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I Am a Non-Business Major. Can I Still Get an MBA Online?

November 8, 2022

Miami native Monique Davis turned her bachelor’s degree in architecture and master’s in interior design into a successful career as a designer for architectural firms. But the longer she spent in her industry, the more she felt driven to make an impact as a leader. “More than just managing design projects, I wanted to make a difference in the way that these firms were being run,” Davis said. “That’s why I decided to pursue my MBA.”

Now, Davis—like many other ambitious professionals looking to advance careers across industries—is pursuing her Master of Business Administration in the Howard University School of Business Online MBA program. Because the university offers its Online MBA for non-business majors and business majors alike, Davis felt confident applying to the program. However, many ambitious professionals remain unaware that top business school programs often admit non-business majors.

As to why so many elite institutions open their graduate business programs to non-business majors, research repeatedly shows that employees with diverse perspectives and experiences benefit the bottom line. The same is true in MBA classrooms. Students with bachelor’s degrees and professional backgrounds in fields other than business contribute to the richness of the Master of Business Administration curriculum and the success of their peers. They also learn concepts applicable in fields as diverse as agriculture and aviation.

Why People From All Backgrounds Pursue MBAs Online and On Campus

The desire to build new skills motivates many business school students—including those who enroll in MBA programs for non-business majors. The 2021 GMAC Prospective Students Survey found that more than a third of MBA candidates (37 percent) reported applying to graduate business school because they wanted a specific job but “lacked required skills and/or degree to be competitive.”

While every program approaches the MBA curriculum differently, most teach a mix of soft and technical skills—theory and methodology—applicable across industries and work environments. Howard MBA students, for example, learn advanced business management practices, leadership skills, strategic management skills, communication skills, ethical decision-making skills, and integration and synthesis skills.

Other on-campus and online MBA applicants want enhanced access to opportunity. In the NACE 2022 Winter Salary Survey, MBAs topped the list of the most in-demand master’s program graduates. More than 30 percent of respondents said they planned to hire MBA grads.

Still others apply to MBA programs because they want to earn more—even if they plan to stay in the same workplace after earning an MBA. Is an MBA worth it for those who already have good jobs? Absolutely. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2020 Corporate Recruiters Survey, the median salary for MBA graduates is $115,000—75 percent more than the median salary among bachelor’s degree holders.

The ROI of the MBA is already high, and the ROI of an MBA delivered part-time and online may be even higher than that of full-time, on-campus programs because degree candidates can continue earning a salary. Howard University’s 48-credit online MBA program is flexible enough to accommodate the needs of working professionals from various fields.

Finally, the best business school programs build elite networking opportunities into the MBA curriculum. In graduate programs with diverse class profiles, students make lifelong connections that open doors in many industries, not just the business world. In Howard MBA programs, students “represent all industries,” said executive director of Executive Education and the Center for Career Excellence at the Howard University School of Business, Kim R. Wells.

“You can’t just say that they’re all coming from corporate America,” he explained. “They work in management, supply chain, finance, and many different industries. We see people coming in from high-tech industries and even some senior educators; we’ve had high school principals. We have people from the sports and entertainment industries as well. We have a few international students. Our classrooms are very diverse, and that’s exciting.”

How Humanities Majors Benefit from MBAs

Liberal arts majors don’t make up the lion’s share of business school students, but many dominate in the business world. For example, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has an educational background in history, literature, and economics. “I never had a goal to work in business or in technology,” Wojcicki told the Female Founders Club. “Instead, I saw academics asking big questions and working to solve important problems. Long before I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to do something that made the world a better place.”

Creative professionals often pursue MBAs because, like Wojcicki, they want to make a more significant impact in their organizations or the world by becoming entrepreneurs or taking on leadership positions. Humanities students also bring core strengths to the MBA experience, including critical thinking, writing, and communication skills, as well as a dedication to truth and service. Soft skills like these top lists of what corporate recruiters look for in business school graduates, according to the 2021 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey. In on-campus and online MBA programs for non-business majors, professionals with humanities backgrounds bolster their soft skills with critical business competencies, such as organizational management, business analytics, and financial accounting.

While non-business majors from STEM fields with MBAs may earn more than their classmates from the humanities immediately after graduation, salary gaps narrow over time. That’s “because technological skills become obsolete faster,” writes Andrea Gabor for Bloomberg. Humanities majors, “by contrast, trained to be creative communicators and critical thinkers, are more adaptable.”

