Guide to Business School


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What is Business School?

Do you feel that you have great leadership skills?

Do you want to be a boss?

A Business School or School of Business is an institution that offers bachelor’s to postgraduate-level programs that teach students business administration and management concepts. It may also be called a School of Business Administration or School of Management.

Students are exposed to such topics as finance, economics, administration, strategy, and entrepreneurship in a business school. They may also study marketing, accounting, public relations, and leadership.

To put it simply, business schools teach students how to manage a business. Many of the business managers currently working in America today have studied at such schools.

MBA Students

Business school students learn to take academic theories and apply them to real-world business scenarios. Business schools transform students into astute problem solvers and professionals equipped to navigate change, uncertainty, and risk.

Business school overview:

A business school’s curriculum is challenging, and enrolled students must work hard to keep up with the fast and demanding pace of courses. The overwhelming goal of every business student is to get a satisfying, high-paying job once they complete their degrees. So for some, making perfect grades is not as critical as forming a network that results in making contacts with professors, peers, and executives who will prove to be helpful down the road. If you’re ready to boss up, you might want to keep reading.

What is the History of the Business School?

Business schools play an essential role in the nation’s educational and commercial landscape. Each year thousands of students enroll in on-campus and online programs worldwide to gain the unique skills and knowledge needed to land jobs in today’s globalized economy.

Few people are aware of how business schools got their start. Some inaccurately believe that the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, founded by Joseph Wharton in 1881, was the world’s first business school.

Some believe that Harvard Business School was the first business school as it was established in 1908. HBS was the nation’s first business school to offer an MBA. Years later, Harvard Business School was first to introduce the innovation of no textbooks for business programs. They started the practice of interviewing leading practitioners and documenting detailed accounts of their procedures and practices. Professors encouraged their students to read these accounts and offer guidance for the right course of action. The Case Study Method was born from this program, and it is still one of the more popular teaching methods found in business schools today.

Jean Baptiste Say

But even Harvard, arguably the world’s most prestigious business school, did not invent the business school. This honor belongs to The École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris, founded in 1819 by economists and traders, including the noteworthy economist Jean-Baptiste Say and French banker Vital Roux.

The École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris is the oldest establishment dedicated to finance and business teaching in the world. Today, this organization is still in existence and exists as one of Europe’s leading business schools. It is now known as ESCP Europe.

So, while business schools play a significant role in American education and commerce development, the concept was invented in France by Jean-Baptiste Say, who pushed against popular perception of his contemporaries by becoming an advocate of free trade, competition, and easing restraints on business. Jean-Baptiste Say is also credited to coining or popularizing one of business’s most famous words, “entrepreneur.”

What Options Do Business Schools Offer?

Whether you dream of becoming a titan of industry or have an idea that could shape your entrepreneurial career, pursuing a business degree could give you the credentials and experience needed to achieve your career goals.

Today, many of the nation’s colleges and universities offer thousands of training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students interested in learning about how to start or get hired into a commercial enterprise. Business schools help students craft problem-solving approaches essential to success in a business career, such as marketing techniques, deal-making methods, and management strategies.

Experts in the field of business agree it is crucial to find which kind of business program is the best fit as each is designed to serve a specific industry and type of student.

What Types of Business Degrees and Non-degree Programs do Business Schools Offer?

There is a vast array of academic programs in the business field, including online and on-campus programs. Business schools offer a range of non-degree programs, executive education programs, and certificates to many levels of academic degrees, ranging from associate’s degrees to master’s and doctoral programs.

trends increase

Statistics reveal that business professionals with advanced degrees in the field enjoy significantly higher salaries than those who have only accomplished a bachelor’s degree. Graduate Management Admission Council reports that the median annual base starting salary for MBA hires was $115,000 in 2019. That amount more than doubles the median for bachelor’s degree hires of just $55,000. After being adjusted for inflation, the 2019 median MBA salary was the highest ever recorded in the United States, according to the GMAC.

Each level of business school education meets a need and serves a purpose. According to many business program alumni, staff, and administrators, some forms of education provide training for entry-level business roles, and others offer lessons that relate directly to C-suite leadership roles. As some business programs are more specialized than others, prospective business students need to find the right level of education.

Here is a summary of the various types of business programs featured at colleges and universities across America.

The Undergraduate Business Degree (including the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and the Bachelor of Business Administration)

Students interested in a business school’s undergraduate offerings will find several variations to choose from. Some schools feature a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and provide many different emphases for students to choose from, including marketing, accounting, international business, financial management, and entrepreneurship. Alternatively, business schools may provide bachelor’s programs in specific business disciplines like the Bachelor of Science in Finance or the Bachelor of Science in Accounting. Many of the bachelor’s degrees in business are considered stepping stones into lower- or entry-level management positions.

