What Can You Do With an MBA?

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A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is not a golden ticket to career success, but the skills you acquire in an MBA program can give you an edge inside and outside of the business field. Most MBA programs are designed to help students acquire the hard and soft skills that employers look for in well-rounded job candidates.

Hard MBA Skills

Hard skills are the types of skills that can be easily defined, taught and measured. Examples of hard skills include speaking a foreign language or being able to calculate financial ratios.

  • Quantitative Skills: Being able to utilize data is an important skill in today's business world. Nearly every MBA program has one or more courses that are specifically designed to help students learn how to collect data and manipulate numbers using basic business math. Students are also taught how to analyze the quantitative data that they collect to solve complex problems and make effective business decisions. 
  • Strategic Planning Skills: Strategic planning is vital to the success of any company. MBA students learn how to assess objectives, set goals, formulate strategies to achieve the company mission, and execute strategic plans. They study several strategic planning frameworks and acquire the skills needed to communicate, evaluate and adjust strategic plans at the organizational and departmental levels. 
  • Risk Management Skills: There is some amount of risk associated with every business venture, so it's no surprise that risk assessment and analysis has become a key component of business strategy. In an MBA program, students learn how to identify, evaluate and mitigate financial and operational risks. They study different types of threats, legal liabilities, regulatory compliance and alleviation strategies
  • Project Management Skills: Project management, which is a specialized form of management, is increasingly used in business to achieve organizational goals. MBA programs use a combination of coursework, cases studies and extracurricular activities to teach students how to initiate, plan, execute and control work teams. Students graduate with the ability to prioritize tasks, optimize corporate processes and manage all types of projects from start to finish. 

Soft MBA Skills

Soft skills are skills learned through practice or even trial and error. They are not always easily measured. Patience, work ethic and communication skills are all examples of soft skills.

  • Communication Skills: Being able to communicate with diverse audiences is an important skill in the business field. While in an MBA program, students learn how to communicate orally and in writing. They also learn the finer points of communication, such as adjusting tone and non-verbal cues to be more convincing and persuasive.
  • Global Competence: Today's business world is interconnected. Many MBA programs recognize this fact by offering students the opportunity to increase global competencies through diverse student bodies and global experiences. Students learn how to consider multiple perspectives, appreciate cultural differences and act on issues of global significance.
  • Leadership Skills: Being a good leader is key for anyone in a supervisory position. MBA programs help students acquire the skills needed to coach, train and motivate a wide variety of people. Students learn how to innovate and handle real-life business dilemmas. 
  • Collaboration Skills: Nobody works alone in business. The ability to collaborate with management and team members is an important skill to acquire. Many MBA programs emphasize group work to give students practice in a collaborative environment. Students learn how to develop relationships and achieve goals as a team.

    Transferable MBA Skills

    Many of the skills that students obtain in an MBA program are useful in business careers, but they are also transferable, which means that MBA grads can take what they have learned and apply it to situations and careers outside of the business field. For example, all employers value soft skills like collaboration, communication and leadership skills. Global competency is also important, particularly in inclusive companies or companies with an international presence.

    Hard skills are similarly transferable. For example, MBA grads can take the analysis and decision making skills needed to assess risk and data and apply them to non-business functions. Employers also value job candidates who are able to identify objectives, set goals and prioritize tasks, three skills that are obtained through the study of strategic planning and project management.