Does An Undergraduate Major Matter When Earning An MBA?


When considering earning an MBA, it’s impossible not to wonder if your undergraduate degree may hold you back.

After all, many who pursue an MBA do so after studying more traditional business-centric fields, like finance and marketing. But the idea that only students who have an undergraduate degree in those fields should pursue an MBA is patently false.

Ilana Kowarski at U.S News & World Report recently discussed the topic with a group of experts and alumni on what kind of students should go after an MBA, and the results were a bit surprising.

“Most MBA programs admit applicants with various majors, experts say, and a business-related major does not significantly improve an applicant’s odds,” she writes. “In fact, experts say, sometimes an uncommon major can be an advantage in the MBA admissions process.”

One of the biggest ways for students who do not have undergraduate degrees in business fields to communicate why an MBA is right for them comes during the admissions process. Particularly, the application essay, says Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University MBA student David Tang.

“Making the case is all about connecting the dots between your past achievements, how it led to the b-school decision and what you want to accomplish post b-school,” Tang elaborated on Facebook. “The story needs to be genuine, personal and believable.”

Yale School of Management Director of Admissions, Analytics and Evaluation Laurel Grodman says that her office frequently gets calls from applicants who are nervous that there non-traditional backgrounds will automatically preclude them from an MBA.

“We always kind of chuckle to ourselves, because there really is not a nontraditional background when you look at the applicant pool,” she says.

“We’ve actually got tremendous diversity when it comes to college major,” Grodman says. “We have a healthy representation from all of the big major groupings, so we’re certainly not advantaging or disadvantaging any particular group, and we certainly don’t go out on the onset looking to hit some sort of quota.”

Even liberal arts majors shouldn’t be supremely concerned that their undergraduate major will exclude them. Robert Green, a ’14 MBA from the College of Business Administration at University of Central Florida explained to Kowarski in an email.

“We need people who can think in abstract or gestalt perspectives to see things in a way that transcends routine mindless thought and actually give people what they need, not just what they ask for,” Green email. “People with a philosophical background tend to be visionary and may connect with people at a very emotional level or tap into a social or psychological vein that exposes a market opportunity that the MBA would want to service and satisfy.”

Read the rest of Kowarski’s article over at U.S. News.

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About the Author

Matthew Korman

Matthew Korman is a writer on MetroMBA. Since graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism and political science, Matthew has worked as a music industry writer and promoter, a data analyst, and with numerous academic institutions. His works have appeared in publications such as NPR and Sports Illustrated.

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