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Master of Business Administration (MBA) courses are designed to teach the skills you need for a career in business, and lead to the award of an internationally-recognised postgraduate qualification.
MBA courses cover topics such as business policy and strategy, operational and strategic management, marketing, market research, finance and accounting, IT, human resource management, leadership, entrepreneurship and international trade.
Studying business in the UK can be a valuable boost to your career – see Business and management for more information about UK business courses. An MBA can further boost your earning potential. In the Association of MBAs 2010 career survey, the average salary for MBA graduates was £73,000 globally, and salaries increased up to 150% ten years after graduation.
What can I study?
Most full-time MBA programmes in the UK run for one or two years, and part-time programmes run for up to three years. Your MBA programme will generally include lectures, seminars, case studies, group projects and role-playing exercises, and you’ll need to read extensively around your subjects.
There’s a wide range of programmes to choose from, but typically, you will study a core curriculum during the first term that covers subjects such as Finance, Marketing, Human resources (personnel), Economics, Accounting, Information systems (computer systems for business management), Operations and Quantitative methods.
In the second term, you can usually choose from a number of optional subjects (electives) and shape your MBA programme to suit your career goals. Increasingly, MBA programmes are tailored to particular industries or aspects of management – for example, financial management, hospitality, sport or international business.
If you want to specialise even further, instead of a General MBA, you can choose to study a Specialist MBA and focus on a particular sector (such as education or healthcare), or business area (such as marketing or HR).
If you have a higher level of work experience, you might look at an Executive MBA (EMBA). EMBA students often have over 10 years’ experience in a management role, and most study part-time to gain an MBA while continuing to work.
If you aren’t able to study in the UK, you could opt for distance or online learning. These programmes use textbooks, CDs and DVDs, web-based resources and sometimes video-conferencing. Many business schools provide local support and, if you’re studying in your own country, you may be able to meet up with academic staff from the UK.
Other postgraduate qualifications
If you’re interested in an MBA but don't yet have enough professional experience to qualify, you could consider a Master’s in Business and Management (MBM), or choose from Master’s degrees in Management, Finance, Marketing, Human Resources, Economics and more. These courses are designed to teach practical business skills, but don't require as much prior experience in a job.
To find these courses, just select ‘Postgraduate’ from the menu above, and enter the subject you’re interested in. On the course details page, you’ll find out more about the fees and entry requirements of each course.
Read more about postgraduate qualifications in Higher education – Courses and qualifications.
Choosing and applying
There are many different league tables to look at, and you might want to rank schools by student satisfaction, teaching quality or reputation with employers – read more here. When you’re considering a business school, ask them about the companies that recruit graduates from their programmes, and look at the type of organisations their alumni now work for. This will give you an idea of how the school is viewed by the industry.
Course fees can vary from £16,000 to over £40,000 on accredited programmes. However, bear in mind that expensive tuition fees don’t guarantee a top-class MBA, nor do low fees indicate a programme is of lower quality.
To enrol, you should apply directly to the business schools of your choice – contact them by email for details. The application deadline can be as early as the January before the September start date, so make sure you check the requirements well in advance.
Many institutions ask you to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) before you can join a course. This test covers verbal reasoning and numerical analysis. It is designed to check that you can cope with studying for an MBA.
To join a course, you usually also need to have:
- Prior business experience – usually a minimum of two or three years in a management position.
- An undergraduate degree (this doesn’t necessarily have to be in a business subject).
As a result, MBA students are usually at least 25 years old.
In this short film, Felix Yang from China shows what it's like to study for an MBA at Cardiff University: