Best Bachelor’s Degree for an MBA Program

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By Megan Whitenton

With Advice from Petia Whitmore

Published on August 19, 2021

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Students can take a variety of educational paths toward an MBA degree. The versatility of the MBA in numerous career fields lends itself to equally versatile undergraduate majors.

Many MBAs do not require a bachelor's degree in business. In fact, schools often offer top-notch bachelor's degrees in subjects, such as STEM, humanities, and social sciences to prepare students to apply to an MBA program.

Can I Get an MBA Without a Business Degree?

You do not need to earn an undergraduate business degree to pursue an MBA. Some of the best MBA programs attract non-business learners who aspire to specialized business, technology, and social sciences careers.

“While a good percentage of MBA candidates have already studied business and management as undergraduates, there is no requirement that you have to have prior business experience - academic or professional.”
Petia Whitmore, Former Dean of Graduate Admissions at Babson College

MBA programs to enroll a diverse cohort, which adds to the richness of the group. Students often come from all walks to life and educational backgrounds to build broad career skills through an MBA. Students who earn an MBA online may especially benefit from a program with diverse participants and a global focus.

What Are the Most Common Undergraduate Degrees for an MBA?

Non-business majors are so common among MBAs that schools often provide statistics of their incoming MBA candidates' educational backgrounds. Many of the nation's best-known business schools enroll a large percentage of non-business majors in their MBA programs. For example, the MBA acceptance rate was highest for non-business majors in education and law in 2018, according to MBA Data Guru.

The same report shows high acceptance rates for majors in communication, liberal arts and the humanities, and economics, though acceptance also depends on GMAT scores and GPA. For example, Wharton School of Business accepted more students with a bachelor's degree in humanities (38%) than business (34%) into its 2020 MBA program.

Business

A business major is a natural choice for aspiring MBA candidates. Earning a bachelor's in business prepares graduates to apply for a general or specialized MBA. Undergraduate business degrees generally offer students a choice of popular concentrations, such as human resources, accounting, or marketing.

Students with set career aspirations in business often take this academic path. Learners can build experience through an internship while completing an early-career bachelor's in business or a BBA. Additionally, this degree suits aspiring entrepreneurs and top executives who seek broad management skills.

Nearly 50% of MBA students at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business earned their bachelor's degree in business, and 44% of MBAs at the Stanford Business School majored in business as undergraduate students.

Humanities and Social Sciences

Many students pursue a bachelor's degree in social sciences and humanities in preparation for an MBA. Humanities majors, which include communications, journalism, religious studies, and art history, can ultimately lead to specialized career opportunities in a variety of humanities and social science-related fields. For example, students may pursue a career in museum studies or senior-level media or church management.

MBA programs welcome graduates of humanities and social sciences degrees for the depth of diversity they contribute to the cohort. Students entering an MBA with a strong background in a major like communication may naturally pursue a graduate specialization in public relations or marketing. These majors may also enjoy MBA programs with a global business focus.

Nearly 40% of Wharton MBA students studied humanities as undergraduates. Over 29% of Yale School of Management MBA learners earned their bachelor's degree in humanities and social sciences fields.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

A bachelor's degree in STEM is increasingly attractive to MBA admissions departments. Students with an undergraduate education in a STEM field are a natural fit for a STEM MBA or a specialization like IT or engineering management. STEM programs provide a unique hybrid of business, analytics, and technical coursework.

Many STEM degrees offer exclusive internships at tech companies or engineering facilities. Graduates with a STEM bachelor's can earn an MBA in preparation for lucrative careers in tech management or data analytics or become top engineering executives or STEM professors.

Currently, 37% of MBA candidates at Stanford Business School earned a STEM-based bachelor's degree, and STEM undergraduate majors account for nearly 30% of MBAs enrolled at Kellogg School of Management.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Bachelor's Degree

Students on the path toward earning an MBA should consider a complementary major in an undergraduate program. Learners should research the MBA class profile of their desired school and note which non-business majors have the highest acceptance rates. Applicants may also want to cross-reference their school's specific GMAT and GPA requirements.

“While there is no one academic background that is superior when it comes to positioning yourself as an MBA candidate, all MBA programs will expect you to demonstrate an ability to handle quantitative subjects.”
Petia Whitmore, Former Dean of Graduate Admissions at Babson College

Beyond targeting a top MBA degree, students should consider their career prospects after graduation. Choosing a major out of passion and not function alone is critical to a successful career. Bachelor's applicants should plan for their future by researching fields of study that can lead to high-growth, in-demand jobs with opportunities for early work experience.

What is the Best Bachelor's Degree for an MBA Program?

While business remains the leading major for prospective MBA candidates, bachelor's students must perform due diligence on their chosen schools to determine what other non-business majors they accept for the MBA. Schools are united in their commitment to create a diversified MBA class; however, each program uses its own methodology to cultivate a cohort.

“The truth is that there is no one preferred bachelor’s degree that you need to have in order to be a strong MBA candidate and student… In fact, the MBA degree is often a great vehicle for those with a background in science or liberal arts to move into business and management roles…”
Petia Whitmore, Former Dean of Graduate Admissions at Babson College

The best bachelor's degree for an MBA program varies by school and program. Since business is still the preeminent undergraduate major for MBAs, some schools prefer business-related majors, such as communication or economics, as the next-largest enrollment group. Others welcome a large percentage of applicants from emerging fields like STEM or diverse humanities majors.

Frequently Asked Questions About MBA Programs

Do I need an undergraduate degree to get an MBA? true

Yes. While most MBA programs welcome applicants with a bachelor's degree in any major to apply, all prospective students must hold a four-year degree.

Can I succeed in an MBA program without an undergraduate business degree? true

Yes. Business students naturally flock to the MBA, but schools also accept students from a variety of other majors. Nearly half of the MBA classes at some top schools come from non-business majors.

What do I need to apply for an MBA program? true

Most MBA programs require applicants to submit transcripts demonstrating a bachelor's degree, a resume, GMAT scores, letters of recommendation, and personal essays. Many programs also require professional business experience.

Can an MBA still benefit me if I don't have a business background?

Yes. Graduates with an MBA degree can apply their advanced management skills in nearly any industry. The best MBA programs develop leadership, decision-making, and communication skills.

Should I get a master's in business or an MBA?

A master's in business typically provides targeted coursework in a specialization like human resources, accounting, or information technology, while an MBA covers broad career skills for a variety of management occupations.

Interview From:

Petia Whitmore is the founder of the MBA admissions consulting firm My MBA Path. Previously, she served as Dean of Graduate Admissions at Babson College and Managing Director of The MBA Tour, a subsidiary of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Now she helps create MBA success stories, one candidate at a time.

Declining MBA enrollment is changing business education. Students want flexible and affordable MBAs, and schools need to adapt to these trends. Get tips for starting a business consulting career. Learn what steps you need to take to establish yourself in the consulting industry. Should you choose a full-time or part-time MBA program? Learn more about the pros and cons of each.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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