MBA in General Management

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A master of business administration (MBA) program with a concentration in general management, known as a “general management MBA,” requires a significant investment of time, resources, and commitment, regardless of its format—on-campus or online. Nevertheless, the skills and knowledge gained from these programs can prepare graduates for leadership roles.

There are many different types of MBA programs in which students can enroll, from general tracks to common specializations (e.g., healthcare, finance) and uncommon concentrations (e.g., cybersecurity, energy). Perhaps no other concentration within business schools has changed so dramatically over the years as the general management concentration.

Thirty years ago, students mostly received training in the applied psychology discipline known as organizational behavior, but today’s management programs tend to focus on leadership and corporate strategy, along with tactical skills like negotiation. In fact, some business schools have renamed their general management concentrations to reflect how the discipline has evolved. For example, the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University calls its concentration “Leading Organizations,” and the Alfred Lerner College of Business at University of Delaware offers a general management concentration called “Strategic Leadership.” Each of these concentrations varies according to the schools’ program and emphasis.

What has not changed is how most diverse and flexible these tracks are within business schools. They are particularly well suited to those with terrific interpersonal skills and work experience in nontechnical functional areas such as human resources.

Courses in MBA programs first teach students about business management fundamentals while also challenging them to think strategically. In the core portion of the curriculum, students explore key business concepts in marketing, accounting, business ethics, finance, statistics, project management, and other business administration disciplines. Especially among the reputable AACSB-accredited schools, only minor differences exist in the standardized core courses.

Upon satisfying core requirements, students then take courses in their track of choice. In the general management concentration, courses typically examine topics like strategic leadership, project management, and organizational design, and can vary widely from one school to another.

Innovative MBA programs offering 100 percent online curricula, like those in the following profiles, give students tremendous flexibility thanks to recent instructional technology advances. Students can receive an online educational experience equivalent to (and in some ways, better than) instruction on campus, unconstrained by distance or time. Not only do students have the flexibility to learn at their own pace, but they also typically take online classes taught by the same faculty that teaches these programs on campus.

As a result, these online MBA programs offer tremendous opportunities and diversity for students who cannot leave jobs to attend classes on campus, or who wish to attend better out-of-state universities without the expense and hassle of relocation. For example, the University of Illinois has 800 students in its online MBA program, and they come from more than 40 countries and 40 states around the country. Additionally, for students who wish to learn at their own pace, personalized online education provides an attractive alternative; motivated and gifted students, in particular, can thrive at the accelerated pace made possible by these online MBA programs.

Online programs also can save students money. Even when tuition rates are identical, the online MBA programs can present more cost-effective alternatives to on-campus programs due to savings on costs like relocation, childcare, and transportation.

The following guide presents five general management MBA programs offered entirely online, and profiles three outstanding faculty members from universities offering these innovative programs.

Featured Online MBA Programs in General Management

Maryville University’s management concentration requires students to take 12 credits of class across the following topics: project management, human resources management, leadership, and interpersonal management. Students must also complete eight core courses as part of the program. Professors teach with actual examples fueled by current events rather than their personal research interests so that students can gain real-world knowledge and a practical understanding of how the skills learned in class can be applied to the business world. Prospective students must have an undergraduate degree but are not required to have previous business experience, or GMAT or GRE scores. However, students must complete coursework in financial accounting and economic statistics before enrollment.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
Format: Online
Tuition: $758 per credit ($30,333 for the full program)
Program length: 12 to 16 months including the management concentration

Northeastern’s online MBA program was designed for business professionals who wish to build the most diverse range of skills possible. Students who choose the general management concentration can become familiar with a broad selection of high-level tactics and strategies, such as enterprise growth, value creation, employee management, operations management, new venture creation, and global business best practices. Graduation with a general online MBA requires the completion of 50 credits of core courses and electives. Students have the option to enroll in the dual degree track, where they will obtain an MBA and a master’s in finance. There are also optional campus-based and international field study residencies. Admission requirements are more specific than the other online MBA programs surveyed for this guide. The school requires an undergraduate degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale. Candidates must be currently employed and have at least five years of professional experience. The Financial Times ranked the D’Amore-McKim online MBA as the eighth-best program of its kind in the United States and 13th in the world.

