What is an MBA?

An MBA or a Master of Business Administration is a graduate degree that prepares students for a career in business and management. It is one of the most popular master's degree to access to managers and directors roles within an organization, and higher salaries. Admissions to the program are often selective, particularly at prestigious business schools such as Harvard Business, Stanford GSB or Wharton School.

An MBA program takes an integrated and interdisciplinary approach that provides students with skills and knowledge needed for a successful career in the business world.

The MBA Curriculum: A Combination of Practical Training and Theoretical Learning

The core component of the curriculum typically features courses in finance, economics, accounting, marketing, organizational behaviour, operational management, business law, information management and technology and human resource management among others.

The elective component of the course allows students the freedom to select courses that match their career interests. Each course focuses on a particular aspect of business administration or an industry such as Healthcare, Business Analytics, Aviation and Aerospace, Entrepreneurship, and Supply Chain Management. Students may have the opportunity to participate in international trips to gain global experience. The program usually culminates in an internship within a company or a capstone project where students collaborate within a team and apply what they learned during classes.

Upon completion of this curriculum, students gain a sound foundation of management knowledge for practical application to a wide range of real world situations.

Use of Case Method

Case studies are widely used in business education. Rather than teaching only theoretical concepts of business management, the case method brings business dilemmas to life in the classroom.

This method of imparting training shouldn't be confused with the casebook method used in legal education. Conceived by Christopher Columbus Langdell, Dean of Harvard Law School between 1870 and 1895, the casebook method helps readers to understand the abstract principles of law by dissecting a series of illustrative court opinions.

The case method grew out of this teaching method. It was pioneered by Harvard Business School faculty in 1924 and was first called the problem method. The difference with the casebook method is that it focuses on developing problem-solving habits that are critical to decision-making.

A typical case study consists of a short description of a managerial case from the past. Participants are placed in the role of the decision maker with limited available information: an overview of the issue, a background of the organization, financial data, individuals involved...

The benefits of such classroom technique are multiple:

  • Engage readers in active participation, ad hoc role plays and debates.
  • Stimulate creativity and critical thinking
  • Identify, analyze underlying problems and find the best solutions
  • Develop communication skills: discussion, confrontation, negotiation
  • Interaction with peers and instructors

Between 20% and 80% of in-class time is devoted to this learning technique. An Harvard MBA student works on over 500 cases during his/her time at school!

A few of business schools don't just use cases for training: they sell them to other schools, companies and organizations. The production of cases has been the hallmark of Harvard Business School. Approximately 350 cases are created by HBS professors per year. In 2015, 13,2 million of copies were sold by HBS which accounts for 80% of case study sales worldwide.


The first professional business training was launched in United States beginning in the early 20th century to help people face the challenges of the Industrial Age. Since then, the traditional MBA model won acceptance and spread around the U.S. By the 1950s, the first MBA programs outside the U.S. were offered by the University of Western Ontario in Canada and the University of Pretoria in South Africa. In 1957, the first MBA program in Europe was offered by INSEAD.

MBA programs met with widespread acceptance by employers and its number has grown significantly over the course of the past 50 years.

Business schools have adapted the teaching style and format to the constantly changing needs of the industry. Today, the degree becomes more accessible in terms of course delivery with full time, part time, online and mixed mode options and attracts various types of profiles who want more flexibility. It also comes in a variety of forms with more specializations available.

Some media and reports criticized that MBA degrees lacked relevance in the corporate world and were no longer a guarantee to climb the corporate ladder. Business schools are also accused of charging high tuition fees. The cost of the most expensive programs exceeds $100,000!

Despite the controversy, application volumes remain high and the MBA degree is one the most sought-after educational credentials in the world.

Since 2011, the MBA has become the most popular postgraduate degree in the U.S., surpassing degree in education. According to the statistics of the U.S. Department of Education, in 2013-2014, the last year for which data is available, 189,328 students were awarded with a master's degree in business.