MBA Curriculum: Building Essential Skills

MBA graduates are expected to have the skills needed for business success following graduation, but how you attain those skills will differ from program to program. The MBA curriculum will guide the program. Most MBA programs have similar core courses with major differences in elective courses, but there are some essentials that you should look for in a quality MBA curriculum.

MBA Curriculum – Core Courses

Although MBA programs often require a few years of work experience prior to admission, it is not a requirement to have a business undergraduate degree. Therefore, not all students in class will have the business fundamentals they need for an advanced degree program. In most MBA programs, typically, the first year of the MBA curriculum provides the foundation for more advanced courses and specific electives that will be taken later in the program.

Although the MBA curriculum will vary among MBA programs, generally it includes a mix of courses in marketing, finance, management, accounting, economics, and statistics.

Often the second year of an MBA program curriculum will be the time when students can take courses for their specialty, as well as more advanced courses above the core foundations.

At Mason’s School of Management, our innovative MBA curriculum offers future business leaders the tools they need for career success. Rigorous and relevant coursework is a staple of the Mason MBA.  World-class faculty are dedicated to leadership growth, and experiential learning is built into all classes.

MBA Curriculum – Beyond the Books

Essentials to look for in a quality education go beyond the subject matter of the courses you’ll take, but also what enhanced learning opportunities are available within individual courses. When looking at MBA programs, examine what methods are used by faculty when teaching courses to enhance learning.

At Mason, inside the classroom, faculty have designed MBA curriculum that will challenge and engage you and all of your skills. Faculty offer real-world discussions and provide activities outside of the classroom allowing you to integrate theory and practice. Faculty use role-playing, simulations, projects, and guest speakers to enhance your learning from lectures, textbooks and class discussions. In many classes, you learn from the same Harvard case studies as your Harvard MBA counterparts.

But the MBA curriculum goes even beyond these extras. It is much more than what you will learn in your classroom or maybe even on your campus. It is also about what you can learn abroad. At Mason, faculty make the world your classroom. Hands on, global, experiential learning, is the hallmark of Mason’s global residency program, a requirement for all MBA students. This invaluable opportunity allows students to gain a global perspective and insights into other business cultures, as well as examine the world economy and the risks and opportunities that exist in global business. Mason was among the first public universities in the US to require a week-long international experience of our MBA students. Residencies rotate every year, among South America, Europe, Asia and Africa, where students meet with prominent business leaders and serve as consultants, developing solutions to realtime global business challenges.

An MBA curriculum should provide you with the leadership skills you need to build a successful organization and effectively manage business resources, technology and operations—you should be able to see the big picture. It should teach you to use your creativity and problem-solving skills to address the challenges you experience on the job, no matter what industry you are in, or where your career takes you.

When exploring options for an MBA program, always remember to consider more than just the courses that are listed in the MBA curriculum. Experiential learning both inside and outside the classroom—guest lectures, simulations, first-hand global residencies, and more—all contribute to a transformational MBA experience that will serve you throughout your career.


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Paige Wolf

As director of graduate programs at George Mason's School of Business, my vision is to have a vibrant, collegial community of active learners who develop enduring professional relationships with faculty, staff, and fellow students while pursuing their degrees. Prior to this position, I spent 11 years with the School of Business as an associate professor of management teaching both MBA and undergraduate courses in organizational behavior and human resource management. I have more than 16 years of experience as an internal and external consultant on strategic human resource initiatives including team building, organizational development, competency modelling, performance management, employee selection systems, career planning, employee training and development, leadership assessment, and human resource audits.

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