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), AACSB International
Format: Online with optional on-campus and international residencies
Tuition: $1,560 per credit ($78,000 for the full degree)
Program length: Two years

The online MBA in general management at the University of Saint Mary provides students with an in-depth understanding of legal and ethical issues in business, as well as leadership skills so that they can overcome common obstacles that may arise in the workplace. Students also learn how to formulate and implement strategic solutions to spearhead teams and projects. The program is broken down into nine core courses and three electives. Most students in the general management program select USM’s leadership course as one of their three electives. For the remaining two, students can choose among topics such as small business management, the legal and ethical environment of business, project management, and information systems. This MBA concentration may be well suited for current business and management professionals ready to move into elevated roles within their organization, along with those looking to enter an entirely new profession. Because the affordable degree only requires 36 credits to graduate, students can complete USM’s online MBA in as little as one year by taking two classes each term. No GMAT or work experience is required for admission.

Location: Leavenworth, Kansas
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
Format: Online
Tuition: $615 per credit ($22,140 for the full program)
Program length: 12 months minimum

The University of Illinois online MBA program is entirely online with no campus visits required and is powered by Coursera, an education-focused web platform for online courses. The general management concentration is called “Strategic Leadership and Management” and teaches students leadership and business skills that they can apply immediately in their professional lives. Students learn how to collaborate with and manage people effectively, design and lead organizations, and create and maintain value within organizations through three general management-focused courses. They complete the program with a capstone project, applying all of the knowledge and skills students learned in the strategic leadership and management concentration. Admissions may be competitive, but the program’s tuition is about one-third the cost of online MBAs from comparable institutions. Coursera notes that the University of Illinois is ranked as one of the world’s most reliable university brands, and the U.S. News & World Report ranked the school among the top 30 online MBA programs just a few months after the university introduced its online program late in 2016.

Location: Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, AACSB International
Format: Online
Tuition: $250 per credit ($22,000 for the degree)
Program length: Two years

Designed for working professionals, Pepperdine’s online MBA embraces experience-driven learning so that students can immediately apply their education to their real-world business situations. The online MBA offers the same blend of training and personal development as the school’s on-campus program and delivers the innovative ideas, new skills, and practical knowledge students need to advance in their current career, change careers, or establish a lasting career at the management or executive level. Pepperdine’s online program provides an interactive, experience-driven approach to graduate business education with a 52-unit program over six 14-week trimesters. More specifically, the general management concentration allows for a broad selection of any 12 units of MBA electives and is one of the more flexible programs surveyed for this guide. All online MBA students are required to attend a weekend-long, on-campus personal and leadership development workshop at the beginning of their programs. Graduates obtain lifelong access to the school’s one-on-one career coaching, online career portal, and career development tools to receive personalized guidance and address challenges. The school requires at least two years of work experience, offers GMAT waivers, and does not specify a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement. The U.S. News and World Report currently ranks Pepperdine #19 among online MBA programs nationally.

Location: Malibu, California
Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), AACSB International
Format: Online with one weekend-long on-campus workshop
Tuition: $1,715 per credit ($89,180 for the full degree)
Program length: 84 weeks of instruction over about two years
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Professors to Know from Schools with Online MBA Programs in General Management

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    John C. Dencker, PhD, Northeastern University

    Dr. Dencker is as associate professor of management and organizational development at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. He has taught graduate courses on power and influence and organizational fundamentals. Professor Dencker's research examines the effects of corporate restructuring on the employment relationship; public policy programs designed to transition the unemployed toward self-employment as entrepreneurs; generational dynamics in the workplace; and the causes and consequences of domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions. The Entrepreneurship Division of the Academy of Management recognized his work on the individual and opportunity factors influencing job creation in new firms, for which he won an IDEA Thought Leader Award. Before Northeastern, Dr. Dencker was a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was also a post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, and a visiting professor at the ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics and US history from Northwestern University, and masters and doctoral degrees in sociology from Harvard University.

