Best Undergraduate Degrees for MBAs
If you’re looking to get an MBA there are a lot of things you need to do along the way – scoring well on the SAT or ACT, getting into a competitive college, deciding in a major, and scoring well on the GMAT. As with any graduate degree, not all undergraduate degrees are seen as equal and an MBA is of no exception. If you want to get into the top schools to get an MBA degree then you’ll want to heed the advice from one of our experts to maximize your chances of getting in and making your application shine.
STEM or Business Degrees
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees and business degrees tend to be among the most popular choices for many hopeful MBAs. The technical thinking and hard skills acquired from the degree fit perfectly with an MBA, where many candidates need to be good at mathematics and accounting.
In fact, Cyrus Vanover, Founder of Frugal Budgeter, agrees at least in part. However, there’s one degree he thinks that is more valuable than others when it comes to future MBAs.
“Without a doubt, the best undergraduate degree for those who want to obtain an MBA is accounting. Accounting is commonly referred to as “the language of business” for a reason. A critical skill for all MBA degree holders is to be able to understand and interpret the information contained in a company’s balance sheet, profit and loss statement, retained earnings statement, and statement of cash flows. Critical decisions that will affect the company will be made from the information in these and other accounting documents, and MBA graduates must have a solid background in accounting to correctly interpret financial information.”
This line of thinking is exactly the reason why many people go with STEM or Busines degrees. While Accounting gives you the ability to interpret financial information than the STEM agrees, they often go deeper in math and can help build critical skills not found in many other majors.
Terry McDougall, Founder of Terry B. McDougall Coaching, mostly agrees. However, she doesn’t discount other undergraduate degrees as she believes any type of degree can be beneficial. However, she still definitely has a preference for some degrees:
“My opinion is that any undergraduate major can go on to get an MBA and in some cases having an unusual undergraduate major such as philosophy, art history or English, might differentiate you from the typical business school applicant with a BBA in accounting, finance, or marketing, or the Economics major, especially if the candidate wants to lead a business career in a field related to their undergraduate major.
However, an MBA is a degree that requires strong math skills so anyone coming from a background without strong math and analytical skills might struggle in some of the finance, accounting and statistics classes that are part of the core curriculum.”
“Any STEM degree is fantastic – An MBA is a great option for many, but it’s particularly useful to those who already have a degree in a STEM field. The vast majority of the skills and topics covered in an MBA program are focused in “softer” areas of business. These are subjects like management, organizational behavior, and corporate strategy. Most programs do not have a heavy focus on the quantitative aspects of business which makes a STEM degree such a great pairing for an MBA. Students who can successfully incorporate the quantitative aspects of their STEM degree with the more qualitative aspects of an MBA will bring a fantastic set of skills to any organization.”
“Degrees in creative fields (writing, architecture, design, etc.) are great candidates – One of the biggest issues with many candidates who want to pursue an MBA is standing out from the crowd. Hordes of candidates from finance, consulting, and other typical career paths are submitting applications every year which makes it very difficult for people in those fields to stand out. Candidates from less-traditional and more creative fields are in higher demand as a result. If you’re able to take a degree in a competitive field, like most that creative undergrad degrees, and put together 3-5 years of impressive work experience you’ll be in a very good place to be accepted into a top MBA program. These programs love diverse candidates and receive relatively few applications from qualified candidates in these fields.”
“a double major or multi-faceted course of study for college. Dual degrees show intellectual horsepower and a range of curiosity and skills. Formats of degrees can be a double major. Or, it can be a major in one area and minor or specialization in another area.
The two domains I prefer for MBA applicants are 1) a pre-professional major such as Economics that has analytical coursework. Stats and Calculus are helpful for the MBA and also 2) a second domain for the double degree or minor that reflects a passion, communication finesse, cultural affinity and/or liberal arts interest. This can convey appreciation for diversity, systemic thinking, creative problem solving and, at times, social consciousness.
The second domain may be from the disciplines of political science, history, religion, language or culture such as Asian studies, etc. Any combination of the above would be ideal, even if it’s a primary liberal arts major in History, for example, and then a minor or specialization in Economics. A single degree is welcome by MBA programs and is common among MBA applicants, although we would encourage extra coursework if possible in an alternative domain to the major.
“unlike many other specializations, business degrees don’t always require a standard set of qualifying undergrad degrees. Fields such as Engineering, Physics, and other science degrees are sometimes preferred by universities that wish to diversify their student population. I’m a prime example of such a scenario. Before pursuing an MBA at Bentley University, MA, USA, I held a Bachelors degree in Biotechnology. Clearly, that was never my calling and I successfully went the unconventional route.”
What Degrees Are Good If You’re In India?
Of course, education systems around the world are different. STEM and analytics degrees have been clear cut winners, but is this true in India? Well, yes. Things don’t change THAT much halfway across the world.
Anshul Kapoor from MBA Rendevous describes the process in India more,
” In India, three-fourths of graduates studying in the IIMs (top management college) are from an engineering background. Engineers (IT or non-IT) have the edge over other undergrads – 1. They have strong technical know-how. Topping it up with functional knowledge gives them an advantage.2. The subjects that undergrads study and projects they work on during engineering hone their critical and analytical thinking. These skills are further polished while pursuing an MBA.3. Engineers are problem-solvers and solution-oriented.
Adding an MBA helps them to be micro and macro-level problem solvers. Micro-level problems can be technical or team related, and macro-level issues can be dealing with cross-functional challenges. 4. Exams like Common Aptitude Test (CAT) conducted for the IIMs focus majorly on quantitative ability, data interpretation, and logical / analytical reasoning. Coming from an engineering background gives an edge since they study related subjects during undergrad. An MBA after an engineering degree is like a match made in heaven.”
So what’s the best degree? It’s easy to say STEM or Business degrees are the most popular choices. After all, they are analytical degrees for an analytical Masters. However, if you enjoy other majors don’t let it stop you. It’s clear to see that other majors can do just as well in an MBA program and may even help you to stand out from other applicants as the majority of applicants will have STEM or Business undergraduate degrees.