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What is an MBA?

What is an MBA program?

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is a graduate degree that emphasizes leadership, management and marketing skills across a range of business operations.  

Applicable to a wide range of business careers, an MBA is well known among graduate business degrees and can feel like a natural next step to those who already have a BS. As a highly recognized credential around the world, it can feel like a natural next step for business professionals looking to enhance their knowledge and career potential.

If you’re asking yourself, “Should I get an MBA?” read on to learn more about what you’ll learn in an MBA program, plus its costs, career alignment and more.

What is an MBA?

An MBA is a type of graduate degree in business. Business administration refers to managing the operations of a commercial enterprise.

As a master’s-level degree, an MBA program typically requires a bachelor’s degree for admission. However, every university has its own admissions requirements. Some universities require prospective students to take certain courses before enrolling if they have a non-business-related undergraduate degree. University of Phoenix does not necessarily require this, although prospective MBA students must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited university and meet a certain GPA threshold, among other factors.

MBA coursework typically covers areas like accounting, finance, marketing and operations, as well as “people skills” like leadership and communication. There are different types of MBA programs, such as online, flexible and competency-based (CB) MBAs. Unlike a traditional MBA, a competency-based degree is designed for professionals with a business degree and experience working in the field. This allows students to apply what they already know to earn their degree faster.

MBAs can also be earned with an accounting or HR certificate, giving graduates specialized knowledge in a critical business function. Unlike undergraduate degrees in business, which tend to focus on foundational knowledge, MBA programs emphasize more in-depth expertise.

What is the difference between an MBA and a master's?

An MBA is a type of master’s degree. But unlike business-oriented master’s degrees that focus on a single subject, such as a master’s in management or finance, an MBA covers multiple areas of business for a comprehensive understanding of operations. Knowing what is in an MBA degree can help you decide if it’s right for you.

MBA coursework is designed to prepare students to manage business operations effectively and successfully by emphasizing strategic planning, marketing analysis, entrepreneurship and more. Students gain an overview of each function as well as how they work together to develop strategic leadership skills. 

What can you do with an MBA?

An MBA is often a stepping stone to managerial and leadership roles. It may even be required for executive-level jobs.

The job outlook for these kinds of positions is promising: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected more than 1 million openings in management occupations each year from 2022 through 2032. This can include positions such as business manager, general manager (GM), operations director and administrative director. Employers may prefer an MBA for some positions.

An MBA on a resumé may enhance career opportunities by showing proof of business expertise and an ability to handle critical business decisions and planning. Knowing what you can do with an MBA may help you decide if it’s the right degree for you. 

Should you pursue an MBA? 

Pursuing an MBA is a personal decision. If you want a leadership position in a business, an MBA can be a good investment. But it’s important to consider several factors first.

For example, MBA tuition can be significant, and you must decide if that investment in your education is worth it to you in terms of career goals and personal fulfillment. Earning an MBA enhances your practical and theoretical knowledge in the field of business and can be useful to various career paths. You’ll have to make time in your schedule to focus on coursework, however, even for a limited time while earning your degree, and this may be difficult if you also work a full-time job. This could impact time with family and other personal obligations.

Some people may decide they will benefit more from an MBA with a few years of work experience, while others may want to start a program right after earning a bachelor’s degree.

Consider the application process as well. Some programs require applicants to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and submit a personal essay and letters of recommendation. However, at University of Phoenix you don’t need the GMAT, GRE, recommendation letters or essays for the standard MBA program — just a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA. See further requirements on the University of Phoenix admissions page

Is getting an MBA hard?

Many people have concerns and misconceptions about how hard it is to earn an MBA. Consider that the MBA is the most popular graduate degree in the United States. While coursework is designed to be challenging, it may not be as demanding as specialized degrees in science or engineering, for example. However, students do have to analyze and synthesize information, conduct research, write papers and collaborate on projects.

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns about earning an MBA is managing the time requirements. Students need to be able to meet deadlines for studying and assignments while also finding time for family and other responsibilities, such as work.

Here are some tips to help navigate this balancing act:

  • If you’re already a professional working in the business field, you can choose a self-led or flexible program, such as University of Phoenix’s Competency-Based MBA.
  • Block out time every week for studying and homework.
  • Talk to a partner or family members about how they could help, such as by taking on more household tasks.
  • See where you can temporarily cut back on social or volunteer commitments.

It’s important to take time to relax as well. Managing stress effectively is essential to quality learning and getting the most out of an MBA program.

How much does an MBA program cost?

An MBA program’s cost depends on a number of factors, such as the type of institution (private, public, online) and whether you have to pay out-of-state tuition fees.

