Best Bachelor’s Degree for an MBA Program

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Students can take a variety of educational paths toward an MBA degree. MBA graduates can work in many fields and industries. Therefore, undergrads do not necessarily need to major in fields like business or economics to successfully apply to an MBA program.

In fact, majoring in STEM, humanities, or the social sciences can broaden your skill set, increase your versatility, and prepare you for success while you're earning an MBA.

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 specialize in business, technology, and social sciences careers.

MBA programs often enroll a diverse cohort, which adds to the richness of the group. Students come from all walks of life and all 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.

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What Are the Most Common Undergraduate Degrees for an MBA?

The most common undergraduate degrees are the humanities and social sciences. Non-business majors are so common among MBAs that schools often provide statistics on 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, 26% of the MBA class of 2024 at the Stanford Graduate School of Business earned undergraduate degrees in arts/humanities or social sciences..

Meanwhile, the same report shows 21% of the incoming cohort holds degrees in economics. We'll look more closely at bachelor's degrees in the field of business below.

Business

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

Twenty-four percent of MBA students at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business earned their bachelor's degree in business, and 19% of MBAs at the Stanford Business School majored in business as undergraduate students.

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 program. Additionally, this degree suits aspiring entrepreneurs and top executives who seek broad management skills.

Accounting

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An accounting degree is a popular choice for students who want to eventually pursue an MBA. While all types of backgrounds are accepted, those who concentrate in accounting for a bachelor's degree generally have a lot of experience in business classes. In some cases, accounting is a concentration offered within a business major. A lot of accounting coursework focuses on computer-based systems, business law, and theory classes that all prepare you for an MBA.

Students who have an undergraduate degree in accounting are often interested in business studies. Having a business background and taking on internships can prepare them well for earning an MBA. Having an undergraduate degree in accounting followed by an MBA can also make a great difference in salary.

Marketing

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An undergraduate degree in marketing is a popular option for those who will later go back to school to get their MBA. Studying marketing can help develop the hard skills needed for an MBA.

At Columbia University, 11% of the incoming MBA class of 2022 worked in marketing prior to enrolling. MBA programs look for students with diverse backgrounds who have worked in studied in areas outside of just business. Having studied or worked in marketing can make you a strong candidate for MBA programs and prepare you well for coursework.

Humanities and Social Sciences

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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 humanities and social sciences graduates for the unique skills and perspectives they can bring to the program. Students entering an MBA with a strong background in communication, for instance, may choose to pursue a graduate specialization in public relations or marketing. These majors may also enjoy MBA programs with a global business focus.

History

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The director of admissions at Fordham University believes that history majors are particularly well suited to MBA programs and wishes to recruit more students with a history background.

An MBA degree can be beneficial to anyone's career, regardless of their undergraduate degree. It can increase salary and prepare graduates for management and leadership positions. According to Payscale, history majors make an average of $74,000 per year. Professionals with MBAs earn over $23,000 more per year on average.

History majors can be well-prepared for various careers, especially if they go on to earn an MBA. A few popular career fields for history majors with MBAs include international relations, hotel management and hospitality, and economics management.

Art

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An MBA program is a great option for creatives aspiring to become better leaders and/or entrepreneurs. As the world becomes more familiar with different degree paths toward leadership, MBA programs are adapting, with some now boasting more art-specific concentrations. For example, Southern Methodist University is offering an MA-MBA joint degree in arts management that incorporates courses in the arts along with traditional business skills learned with an MBA degree.

Art graduates can make excellent MBA program candidates. In an undergraduate art program, students are often encouraged to foster out-of-the-box thinking, which can be an asset for future business leaders.

Communications/Journalism

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While the umbrella of communication studies is fairly large, a lot of courses in the subject can prepare you to advance into an MBA program. Those who major in communication studies can build the skills necessary for creative jobs as well as positions in the business world.

Although journalism may be offered by some schools as a specialization within the communications department, journalism undergraduate students focus on skills like writing, communication, and reporting, which can be useful in MBA programs. A bachelor's degree in journalism alone could be a risk. An MBA can offer students job security and a higher starting salary.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

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Applicants with bachelor's degrees in STEM are 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. STEM MBA programs provide a unique hybrid of business, analytics, and technical coursework.

Many STEM degree programs 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. They can become top engineering executives or STEM professors.

About 33% of Stanford Business School's class of 2024 earned a STEM-based bachelor's degree, and STEM undergraduate majors account for nearly 38% of MBAs enrolled at Kellogg School of Management.

Engineering Management

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Receiving an undergraduate degree in engineering management allows students to take classes focused on data analytics, product management, and more. Students often take an interest in pursuing an MBA after getting their bachelor's degree in engineering management to develop their business focus.

An MBA can help engineering students develop soft skills -- such as networking, leadership, and strategic thinking -- to complement the hard skills they honed during undergrad.

Obtaining an MBA degree can lead to significant growth in the workplace and can help engineering undergrads pivot to administrative roles and earn higher salaries.

Mathematics

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Those who take an interest in mathematics during college are often analytical and skilled in critical thinking. Mathematics students often also enjoy learning new concepts, formulas, and problem-solving skills and applying them to real-life situations. These characteristics are good qualities to have for someone looking to pursue an MBA.

A mathematics degree in conjunction with an MBA can lead to high-paying roles and senior leadership positions. Skills learned in both mathematics and business go hand in hand preparing students for the world of business.


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," said 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 creating 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," said Whitmore.

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?

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?

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?

Most MBA programs require applicants to submit transcripts demonstrating completion of 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:

Portrait of Petia Whitmore

Petia Whitmore

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.



Page Last Reviewed Aug. 31, 2023

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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