The Changing MBA Curriculum: 4 New Areas of Emphasis

girl graduation capThe financial collapse of 2008 rocked the business world in far-reaching ways. In addition to Wall Street sanctions, government bailouts and banking collapses, consequences of the fallout trickled into MBA programs. According to information from a recent MBA roundtable, nearly 94 percent of MBA programs have made major curriculum changes over the past five years.

It’s a great time to earn an MBA, whether you’re going the traditional or the online route. In today’s world, online degree programs from the best schools offer a blend of schedule flexibility and academic rigor. The hiring outlook for MBA graduates is good. According to different sources, the average starting salary for an MBA graduate is between $61,000 and $78,820. Also, 85 percent of U.S. companies, according to Businessweek, have plans to hire MBA graduates. Sixty-one percent of MBA students report that they have job offers before graduation. Students may notice, however, that today’s MBA degree courses look different from they did just five years ago.

New Focus on Entrepreneurship

Hiring levels at existing companies fell during the economic crisis, so MBA programs responded by empowering their students to start their own ventures. According to research firm CarringtonCrisp, which interviewed MBA candidates in 79 countries, entrepreneurship is one of the top five courses prospective MBAs want to pursue. In fact, 30 percent named it the most important component of an MBA program.

Entrepreneurship classes give MBAs the skills to launch, finance and grow new companies. Students also learn how to find new markets and how to create jobs. Most importantly, they learn to think strategically and creatively in a way they don’t in other types of business courses. These skills are helping students start businesses not only in America, but in developing countries all over the world.

Business Goes International

businessman explaining to colleagueToday’s businesses work with a global customer base, and today’s MBA graduates encounter many people from different cultures in their work. Also, people who earn MBAs today tend to have classmates from countries all around the world. They may work on teams together or interact online, but they all bring different cultural perspectives. To maximize opportunities, MBAs must learn the difference between how businesses work in developed countries and how they are affected by emerging markets.

By emphasizing international business, today’s MBA programs sometimes offer students the chance to travel to other countries for conventions or other learning experiences. Since students from all over the world participate in the programs, everyone develops an international network. Instead of taking jobs close to home, many MBA graduates are opting to take off on new challenges overseas.

Emphasis on Leadership

Business programs have taken a hard look at their responsibility for creating high-quality leaders for business, government and nonprofit work. Just a few years ago, MBA programs were sold as easy tickets to high-paying jobs. The focus was less on creating tomorrow’s leaders and more on pushing through diplomas.

Instead of sitting and listening to lectures or reading textbooks, students are doing more role-playing related to leadership. They listen to high-powered speakers not only from the business world, but from other organizations like the military. In addition, they’re getting training in skills that business schools often ignore: emotional intelligence, authenticity and self-knowledge. Also, more coursework focuses on assembling problem-solving teams in lieu of individuals writing essays or answering multiple-choice questions.

Importance of Ethics

The fall of Lehman Brothers wasn’t as much about blatant wrongdoing as other past corporate scandals, like the Enron scandal. However, financial advisors working at Lehman Brothers and “quants” that put together complicated financial products weren’t necessarily making ethical choices about people’s investments and money. Business schools have retooled their approaches to show MBA students how their decisions affect not only the bottom line, but society at large.

In many cases, the emerging science of behavioral economics enables MBAs to understand that not all choices in business are rational. Business students may discover that instead of teaching separate ethics courses, ethics is now blending into formerly straightforward classes like finance or accounting. They’re learning that phrasing everything as an equation takes the focus off of the human element. Today’s MBAs can power not only profits, but a better world. 

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