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Are all MBA programs the same?

Do they cover the same topics, or do some programs specialize in one particular area( e.g. economics, accounting, etc.)

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Thomas’s Answer

There are no two MBA programs that are exactly the same. Every business school has their own strengths and focus. Some schools may be better at teaching entrepreneurship, while others may be better at teaching finance or marketing. It's important to do your research and find the school that best matches your interests and goals. For example, MIT booth has an executive MBA that is very hands on, designed for those actively in a hands on career already. Other MBAs are more theoretical, designed for those looking to go into a career in economics, finance, etc.
Thank you comment icon Good to know! Thanks! Genevieve
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Jake’s Answer

I received my MBA from Columbia Business School (CBS). CBS is a more finance-heavy program, so there were many students focused on going into investment banking or a finance related field. Though this is the case, the vast majority of students did not go into finance. Most schools, though they have their idiosyncrasies are similar. That being said, every school has their strengths. E.g. Northwestern is famous for marketing. Given this, they most likely attract great marketing professors and invest more heavily into marketing resources/events. Yale SOM has been known to have a non-profit/social enterprise focus, but is a great school for whatever you'd like to do. Overall, when considering MBA programs you should consider the following: (1) location - you'll develop a strong network in that area. Most of your peers will leave and move to the nearest big city (2) Prestige of the program - Good programs are more valuable. The better the program, the more opportunities you have leaving it. Regardless of what the school is known for in regards to their focus (e.g. Northwestern and marketing). (3) Strengths of the program - This is where you should consider what clubs the program has, where students from this school get jobs, what classes you may want to take there, what professors they have that you'd love to learn from/work with, is it in a big city and thus offers internships year-round?, what kind of students go there? (non-profit focused, finance, tech, marketing, etc.) (4) Difficulty of the program - some programs are known for their difficulty (MIT, Chicago, HBS) - Take this into considerations, but don't let it guide you too much. MBA is not a very hard program.
Thank you comment icon This was really helpful, thank you! Genevieve
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Alex’s Answer

Hi Genevieve:

At the core most of the MBAs have the same curriculum, the differences are usually at the end of the career where different specializations can be taken, for example: Analytics, Healthcare Management, Human Resources Management, Finance, Marketing, etc.

Good luck in your search for the best suited MBA program that aligns with your goals.



Alex.
Thank you comment icon Cool! Thanks for taking the time to answer my question! Genevieve
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Ali’s Answer

Hi Genevieve,

Echoing others here that no two programs are alike. Format (e.g., part-time vs full-time, in-person vs virtual), program strengths (as others have alluded to - e.g., finance vs marketing vs non-profit etc; club offerings; employment placings; etc), prestige, location, size of student body, teaching methods (case method vs lecture vs experiential), etc are all important factors in choosing the program that is right for you.

If you're starting to think about business school, I'd encourage you to read the program rankings, program comparisons (e.g. Poets & Quants usually has some detailed write-ups comparing programs), employment reports; reach out to alumni to get "the inside scoop" on what attending a program is like (you can find college or employer alumns to reach out to on LinkedIn, for example). If you think you may want to attend an in-person program, I would also highly recommend visiting. Take the tours, attend a class, sit in an atrium or student center to get a feeling of what it's like on campus, visit the surrounding towns/cities to see if it's an area you can live for two years.

Best of luck in your MBA journey! :)
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the well wishes and for the advice! :-) Genevieve
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Gulshan’s Answer

Similar - yes, of course.
Same - absolutely no.

No two programs will be alike. Each program, and each school offering those programs will have their strengths and weaknesses, their own unique selling propositions, their specializations, their faculty which often are not shared across schools, and ultimately the soft skills and industry connections each school can offer and does actually leverage - there's just too many things that are simply impossible to align or sometimes even compare across programs.

I'm sure you'll find similar advice across the board, but do your research into what interests you, what are the core strengths you need to or would like to build upon, what future works for you, what industries are your favored ones, etc.

If you know alumni from a particular school, talk to them to get the inside scoop into what their experiences were like - nothing compares to firsthand knowledge, gleaned from personal experience. Ask them how are they doing professionally, what their experiences were like academically, especially during the recent pandemic-affected years (if they were in school then, or passed out during that time).

Having said that, there are going to be some basic similarities in any MBA program worth its salt, and those schools that don't make the cut against your basic criteria (e.g., offering specializations you are looking for, or poor placement record, or inflexible schedules / curricula, etc.) should not be on your list.

Gulshan recommends the following next steps:

Visit https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/mba-rankings, one of the most respected and long-standing B-school rankings around, to find what separates different programs and schools from each other.
An alternate but nearly equally respected ranking is here: https://www.bloomberg.com/business-schools/regions/us
Fortune Magazine's rankings are here: https://fortune.com/education/business/mba/rankings/best-mba-programs/
Thank you comment icon Wow! Thanks for the resources! Genevieve
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