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What Skills Do You Learn in an MBA Program?

By Charlene Lattea, WVU Online | Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Discover what an MBA program teaches, from finance to leadership. Acquire skills can advance your career and professional development.

The MBA is the world’s most popular business degree, and one of the biggest reasons for this is the valuable skills students gain from going through this intensive program.

No other degree offers the business knowledge and skills you need to become a business leader in a wide variety of industries.

Key aspects of any good MBA program include a broad, practical curriculum exploring a range of business topics, such as finance, marketing, operations management, and data analytics. It also offers entrepreneurship and technical skills, as well as networking opportunities.

In this article, we will discuss the many valuable skills that the MBA will teach you.

Understanding the MBA Program

The MBA is a graduate business degree providing expertise in business administration, management and leadership. It is an important credential if your goal is an executive position at a large corporation, or if you want to become an entrepreneur.

Students can also focus on international business or earn a dual degree in a field such as law, the arts, or a healthcare-related area. Many schools also offer specialty programs, such as accounting, business analytics, human resources, finance, and more.

What you get out of your MBA program depends on what you put into it, so make sure you choose the best program for your needs and make the most of this intensive experience.

What are the Core Subjects Taught in an MBA Program?

No matter what kind of MBA program you choose, it will cover the same core subjects.

In addition, you will be able to choose electives, based on your individual career goals, such as sales management, investment banking, machine learning and AI, consulting, or social entrepreneurship.

Most MBA programs will also allow you to specialize in an area of interest, to give you specific skills in topics such as marketing, analytics, human resources, etc.

Let’s take a look at some of the key courses that make up any good MBA program:

Economics and Finance
This coursework examines factors that affect a firm’s profitability in both microeconomic and macroeconomic analyses. You will learn to analyze factors and types of products, as well as the macroeconomic framework. Courses in this area also give you an overview of current financial reporting processes.

Marketing Strategy
This is often case-based coursework and provides an overview of the marketing discipline, focusing on managerial decision-making in marketing. You’ll learn how marketing management works and will develop an understanding of central marketing concepts and how to apply them to real-world problems.

Operations Management
This coursework develops and enhances managerial skills for complex organizations, while exploring the dynamics of working in teams. Closely related to this is supply chain coursework that emphasizes the integration of transportation, inventory, warehousing, and customer service.

Leadership and Decision-Making
Corporate leadership emphasizes the ethical, legal, and managerial perspectives of leadership in the corporate workforce. Strategy and decision-making skills help you learn how to solve problems from a managerial perspective with particular emphasis on the operations management area of the organization.

Business Research and Strategy
Business research skills give you a basic understanding of conducting empirical research and business strategy allows you to understand the steps companies must take to succeed in business and to formulate the best plans of action for success. This includes data analysis strong communication skills.

Entrepreneurship courses give you an in-depth understanding of many facets of business and the skills you need to become a successful entrepreneur. You’ll learn to identify market opportunities, conduct marketing research, develop innovative business ideas, navigate investor relations, build and lead teams, and more.

Management Information Systems
This coursework focuses on the managerial aspects of information systems for business development. You will be able to understand the use of information systems to promote success in organizations. You will also learn how to assess emerging, new technologies from business management perspectives.

Legal and Business Ethics
Coursework in this area provides an overview of the legal system and the legal and ethical issues relevant to business decision-making and planning. You will also understand the connections between business, government, and society and why ethics are such an important part of conducting business affairs.

Valuable Skills Learned in an MBA Program

One of the differences between getting an MBA and another business-related master’s degree is that the MBA provides more hands-on experience.

You will have numerous experiential learning opportunities such as case studies, simulations, or real-world scenarios and internships. You will take study trips to local businesses, attend talks by business leaders, work on consulting projects with actual companies, and take part in case competitions with other MBA students.

All of these practical experiences give you a good understanding of how business works and important skills in teamwork, communication, strategic problem solving, data analysis, and networking.

The skills you will learn include "hard skills," such as creating a marketing strategy or analyzing a financial statement, as well as "soft skills," such as communication.

Hands-On Experience in WVU’s Online MBA Program

According to Alicia Plemmons, coordinator of WVU Online’s MBA program, students build the professional skills they need for career advancement.

"A large proportion of our students who choose to stay with their current employer report promotions and being chosen for new responsibilities, while students searching for new opportunities have gone into many exciting types of careers from accounting to human resources, and banking to logistics."

WVU business graduate Emily Severs says the best way to learn is by doing and she had many experiences that contributed to her success in the business world.

