What undergraduate degree is best for an MBA?

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When deciding to pursue an MBA, students will want to consider the edge their current undergraduate degree may provide. Which undergraduate degree will boost a student’s likelihood of gaining an MBA? The best degree for an MBA may at first seem to be a business degree, but after a look at Ivy League data, it is safe to say that an undergraduate degree in business may not be the best choice.

The Breakdown of Degrees
Universities will break down their incoming class’ undergraduate degrees by broad categories. These categories often appear as “business/business administration/economics, engineering/natural sciences/technical disciplines/math, and humanities/liberal arts/social sciences.” In a study among some of the top MBA schools, the breakdown of these degrees were as follows: Business category 34%, Science and Math category 33%, and Humanities and Social Sciences category 25%. By this mark it appears a business degree is most advantageous, but when individual schools were examined, the breakdown revealed a much different preference.

Variety Preferred?
Harvard’s undergraduate majors for those in the MBA program showed that 40% of students had humanities or social science backgrounds while 26% had business administration backgrounds. Stanford preferred humanities to business 47% to 17%. MIT preferred engineering/math students to business students 44% to 20%. Carnegie Mellon accepted 50% of incoming MBA students with science and engineering backgrounds.

These statistics are not anomalies. In the past, these top schools have made similar choices about their incoming MBA students. The best degree for an MBA seems to rely on something rather different. The selection of students never hinges solely on their degree, but it does appear to have some sway.

Best Choice
The best option for students pursuing an MBA would be to research the schools they want to attend and then strategize. If you’re a student who wants to obtain an MBA from MIT, you may want to consider a major in computer science with a minor in business administration or behavioral economics. You could combine knowledge of computer science with how people shop online differently than in stores. Using this knowledge could help you create a new business or help existing businesses boost online sales.

If you would rather study at Harvard, you could decide on a psychology degree with a minor in business administration or marketing. Understanding the science of marketing and the psychology of consumerism could make you a very desirable employee for a large CEO firm in advertising or you could create a new way to advertise to consumers that would increase competition. Finding unique combinations across fields of study is what will make students unique candidates.

Universities look at a candidate’s entire background and the potential for success they have with that background. Students with business degrees do have an advantage knowledge-wise with the material they will be studying in the MBA programs, but universities want someone who can make their department unique and cutting edge. Creating diverse degree combinations (computer science and behavioral economics, psychology and marketing) will stand out, and give students the edge they are looking for to gain an MBA.