Executive Education and Certification Programs

Certification programs are the ideal options for students who possess the short-term goal of gaining specialized knowledge and skills to advance their careers. Many professionals in business believe that pursuing a certificate in a niche area of business can help working business professionals get promoted or help in landing a new, higher-level position.

Modern business education has made space for micro-credentialing in recent years. Certificates can be invaluable for new college graduates who can’t commit to and invest in a graduate program but can benefit from increased knowledge.

Certificates can also be helpful for actively working business professionals who want to master skills that they missed out on learning in school, such as a veteran businessperson seeking a data analytics certificate. This business discipline focuses on how to utilize information to inform corporate decision-making.

General Master’s in Management

This type of business degree will usually take a year to complete. It can aid a recent college graduate who accomplished a degree in humanities like sociology and is interested in business. The purpose of this degree program is to give a student with no business work or education experience an overview of competencies needed to run a business.

Specialized Master of Science Programs in Specific Business Areas

Business students choosing this route need to make sure they want to concentrate on the area of business their program centers on, like business analytics, IT management, or supply chain management. This type of degree is highly specialized; it won’t include substantial training in business disciplines outside of the concentration.

business professionals

The Part-time Master of Business Administration

Part-time MBA programs are designed to meet the needs of actively working professionals interested in receiving general management education while still working in an organization. This degree can be found online, on-campus, or as a hybrid option as students work through assignments and view lectures during evenings and on weekends.

The Full-time MBA

Full-time MBA programs are suitable for graduate students who have some work experience and want to take time out from their careers to pursue this advanced business degree. This degree bolsters their general management knowledge and skills that will accelerate their careers. MBA students are known for being ambitious and accomplished professionals who hope to rise into executive positions.

The Executive MBA

These degrees provide a comprehensive curriculum on how leaders oversee a complex business and are specifically designed for students already working in business leadership roles. Individuals who expect to move into a C-suite job within the next few years are prime candidates to consider an executive MBA. This type of degree can also be found within a traditional format and an online structure.

The Doctor of Business Administration

The DBA is a natural terminal degree for experienced business leaders interested in teaching college-level business courses.

The Ph.D. in Business

This doctoral degree tends to be research-focused and most suitable for individuals interested in conducting top-level business research that can alter the way people think about business principles.

How Do I Choose the Right Business School?


Once you’ve decided that pursuing a business degree like any of the programs listed above, you may be curious about what business school is the best fit for you. Here are some essential things to consider as you determine this preference-to-fit alignment.

Evaluating Business Schools Begins by Asking the Correct Questions

Choosing the right business school is initiated with a time of self-reflection. While factors like rank and reputation of a business school will play a role, fit ultimately comes down to the business student’s unique needs and characteristics. Therefore, a candidate should ask themselves pointed questions that will unlock their authentic and in-depth preferences. This is how one establishes personalized criteria to discern the fit of various business school programs.

Sample questions may include:

-What courses, extracurriculars, and learning opportunities do I find exciting?
-What personal, professional, and familial responsibilities will impact how much time and flexibility I may need in a program?
-Do a business school’s most significant areas of study align with my career aspirations? 
-What are the advertised requirements for a program, and do I (or can I) fulfill them?
-What type of learning environment do I thrive in?
-Do I prefer large-room lectures with more independent learning opportunities, or will I be more successful in small-based discussion environments?
-What type of academic support—career services, access to tutors, relationships with professors, mentorship programs, internships, and more—do I need to succeed?

Culture-Based Questions that Help Form Business School Preferences

-Do I prefer a large or intimate, urban or suburban learning environment?
-Do I like large amounts of social engagement, or do I perform best with less distraction?
-Am I most comfortable attending a business school in my region, or am I prepared to explore a new city, domestically or internationally?
-If considering a graduate program, am I looking for a similar or unique peer experience than I received as an undergraduate?
-Am I motivated by competitive business/academic environments, or do I prefer to work collaboratively in cohorts?

-Am I responsible for business school program costs, or do I have help?
-Am I currently paying off an undergraduate education or other debt? 
-Is there any financial assistance I can qualify for?
-Will I need to finance program expenses?
-How long am I willing to wait to generate a substantial return on investment (ROI) for my business school experience?
-What non-monetary benefits do I foresee business school providing, and how do they factor into my ROI calculation?

-In 50 words or less, what are my career goals?
-Am I looking to specialize in a specific professional area, switch directions, or build on my existing education, knowledge, and experience?
-Am I already in the professional world, or do I require more support with launching a career?
-What is my dream job?
-What particular industry or organization interests me?
-Where do I see myself working after business school?