"During my time at WVU, I took advantage of all WVU had to offer my business, like working with the Morris L. Hayhurst Launch Lab, and joining the Fastenal Sales Team to gain a better insight into the business world," she said.

"Even if you don't have an idea yet, the team at the Launch Lab will help get you on the right track with ideation, prototyping, pitch competitions, product photography, structuring the legalities of your business, and more."

Business Strategy and Decision-Making

Case competitions are a method MBA programs use to teach business strategy and decision-making.

These competitions present teams of students with real-world business problems and they are required to find a solution and pitch it to a panel of judges within a specific time frame.

Case studies are highly collaborative and teach students to engage with data and real-world experience, rather than through a lecture delivered by a professor.

WVU business professor Ajay Aluri says students are best prepared for life after the classroom by getting learning experiences with real-world scenarios while they are in school.

"I incorporate real-world projects into the curriculum that tackle issues faced by businesses today, so that students can get hands-on problem-solving experience," he said.

Data Analysis and Business Intelligence

The MBA also gives you skills in collecting and analyzing data and then converting it into something you can use to solve business problems.

Data analysis can help you predict consumer behavior, make investments, identify market trends, determine ROI of marketing plans, and improve your decision-making.

WVU business professor Brad Price, who has worked with businesses of all sizes and locations, from multi-nationals to local start-ups, says "using analytics, data science, statistics, machine learning—and all the tools from the field—is helping people solve problems."

He says it’s important for students to get hands-on, practical training.

"My students learn to program in R and Python and use Spark to deal with data sets," he said. "Also, Kafka allows us to deploy machine learning models so decision makers can have insights as their data evolves."

In addition, business intelligence tools are used to visualize and analyze data. These include spreadsheets, reporting and querying software, digital dashboards, data mining, data warehousing, and more to make informed business decisions and drive business growth.

Leadership and Management

Leadership and management skills are about getting people from diverse backgrounds to work together as a team in a complex business environment.

As a leader, you are responsible for the smooth running of the organization and working with teams to inspire the members to achieve business goals. You must collaborate with your team, deliver clear instructions, delegate responsibilities when appropriate, and support team members with encouragement and feedback.

Students develop these skills as they encounter new challenges throughout their coursework. They practice refining their leadership and management style as they progress through many experiential exercises.

WVU business professor Suzanne Kitchen says she is always looking for new ways to improve her students’ leadership and management skills through experiential education opportunities.

"This includes internships, service learning, individual or group simulations, real-life case studies, leadership opportunities and case competitions."

Communication Skills

During your MBA program, you will experience a broad range of teaching methods, including group projects, with results formally presented to the rest of the class. This is a valuable exercise for improving your communication and presentation skills.

Most MBA students will also complete a "capstone project," which is an individual piece of work that addresses a contemporary business issue, and most of these also have a public presentation component.

Other experiences that help you develop your communication and presentation skills include case studies and working with real-world business colleagues.

Communication skills are vital for expressing ideas, networking with peers, working in teams, making decisions, and persuading others. The better you can express yourself and communicate with others, the greater the leader you will become.


Networking is one of the most valuable skills you can learn as an MBA student. In fact, it is a must. Building a professional network of alumni, classmates, and other business professionals is key to your success and is a strong resource to have. This is true whether you are studying for your MBA in-person or online.

"It is vital that students begin to network, because networking will enable them to learn from leaders, experts, and successful people in the industry," said Professor Aluri.

Your MBA program will provide you with many opportunities to build a professional network that includes not only connections, but friendships, with different people both inside and outside the classroom. They can help you throughout your career, so be sure to take advantage of this valuable opportunity.

Entrepreneurship Skills

An MBA program entrepreneurship and innovation, preparing you to launch and lead new business ventures. This degree is a great choice if you want to build the skills you need to open your own business.

These skills include conducting market research, developing innovative business ideas, sustaining a business, identifying market opportunities, navigating investor relations, building and leading a team, sustaining a business, and more.

In fact, you will gain skills for every stage of your journey as a successful entrepreneur.

Boost Your Career with an MBA from WVU Online

The future for MBA graduates is very promising. As you build your career, you may want to improve your skills with a degree from WVU Online.

The WVU John Chambers School of Business and Economics offers an Online MBA program for working professionals who want the convenience and flexibility of online learning from a nationally recognized university.

Contact the Coaches at Our Learning Engagement Center

After reading this article, if you are unsure about your goals, or how to identify your interests and skills, be sure to reach out to one of our WVU Online admissions coaches. They are trained to help you look at your individual situation and make the right choice for your future.

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