At University of Phoenix, the 2023–2024 Cost of Attendance (COA) estimates that the tuition and fees for a master’s degree are $16, 128[1] for the academic year. This does not include costs like books, supplies and other course materials that may be needed. Review the master’s COA breakdown further on the UOPX website. If you’re interested in a master’s credit-based CB, the 2023–2024 COA tuition and fees are estimated to be $7,200. Review the master’s credit-based COA breakdown on the UOPX website

Students may be eligible for financial aid to help cover the cost of their program. In addition, some employers may have tuition reimbursement programs or be willing to pay full or partial tuition for employees they want to promote internally, although CB programs at UOPX are not eligible for employer tuition discounts or military tuition rates.

[1] The tuition component of the cost of attendance is based on a per-credit weighted average for the credential level across the entire University.

Estimated salary ranges

An MBA can help prepare you to pursue management and leadership positions. For example, according to BLS, the annual wage range for all management occupations, such as business manager, occupational manager and sales manager, was $54,550 to $231,620 as of May 2023, with a median wage of $116,880. Of course, salary ranges vary by occupation and other factors, such as location, experience and company, among others. 

In general, research shows that higher levels of education translate to higher pay. Workers with more education are also less likely to face unemployment.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

How to pursue an MBA 

The first step to pursuing an MBA is to have a bachelor’s degree. For those whose undergraduate degree is not in an area of business, it can be helpful to have at least a few years of work experience.

Research the types of MBA programs, their curricula and costs. Decide if you want to take an online or in-person program, study part or full time and whether you want a standard, accelerated or self-paced course of study.

Knowing how long it takes to get an MBA can help narrow your options, so compare credit requirements and average completion times for programs you research.

When you’ve decided on the programs you are interested in, look at the application and admission requirements. Some programs may require you to take the GMAT or GRE as a condition of admission.

Fill out the application, which may ask for your academic records, work history and reasons for pursuing an MBA. When you’ve gathered all the application materials, submit them as directed.

What is an MBA program like?

MBA programs provide a well-rounded business education that prepares students to tackle the challenges of business leadership. Their structure usually includes a core curriculum and electives. At UOPX, however, electives are not offered. MBA programs may also include optional specializations.

Core courses focus on fundamental business areas as well as topics like statistics, economics and quantitative analysis. If electives are provided in a specific program, they provide the option to explore areas of particular interest in more depth, such as international business, entrepreneurship or digital marketing.

Many classes in online master's business degrees offer hands-on learning by incorporating real-world business cases and projects into coursework. Coursework often culminates in a major project, which may be a written report, thesis or presentation. Although this may vary depending on the specific program.

Duration of MBA programs

Many prospective students ask, “How long does it take to get an MBA?” Depending on the type of Master of Business Administration program and the number of classes you take, an MBA usually takes about two years.

The MBA program at University of Phoenix can take as little as 16 months. Some students complete the degree faster by taking an accelerated program, doubling up on classes or being a full-time student.

The MBA-CB program can be completed in less than 12 months. The primary difference between the traditional program and the CB program is how the courses are scheduled. In the CB program, students take four courses at one time over 16 weeks, while in the traditional program, students take one 6-week course at a time.  

Exploring specialized MBA programs

Dual degree programs offer a way to combine general business expertise with advanced studies in a specific area in less time than it would take to earn two master’s degrees separately. There are also competency-based programs.

Dual MHA/MBA degree program

A dual Master of Health Administration/Master of Business Administration program provides the comprehensive business administration education of an MBA with studies focused on the administrative and business aspects of the healthcare industry, such as the regulatory environment and the impact of economic and financial factors.

An MHA/MBA program can prepare students to work effectively as leaders of healthcare and health-related facilities and organizations.

Compentency-based MBA degrees

In a Master of Business Administration Competency-Based (CB) degree program, students earn credit by demonstrating their ability in core skills rather than through traditional classes and homework. These programs are usually self-paced and emphasize practical ability.

Because students can gain credit for competencies they already have, competency-based MBAs are usually less expensive and take less time than traditional MBAs. Tuition for the University of Phoenix Competency-Based MBA is roughly estimated to be $11,000 and can be completed in 12 months.

MBA at University of Phoenix 

An MBA can be a smart investment in preparation for future opportunities. But it’s important to understand all that goes into pursuing an MBA, including the demands on your time and finances. Knowing what an MBA entails and how to find the best program are key to making an informed decision.

If you’re ready to take the next step, get started by learning more about your MBA options at University of Phoenix.

Headshot of Michael Feder


A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.


This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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