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What is an MBA and How Do You Complete One?

10 January 2020

It’s no secret that a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can be a career booster, but what exactly is an MBA? What will MBA students study while earning their degree?And finally, are there options on how to complete this degree? Read on for answers to these and other questions you may have about becoming an MBA student.

What do you study in an MBA?

Today’s MBA programs cover a wide range of business knowledge and often include early exit options. For example, SCU’s online MBA in Australia offers a Graduate Certificate for four units completed, a Graduate Diploma for eight units completed, then the full Masters for 12 to 16 units. 

Those units can most often be customised to an individual’s needs, with some core, compulsory topics plus numerous elective units. MBA candidates can expect to take many of the courses listed below from the MBA curriculum to complete their advanced business degrees.

As an example, core units at SCU include the following MBA courses:

  • Management communication: This unit covers the basics of the skills required for written and verbal communication in management. 
  • Organisational behaviour: In this unit, you will study the analysis of factors that influence the dynamics of organisational culture. 
  • Economics: Including analysis skills, this core unit examines the regulatory nature of financial policies and refines the understanding of market environments. 
  • Accounting: An absolute necessity, this unit ensures a good knowledge of all financial and management accounting from the perspective of the business manager.
  • Marketing: Students learn about marketing principles in the diverse global business environment, including the psychology behind customer behaviour and how to communicate with various audiences. 
  • Finance: From risk and return to budget distribution, this topic area explores the business relationship between time and money. 
  • Governance: Where does accountability lie in the corporate world? What are the consequences of particular decisions, and what must be in place to ensure the very finest governance? 
  • Leadership: Including an understanding of the effects of various leadership skills and styles and the value of the reflective approach to ensure constant improvement. 
  • Project management: This unit develops a powerful understanding of the principles behind project management, including time, change, risk and procurement.
  • Global business: Offers a deep understanding of how to operate successfully in an increasingly globalised business environment. 
  • Strategy and case analysis: A case-study approach, looking at real-world settings and problems, helps students to adopt analytical, interpretive and evaluation approaches to market challenges. 
  • Managing information systems: As tasks are increasingly automated to improve efficiencies, a strong overview of the use and implications of IT is vital in business. 

Specialisations, or elective units, can vary according to university and territory. At SCU, for instance, specialisations include accounting, health services management, information and knowledge management, and managing and leading people. Each of these four specialisations involves two elective units. 

Young business woman in gray dress sitting at table in cafe and writing in notebook.

Methods of completing an MBA 

MBA programs, depending on how they are studied, can typically be finished in one to three years. Once completed, graduates are better able to make their way into competitive industries. Opportunities are broad: international business, management consulting, operations management, technology, finance, Human Resource Management, accounting, business education, or entrepreneur ventures.

Research says that graduates of MBA programs possess the management skills necessary to climb the ladder to executive positions more quickly. This career progression brings more responsibility, but it also brings a higher salary.

There are three main methods for completing an MBA: Online, Full-time and Part-time.

Online MBA

Online MBAs have evolved since the first (said to be Aspen University’s program) was launched in 1987. 

Originally, MBA programs required students to attend lectures and tutorials in a centralised environment. Today’s offerings are sometimes campus-based, sometimes a mix of campus and online study, and sometimes 100 per cent online. Each option has its benefits. 

Most importantly, modern online courses are often developed to encourage not just flexibility, but also the opportunity to network with peers in real-time. 

Rather than being restricted in their face-to-face time on campus, online students have 24-hour access to coursework and can fit studies into their personalised schedules. Lectures are recorded and can be revisited at any time. Tutors are available to answer queries promptly. 

Some online programs allow students to easily track their progress through every unit, giving a better sense of control, satisfaction and achievement. 

Full-time MBA

A full-time MBA program is exactly that - a full-time job while it is in progress. These programs are most popular with recent college graduates who have little experience in the business world. Full-time MBA programs are also popular with people who have been working in the corporate world for a few years and can afford to cease working and attend school full-time.

These programs are fairly competitive and require many classes on campus for collaborative work. About 90% of the MBA programs are full-time and most offer fellowships and scholarships that part-time programs do not. 

Expect to have more work and spend more time studying in a full-time program. Where a part-time program counts on-the-job experience as part of the workload, a full-time program cannot. A full-time MBA typically takes 2 - 3 years to complete. 

Part-time MBA

There are two main types of part-time MBA programs. The Executive MBA is designed for employees who have amasses years of work experience in leadership roles. Generally, these programs function through networking and there is little or no contact with other students. Exectutive MBA programs are often smaller than regular full-time programs and more expensive. Because the employee is pursuing this education to further advance in a current career, the employee often pays part of the expense for the guarantee that the employee will continue their professional experience with their company. 

The other type of part-time MBA program is geared towards employees who work full-time and don't hold leadership positions. This degree teaches management skills that will lead to career progression and a higher salary. 

Both part-time programs are less competitive than full-time MBA programs and can take longer since the person is also working full-time. 

The final message

Whatever the purpose, MBA programs have proven to be an excellent way for individuals to achieve their career dreams for over a century. MBA graduates are privileged to some of the best paying career opportunities in the world. If you are seeking a new career path and think you have some untapped leadership skills, it's never too late to pursue an MBA. Whether it's a part-time or a full-time MBA program, this decision will have you on your way to learning real management skills and earning a higher salary in no time. 

Learn more about studying a Master of Business Administration with SCU Online. Get in touch with our Enrolment Advisors on 1300 589 882.