The Rise of the MBA: How This One Degree Became the Dominant Business Program

University of Europe Laureate Digital

Today, a Master of Business Administration, or an MBA, is one of the most prestigious degrees anyone can earn, but it wasn’t always that way. This article will tell you about the rise of the MBA.

In the early 1900’s, business sense was something people learned on the job, figuring it out as they went along. But as companies evolved and expanded, it became clear that a little training would be beneficial for people running a business, and the first MBA program was born.

The Beginning

The very first business school was established in 1881 through a donation from Joseph Wharton, an American industrialist. As of 2015, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania was the number one ranked business school in the world according to Business Insider. In 1900, the Tuck School of Business was founded at Dartmouth College along with the first advanced business degree — a Master of Science in Commerce, which was the predecessor of the MBA. It wasn’t until 1908 that the very first true MBA program was launched by Harvard, with 33 regular students in its first year.

In 1950, The University of Western Ontario in Canada was the first school to offer an MBA program outside of the USA, followed by the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1951 and INSEAD in Europe in 1957. Still, in its early days, an MBA wasn’t considered necessary for success, so schools had to restructure their programs to make them more comprehensive and address the importance of soft skills like effective communication and the ability to lead and delegate. As the economy continued to change and evolve, the prestige of having an MBA grew… This is how the the rise of the MBA started!

Today’s MBA

There are a variety of different ways to pursue an MBA, but the most common program formats include a two-year, full time MBA, an accelerated MBA (usually completed in one year), and a part-time MBA, which allows students to complete coursework at a slower pace. In recent years, the distance learning or online MBA program has become more popular thanks to the increased flexibility and convenience of studying from home.

Today, most MBA programs are tailored towards business professionals who already have a few years’ experience in their field. Typical analytical courses include accounting, managerial research, economic policy and business statistics. Functional courses focus on management strategies in the areas of finances, human resources, marketing and operations. Ethics courses involve anything relating to business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Many program requirements include a dissertation and the completion of a comprehensive exit exam.

In the 2011-2012 school year, 191,571 people graduated from U.S schools with advanced degrees in business, which was over 25% of the total number of master’s degree awarded that year. According to Srilata Zaheer, dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, “a business degree remains one of the most predictable paths to success and financial stability and can provide the proverbial leg up from relative poverty to great accomplishment and wealth.” An MBA has a reputation for leading entrepreneurs and executives to bigger and better things, but what does the future have in store?

Tomorrow’s MBA

The steady growth of the MBA and EMBA programs, enrolments, and graduates over the past few decades speaks for itself — but some people believe the degree program has created a bubble that is eventually going to burst. While there’s no doubt an MBA will increase most people’s earning potential, the guarantee that every graduate will achieve a high level of success isn’t quite the same as it used to be. Despite that, Filipe Castro Soeiro, the Director of Innovation and Academic Management at the University of Europe Laureate Digital still believes an MBA is worth pursuing. “Due to the qualifications, skills and competencies that graduates with an MBA degree acquire, they have better career opportunities and the ability to assume a higher level of leadership and management responsibilities.”

In addition, online programs, including those offered by University of Europe Laureate Digital schools, are becoming more popular. The flexibility, global focus and ability to pursue a degree and work in unison are appealing to the new generation of perpetual learners. The MBA degree programs that keep up with the changing needs of their potential students – consistently offering new and innovative ways of studying – are the ones that will survive. The most prestigious business schools come with high tuition fees and more demanding schedule requirements that many people aren’t willing or able to meet. Online programs however, teach the importance of social-based learning and soft skills as well as digital literacy. Not to mention an added benefit – plenty of opportunities to network with likeminded professionals all over the world. This is something campus-based programs can’t offer.  

“Online MBAs are also about facilitating mobile access and dynamic navigation throughout content curriculum, media, individual and group activities, originating a full differentiated and customized student learning journey that can be taken according to time availability, multitasking priorities and convenience,” adds Filipe Castro Soeiro of the University of Europe Laureate Digital. “There is also room for personalized coaching throughout online live discussions and social network learning. In contrast, traditional classroom based MBAs are fixed for location and time, and typically more rigid in terms of the teaching and learning methods and types of interactions among students and teachers.”

The real value of an MBA will always depend on the ebb and flow of the economy and trends in business. While return on investment in the form of salary may not be as high as it used to be during the MBA glory days of the 1980s and 1990s, it’s still one of the most versatile and respected master’s degrees out there. According to the Director of Europe’s INSEAD, 90% of their 2014-2015 graduates reported employment three months after graduation in a total of 57 different countries. Having MBA educated employees continues to be considered a huge asset for growing businesses.

“I believe that full-time MBA programs are the best vehicles by which young people can develop the leadership qualities that allow them to meet the monumental challenges of tomorrow’s business environment,” says Paul Danos, the dean of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. “The world needs well-educated and mature young people who are prepared to lead in the burgeoning firms that are growing with the world economies.”

The MBA is still on the rise and pursuing one tells employers you’re ambitious with strong leadership abilities – and who wouldn’t want to hire someone like that?

Register now for further information on these programs and more at the University of Europe Laureate Digital, and become part of our global network.

Register now for further information on University of Europe Laureate Digital programs and become part of our global network.

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