After you’ve asked yourself these questions to help guide your thinking in what you want out of a business degree, it’s time to figure out which particular school and program will get you there. There is no one way to find the perfect fit school. However, according to admissions experts from leading schools, nothing beats talking with the staff, students, and alumni. These people are closest to particular programs and the business school experience. They offer an undeniable perspective and are a candidate’s direct line to understanding the academic environment, culture, and a business school’s professional relevance.

How Can I Succeed in Business School?

Some business students spend countless hours working on getting into a reputable program. However, once they are accepted, the constant demands can take over, and students have little time (and energy) to think about how to get the most out of the time they spend pursuing their degree. Here are some tips on how to hit the ground running to make sure you maximize success potential in your associate, undergrad, master’s, MBA, or doctoral program:

business student meeting

Play the “Business School Student Card” Well and Often

Pursuing a degree like the MBA gives students an ability that is too often ignored – the chance to request something because they “are an MBA student.” Business school students can more easily attend conferences, obtain data, get informational interviews, and open more doors than when they are in the professional world with ulterior motives based on a mere job title and organization. Students should use this lever to explore new opportunities, meet new contacts, and figure out what area of business leadership excites them the most.

Invest in an Activity that Energizes You and do it on a Regular Basis

Business school is an active and stressful time. It will be incredibly draining during the first weeks as you become exposed to a new curriculum, meet new people, and adjust to a new city or lesson format. It is easy for business school students to neglect their personal wellbeing amongst the priorities competing for their time. It is a good practice to set aside a set period each week to focus on something outside of business education or work. It could be running in a nearby park, cooking, dancing, or anything else that promotes healthy thoughts and movement. Finding an activity that allows you to reenergize and refresh yourself can be essential to thriving within a business school program.

Remember Who You Are

The best advice you can heed before starting business school might be that the sooner you are yourself, the better your education will be. Business school means being thrown into an environment with new people and exciting opportunities. If not careful, students can quickly find themselves doing things that don’t interest them or their goals. At the same time, it’s essential to try new things while in business school. You want to make sure always to be authentic to yourself.

Establish and Revisit Your Long-term Career Goals

Having long-term career goals makes it easier to decide on things like what business schools you’ll apply to, what summer internships you’ll want, and what first post-MBA positions you’ll accept. Many tempting job opportunities may come your way throughout a degree like the MBA, which can be stressful and possibly overwhelming. By taking the time on the front end to identify your long-term career goals, you can narrow your efforts on the short-term career opportunities that yield the best results and increase your chances of locking up those ideal internships or full-time jobs.

Action Plans

In this guide to business school, we have presented what business school is, why it matters, when it started, how to choose one, and how to get the most out of the experience. You may be wondering what your next step is in the process. Here are some things to consider as you make an effort to find a business school and begin the acceptance process.

Register for the GMAT or GRE

pieces of the process

Traditionally, the GRE or GMAT is required for entrance into nearly every program out there. While many schools offer GMAT waivers or have deleted the requirement for program acceptance, the test remains a mainstay in many business school admissions requirements. Signing up for an actual test date is one way to motivate yourself to begin studying for this valuable business school placement test. Many students will prep for the GMAT for two or two and a half months on average.

Pick Your Dream Schools

Deciding on what business schools to apply to can be tricky because programs can be pretty distinct. You will want to allow yourself the time to dig into the curriculum, culture, and career placement statistics for each business school on your list so you can avoid as many roadblocks as possible later in the process. If you have the margin of time and money, try to visit the campuses you’re considering. There’s no better way to get a feel for the programs business schools offer than to walk halls, meet instructors, and interview students.

Do The Research

Besides doing some deep internet investigating on the business schools you’re considering, keep updated with what’s happening in the business school world by checking out the websites that offer the best information about application processes. If your time is limited, read blogs written by admissions experts and message forums to hear about applicants’ experiences in real-time.

Write Those Essays!

Application essays can be a chore to write because some business schools don’t offer much instruction other than prompts and word limits. But they’re essential as essays are the best way to connect your story and give the admissions reps a sense of who you are as a program applicant. It is worth setting aside ample time for them (including the needed time to put them away for a time before making your final edits with a fresh perspective).

While reading this article I know you are swirling with questions, concerns, apprehension and excitement. We want you to know that you are in the right place, and we want to give you as many tools as possible to make your decision. You are ready to level up! As mentioned before, business schools have so much to offer that they will forever remain an integral part of career preparation for business leaders. Finding the right school and choosing the right program has lasting effects for years and years. The purpose of this guide is to inform your thinking and encourage your research as you find the perfect fit for your needs.

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Find Your MBA

Get matched with top online MBA programs now!