What is Business School All About Anyway?

The ultimate goal for those who enroll in an MBA program is career advancement. What form this advancement will take depends completely on each individual’s personal agenda. One student may plan to return to work for a former employer in a more sophisticated context, while another may seek to change careers entirely, transferring to a field that is more challenging or fulfilling. Other more entrepreneurial students may attempt to launch an independent business. Whatever the case may be, MBA programs are designed to guide the student toward the path of their choosing while providing the skills that will be required when they reach their destination.

How do they do this you ask? Well, the most successful MBA programs strive to gather groups of students with diverse backgrounds and goals and then facilitate the sharing of their experiences in the context of the study of theoretical business applications. Before we get in to the academic elements of the MBA program, let’s first take a look at some of the different techniques schools are currently using to cultivate leadership qualities in their students (besides the standard lectures, papers, exams, etc?).

1) Problem-Based Learning (a.k.a Case Studies)

Rather than simply conveying material to the students through lectures, business schools are now using the problem-based learning format to force students to think for themselves rather than regurgitate material that they’ve memorized.

Classes are subdivided into small groups and each group is presented with a particular management issue or problem.

As a team, the students must research the case they’ve been presented with and apply what they’ve learned from their studies to come up with a solution to the particular problem.

This type of exercise forces students to become “horizontal thinkers” who must consider ALL factors related to a particular decision rather than simply looking at an issue from on particular perspective (ie. accounting vs. marketing vs. finance).

2) Studies in the Field

Many schools are now supplementing class lectures and individuals study time with studies in the field

Although most students coming into MBA programs already have significant work experience, schools continue to stress the importance of “learning from doing”

The interpersonal skills that are crucial to strong leadership cannot be taught in the classroom setting but rather must be observed first hand in the field.

3) Team-Based Learning

While many of the projects assigned in business school require students to work in groups, team-based learning focuses specifically on how to work as team.

The goal isn’t so much to complete a particular assignment or project on some managerial issue, but rather the to learn how to work closely with others.

Setting goals, assigning responsibilities, and learning to rely on others are some of the skills involved.

Because team project and work groups have become so common in the business world, the schools are stressing teamwork abilities now more than ever..

The Curriculum

Now of course, underlying all of these different teaching techniques, is the curriculum itself. The first year courses of most MBA programs make up what is known as the core curriculum. While each school tries to present the material in what they believe is a unique or progressive manner, there remains minimal variation in these courses from school to school because every MBA student must ultimately have a fairly extensive level of knowledge in the following areas:
  • Business Strategy Analysis
  • Financial and Managerial Accounting
  • Management Statistics and Data Analysis
  • Managerial Economics
  • Marketing Management
  • Managerial Finance
  • Managing Organizations
  • Operations Management
For a detailed description of any or all of these courses, please browse through the course calendar or website of the particular business schools you are considering.

Once this core curriculum has been completed, most business schools allow their students to spend the remainder of their course time on electives. Many schools are recognized for particular programs that they offer and this recognition tends to revolve around these second year elective courses. Often business schools will have faculty who are eminent leaders in their field lecturing for these courses, providing the class with cutting edge research and the latest advancements in the area. Some of the areas that a second-year MBA student can specialize in include:
  • Accounting
  • Arts Management
  • Educational Administration
  • Entrepreneurial Ventures Finance
  • Government
  • Health Care Administration
  • Human Resource
  • Management
  • Management Consultants
  • Management Information
  • Technology
  • Manufacturing Management
  • Marketing
  • Not-for-Profit Organizations
  • Operations Management
  • Small Business Management
So as you can see, it’s no longer possible to pigeonhole business schools as gathering places for society’s elite, who put in a couple of years before taking over the family empire. A degree from a reputable business school can now place you on the fast track for a leadership position in any one of an incredibly diverse number of career paths. The MBA has become just as important in public service domains such as education, government, and healthcare administration as it is in the more traditional corporate sectors.

What to Expect for the Costs you have Sunk In?

Having established that going to business school represents a pretty serious financial burden, let’s see what you’re actually getting for all those dollars your laying out. What are the “frills” schools are using to attract students, and the impact that the program can have on your ability to attract employment and your earning potential once you’ve found the job you’ve been seeking.


Talk about plush. Be prepared to work extremely hard when you get to business school, but if your at one of the better ones, take solace in the fact that you’ll be doing it in style. The fact is that many of the schools (and not just the powerhouses) are investing heavily in infrastructure to woo you. Remember, there’s a definite element of reciprocity in the relationship between schools and applicants. To put it simply, they want you to like them just as much as you want them to like you. As a result a significant proportion of a business school’s dean’s time is spent fundraising. Many schools are building brand new buildings, with brand new classrooms, libraries, conference rooms, cafeterias and students lounges all supplied and state-of-the-art technology. Just as one example, Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management has built a simulated trading floor with the exact same technology being used by real analysts.


The business world is ALL about connections. We’re not going to feed you the line that “it’s who you know not what you know” but rather that it’s “who you know AND what you know”. For that reason, an MBA program has become incredibly important for young people trying to get their foot in the door. At business school you’re going to educated in the “what” and immersed in the “who.” Without even realizing it, you’re going to be spending two full years networking. Whether it’s faculty who have pivotal roles in major corporations, corporations who’ve formed alliances with the school, or fellow students, over the course of the program you’re going to be in close contact with individuals who are currently, or will be in the future, extremely influential in the business community. Imagine your new best friend happens to be the next Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, David Filo, or Jerry Yang just waiting to surface. Well that’s the kind of relationship that fortunes are built on.


The following excerpts come directly from the Business Week Guide to the Best Business Schools (6 th ed.). It summarizes the relationship between MBAs and corporate hiring so well that felt we should pass it straight on to you completely unadulterated. We further recommend that you find the complete article from which this excerpt was taken (available on the web) for supplementary reading and that you use the guide as one of your resources for choosing the right business school for you (in our opinions it’s one of the most informative).

As we approach the millennium, the MBA is unquestionably the hottest degree you can hold, particularly from an elite school. The stats prove it: At virtually all of the best schools, GMAT scores and starting pay packages are setting records. Applications are too, although a large part of the boom is coming from overseas…The 61 schools surveyed by business week for its 1998 rankings waded through 116,912 applications for the Class of 2000, and the average GMAT score was 667 for those attending the Top 25 schools, up from 649 just two years earlier.

Today, the MBA is on its way to becoming a requirement for anyone who hopes to build a career in Corporate America, and, indeed, much of the world… Certainly, it’s true that corporate recruiters can’t seem to hire enough MBAs these days. The 259 recruiters who participated in business week’s 1998 survey of the best business schools hired 10,348 MBAs in total, a 28 percent rise from 1996. And they would have hired even more if they could have: Grads of the Top 25 business schools averaged 3.2 job offers each, up from 2.3 in 1992, and compensation exploded. The median pay package (salary, bonus, and extras such as stock options or moving expenses) at the Top 25 hit $111,420, up 19 percent from just two years ago. Another telling figure: Median pay topped $100,000 at 18 of our Top 25-versus 5 two years ago.

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