. They may set prices, plan sales and promotions, and collaborate with colleagues in public relations, sales, and product development.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
    Median Annual Salary: $142,170

    Learn More About Marketing Managers

  • Management Analyst

    Often working for consulting firms or on a self-employed basis, management analysts assess the operations of their client organizations and suggest improvements. Also known as management consultants, they look at financial records, managerial structures, and procedures before recommending avenues for increased efficiency and profit. They also follow up with clients and make necessary adjustments.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s at a minimum; MBA sometimes preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +11%
    Median Annual Salary: $87,660

    Learn More About Management Analysts

Jobs for MBA Graduates Interested in Other Nontraditional Jobs for MBA Grads? Check Out These Suggestions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a STEM degree?

    A STEM degree is a major that emphasizes topics in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics. A STEM MBA applies these subjects to a business environment.

  • What are the best STEM degrees?

    The best STEM degree depends on the student’s goals. Those looking to work as computer programmers, for example, might want to pursue a computer science degree. Students hoping to manage technology for an organization might pursue a STEM-designated MBA.

  • Is business a STEM major?

    Business is not automatically a STEM major. When a program presents a curriculum that emphasizes business analytics, technology, or data modeling, the MBA program can qualify for STEM designation.

  • Is a STEM MBA better than an MBA?

    A STEM MBA can be an excellent choice for business professionals wanting to hone their skills in data mining and analytical business strategy or apply technological solutions to business problems.



Feature Image: Morsa Images / E+ / Getty Images

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