How STEM Majors Benefit from MBAs

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk—currently the richest man in the world—did not initially major in business. He has a bachelor of science in physics, in addition to a bachelor of arts in economics. He earned his MBA in 1998.

Like humanities majors, STEM professionals enroll in MBA programs for non-business majors to fill gaps in their skill sets. Skills that computer science, research, engineering, and technology professionals already have are increasingly critical in the business world. But the technology industry also values b-school graduates, according to the 2021 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey, because MBA programs tend to emphasize the soft skills technology professionals might otherwise be lacking.

In Howard’s Online MBA course “Entrepreneurship,” students learn to channel creativity and innovation into practical entrepreneurial decision-making. Online MBA students create feasibility analyses, learn about venture finance, and study business plan development. In other words, they learn to take a good idea—or a technological innovation—and make it financially feasible.

Some STEM professionals also pursue MBAs for non-business majors to transition into consulting, enter the startup space, or contribute to strategic planning and decision-making in tech organizations.

Why Traditional MBAs for Non-Business Majors are So Popular

Traditional MBAs are popular among non-business majors because they are versatile. The business knowledge professionals develop in MBA programs is useful in virtually every industry. An MBA can also springboard graduates into successful careers working for themselves or consulting firms as demand for consultants grows across sectors.

Many non-business majors pursue MBAs online because they want to turn a good idea into a marketable product. In the 2021 PwC Hopes and Fears Survey, 49 percent of workers said they are building entrepreneurial skills and are interested in setting up businesses. For many people—especially those without a background in business—the startup process can be daunting. Venturing into entrepreneurship requires staying on top of many moving parts, e.g., meeting legal prerequisites, procuring funding, hiring personnel or finding outside contractors, marketing, and juggling industry-specific logistics. Business school helps budding entrepreneurs across industries work through those challenges.

Do Online Executive MBA Programs Look for Applicants with Business Degrees?

The type of work experience applicants have when applying to business school is more important than their undergraduate majors, experts told U.S. News & World Report. This is especially true for EMBA programs, where admissions committee members look for candidates with significant professional experience, emerging leadership skills, and a thorough understanding of their fields. Applicants can use the personal essay portion of the EMBA application to explain how their professional experience in management roles will help them meet the demands of advanced business school coursework.

What accepted EMBA students share is the motivation to advance their careers in C-suite positions or other leadership roles. Howard University’s Online EMBA curriculum covers applied economics for executives, modern methods to manage technology and information systems, strategic communications, and legal and ethical issues in business leadership. Executive MBA candidates complete a strategic management capstone, developing plans to solve real-world business problems and present their findings to a panel of faculty and industry professionals, who give detailed feedback.

What Do I Need to Do to Get into Howard’s Online MBA Program?

As a top-ranking Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and one of the best U.S. business schools, Howard has always seen the benefit of diversifying the business world. The Howard University School of Business offers two online MBA options: the Online MBA or the Executive MBA (EMBA). Both programs accept applicants from various industries and do not limit enrollment requirements to those with undergraduate business degrees.

Professionals applying to Howard’s traditional MBA offered online need at least two years of work experience and a bachelor’s degree in any field. Applicants to the university’s online Executive MBA program need at least five years of senior management/leadership experience to qualify. Howard recommends that applicants have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, no matter their major. Online MBA applicants may be eligible for a GRE/GMAT exam waiver if they have a master’s degree or five years of relevant career history.

Is the Howard University School of Business Right for Me?

No matter your undergraduate major, pursuing an online MBA degree at Howard can help you develop new skills, transition into a leadership role, or broaden your professional network. As a student, you will receive a top-tier education in advanced management alongside robust career support, professional connections, and access to an engaged global alumni network. These resources help non-business majors get a leg-up in the business world.

It is, in part, because of this personalized support and level of dedication to students of all professional backgrounds that the Howard University School of Business was rated the number-one school for Greatest Resources for Minority Students by The Princeton Review for 16 consecutive years and ranks #2 among U.S. News & World Report’s HBCUs. “Whatever you’re into, you’ll find someone who can help you at Howard,” said Alumni Krystal Brockett. “Everyone wants to see you succeed.”

Contact Howard University for more information about how the online MBA programs can help you meet your most ambitious career goals.

Download a brochure and learn more about Howard University School of Business online Master's programs.