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    Joseph Mahoney, PhD, University of Illinois

    Dr. Mahoney teaches strategy and entrepreneurship at University of Illinois Gies College of Business. He is an endowed chair at the school, the Caterpillar chair of business, and has won several awards for his outstanding teaching in both professional and executive MBA programs. Dr. Mahoney’s research focuses on organizational economics, which includes behavioral theory, dynamic capabilities, resource-based theory, transaction costs theory, real-options theory, agency theory, property rights theory, and stakeholder theory. He has published his research in more than 60 articles in scholarly journals including the Academy of Management Review, the Strategic Management Journal, and the Journal of Management. Google Scholar reports that Dr. Mahoney’s work has been cited more than 16,00 times. His book for first-year doctoral students, Economic Foundations of Strategy, has been widely adopted into doctoral programs around the world. Dr. Mahoney earned his bachelor's degree in economics from University of Pennsylvania, and his master and doctoral degrees in business economics from Penn's Wharton School of Business.

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    Kent Rhodes, EdD, Pepperdine University

    Dr. Rhodes is a core faculty member at Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School. He teaches courses at the doctoral level in organizational change and organizational leadership. At the master's level, he teaches courses in leadership, applied behavioral sciences, organizational theory, and ethics in the school's MBA program. Dr. Rhodes is an expert on organizational effectiveness and development with a specialty in merger and acquisition integration—particularly in the ways it promotes overall acquisition success by boosting profitability, retaining talent, fortifying a strong culture, and building and maintaining key relationships. His strategic planning experience emphasizes clarifying mission, vision, and cultural influences in organizations, and how clarifying those influences impacts branding and marketing. Earlier, Dr. Rhodes founded OnCourse Network, an Internet education company. He negotiated the firm’s sale to a publicly-traded company in Silicon Valley. Today, Dr. Rhodes also maintains a consulting practice for a variety of enterprises. He holds a bachelor's degree from Lubbock Christian University, a master's from Texas Tech University, and a doctorate of education from Pepperdine University.

Admission Requirements for Online MBA Programs in General Management

Below, prospective students can find common application requirements for online general management MBA programs:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • A competitive GPA from undergraduate programs
  • More reputable schools ask for GMAT or GRE scores, but often waive testing for students with several years of relevant work experience
  • Schools strongly prefer one or two years of professional experience in a healthcare, business, finance, or technology organization
  • The completion of key prerequisite financial accounting and statistics courses, or the completion of the business school’s abridged overview course (for candidates without work experience or undergraduate degrees in business)
  • A personal statement of objectives
  • Letters of recommendation
  • The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for international students

Accreditation

Educational accreditation means that a university offers a curriculum which adheres to quality assurance standards in academic disciplines. In the United States, external private, non-profit organizations evaluate educational institutions and certify that the schools comply with applicable standards by awarding accreditation status. Several organizations award accreditation for business schools.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, commonly known AACSB International, has provided quality assurance services to accredited business schools since 1916. In general, AACSB-accredited schools have the highest-quality faculties, deliver relevant and challenging curricula, and provide educational and career opportunities not found at other schools. The organization emphasizes faculty research in providing students solid knowledge foundations. The AACSB has awarded accreditations to about 780 schools in 90 countries, mainly those affiliated with major research universities, and has awarded specialized accounting program accreditations to an additional 185. Only about five percent of the 16,000 schools granting business degrees around the world have met AACSB’s rigorous accreditation standards, and 90 percent of the Economist's 2016 top 100 full-time MBA programs are offered by AACSB-accredited institutions. Accredited schools include the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, and the Harvard Business School.

The newer Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) was founded in 1989 to accredit various types of schools, including two-year institutions like community colleges, with an emphasis on teaching instead of the research emphasis common to the AACSB-accredited institutions. The ACBSP focuses on tangible learning outcomes and quality improvement, especially as workforce demands change. About 2,983 ACBSP-accredited programs exist worldwide.

A third agency, the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), focuses more specifically on accrediting smaller and mid-sized private liberal arts colleges that have business degree programs. This agency is the newest of the three major organizations and focuses its criteria on eight pillars: outcomes assessment, strategic planning, curriculum, faculty, scholarly and professional activities, resources, internal and external relationships, and educational innovation.

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark
Writer

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani, and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.