Can You Get an MBA Without a Business Degree?

There’s a misconception that a prerequisite to earning a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) is an undergraduate degree in a business-focused area of study. The truth is, not only are non-business degree holders commonly found in these full- and part-time programs, they make up the majority (54%) of MBA students, according to recent surveys.

Most universities don’t require business-specific work experience on your resume, even if you also don’t have a business degree on your transcript, and numerous programs don’t require work experience at all. In fact, pursuing an MBA can be especially worthwhile if you come from a non-business career or hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field (i.e., healthcare, technology, or the arts).  

If one of your career goals is to advance into a management or executive leadership role, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with business principles such as personnel management, budgeting, and strategy development. Adding an MBA gives you the ability to engage your team knowledgeably about their industry-specific challenges and wins, and lead confidently on the business side.

Start by Bolstering Your Business Knowledge

Education returns the level of effort you’re willing to invest in it. So if you enter an MBA program without a business background, you should work independently to bring a baseline understanding of accounting, finance, marketing, and economics into the classroom, giving you the ability to engage with the content and your peers from Day One.

Some programs, like George Fox University’s MBA, offer modules to help incoming students bolster their business knowledge if they lack business courses on their transcript. Other programs require professional work experience or have prerequisite courses that must be taken prior to admission.

Admissions counselors and program directors have resources they may require or can recommend. A good starting point – even for those deciding if an MBA is a right path – is to educate yourself with quality business books (see recommendations below).

If you have some catching up to do in terms of business vocabulary and principles, be confident that the same work ethic and problem-solving that helped you succeed in your upper-division undergraduate courses will help you succeed in your pursuit of an MBA.

Consider the Advantages of Cohorts

You may also want to consider joining a cohort-centric program where students engage in the content within a small-group format.

“A cohort model will surround you with other new MBA students who have experience in a variety of industries to help you master the topics that are new to you, while you share your unique experience with your cohort as well,” says Kathy Milhauser, George Fox University’s MBA program director.  

As you decide if an MBA is a right catalyst for your professional trajectory, make sure you meet admissions requirements or have a plan to meet them in the future. The most common requirement is a bachelor’s degree. Be wary of business schools that don’t require one; they will likely be unable to deliver an academic experience that will provide value to you. 

Other common requirements include a minimum GPA (often 3.0), personal or professional references, and a personal statement. Some programs also require the GMAT, though this standardized test is becoming a less common requirement in favor of proven success in the professional world or in past academic programs.

Regardless of your professional and academic background, an MBA is achievable. The work that you’re willing to invest in will return dividends to you – both while you’re in the program and in your career for years to come.

Interested in ramping up your business knowledge as you prepare to apply for or enter an MBA program? Check out these three recommendations from MBA faculty at George Fox University:

Questions?