The skills taught in an MBA program can help you reap immediate benefits. Students can learn how to be a better manager and leader by gaining skills in leadership, strategy, analytics, change management, and more. Having an MBA degree and these skills can open all sorts of doors for your career.
We talked to Dilip Chhajed, Associate Dean of Online Programs & Strategic Innovations, for a look at the skills you learn in an MBA program.
How Will an MBA Help You Develop Your Skills?
First, let’s look at some stats:
- The outlook for jobs in management occupations is projected to grow by 9% from 2020 to 2030, about as average as all occupations, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- According to a 2020 report from the Graduate Management Admission Council, 89% of companies planned to hire MBA graduates by the end of 2021. The numbers are expected to grow as the world comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Consulting, finance, and technology firms are expected to be the top hiring companies for MBA graduates, according to the GMAC.
“I tell everybody they should pursue an MBA,” Chhajed says. “There are very few people who would not benefit from one, because an MBA is a career changer.
“An MBA puts you on a different trajectory. Perhaps your career progress is slow—an MBA can jump-start that. The skills you learn help you more systematically understand business and meet increasing responsibilities.”
The Top 6 Skills You Learn in an MBA Program
An MBA program first gives you broad exposure to the different parts of business. “This helps you learn the language and theories,” Chhajed says. “Then, you can specialize and go deeper into a specific area.”
Here are some of the top skills an MBA program gives you:
The ability to relay information and convey ideas with clarity is always vital.
“An MBA involves making a lot of presentations, doing case studies, and analyzing current situations,” Chhajed says, adding that communication involves expressing views in class, networking with peers and faculty, persuading others, and working in teams.
“This all helps you become a better communicator and decision maker,” he says.
Companies want to hire employees with top-notch communication skills. This is important regardless of which particular career path you choose.
2. Gathering and Using Data
Data and analytics can help a business predict consumer behavior, determine the ROI of marketing efforts or investments in new technology, identify market trends, and improve decision making. But knowing how to gather data and use it is a challenge for businesses.
“The issue used to be how to get data,” Chhajed says. “But that is no longer a problem. We all have data—in fact, we have lots of data. And the question now is, what do we do with it? And how do we use data to figure out what is going on? How do we use data to make good decisions?”
Chhajed says earning an MBA gives you skills in collecting data, analyzing it, and then converting it into usable insights.
Leadership, management, and negotiation are related skills used to exercise influence in business.
Leadership brings about a sense of responsibility, which engenders value and benefits to an organization. Management is about getting people of diverse backgrounds and experience to work together in complex environments. Negotiation is the process of working in teams and inspiring members to achieve the company’s goals, and their own too.
Those successful in this area do more than make management decisions. They also collaborate with their teams, delegate with care, deliver clear instructions, and support their employees with frequent feedback and encouragement.
One helpful effect of pursuing an MBA is the opportunity to build a professional network. Alumni networks and classmates traditionally have been considered strong resources.
“Even in an online program, networking is important,” Chhajed says. “In an MBA program, you get a chance to network, and not just with those who joined with you but also with students from other cohorts who may be taking courses with you because of the flexible nature of the program.
“It’s refreshing to talk to different people in and outside the classroom. You're building professional connections and friendships that can help you later in your career.”
5. Strategic Thinking
Understanding the steps companies must take to succeed is an advantage in the business world. Leaders who can think across business functions and keep in mind the developments in related industries can think strategically and formulate the best plans of action. This means they can look at the market forces at play and create changes in their company to remain competitive.
MBA students learn to employ the latest in risk management planning, performance planning, and project management methodologies.
“You learn to be a strategic thinker when you get an MBA,” Chhajed says. “By becoming a broad thinker, you also start understanding how different parts of the business functions interact together. In addition, you also realize the importance of excellence in execution.”
6. Technology Savviness
Apart from data analysis, MBA students learn how to be technically savvy by gaining exposure to recent developments in new technology, like machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Project management and decision-making also benefit from technical skills. MBA students learn about tools like Microsoft Excel and Python that can help with analysis and reporting.
“Technology is a major disruptor,” Chhajed says. “You should pick up on cutting-edge technology, and how it affects, or it's going to affect, business.”
Grow Your Skills by Earning an MBA
Online MBA students at the Krannert School of Management have access to cutting-edge course content and advanced online learning tools.
“Krannert has a very highly ranked business analytics program and shares courses with the MBA program, among others," Chhajed says. “Many of the courses do follow a more analytical approach in how they approach the problems.
“Even if you are working for a nonprofit or government, business principles are useful to manage these organizations. And that is where an MBA is highly useful.”