Business education is in high demand, with over 350 thousand bachelor's degrees awarded annually in the US alone[1]. While MBA programs are commonly associated with business education, various degrees can be pursued in this field — ranging from bachelor's to PhD programs. Additionally, there are specialized programs, such as Certificate and Diploma courses, that do not result in degree awards.

This article aims to thoroughly analyze all levels of business education, including admission requirements and program costs in different countries.

About business education

Business students delve into macro- and microeconomics, finance theory, marketing, and management. They apply this knowledge to analyze real company case studies, honing their decision-making skills.

The realm of business education offers a multitude of specializations, including accounting, finance, entrepreneurship, HR, international business, marketing, public administration, and more.

Upon completing their chosen specialization, graduates of business programs can pursue diverse career paths spanning various industries — from healthcare and logistics to advertising and journalism.

Promising areas of business education

SpecializationDescriptionUniversity
Sustainable DevelopmentSustainability managers minimize the company's negative impact on the environment. This direction has become popular due to increased attention to the problem of climate change and global warming. Companies hire people to develop sustainable business strategies.
Logistics and Supply Chain ManagementSupply chain management professionals learn how to move goods from one location to another as cheaply as possible. They study logistics, data analysis, and strategic management. Classes on sustainable development and decreasing supply chain carbon footprints may be included in the program.
Sports ManagementSports managers organize events, competitions, and marketing campaigns associated with athletes. They also work with teams and manage player transactions. Many sports managers are ex-athletes who stay in the industry.
Digital MarketingThe digital transformation has moved sales and advertising channels into the digital environment, creating digital marketing and e-commerce. Specialists study strategies for promoting products on the Internet and in social media.
Business InformaticsAn interdisciplinary field at the intersection of business and IT. Graduates design and develop communication systems to solve business problems, optimize processes, and create online platforms, marketplaces, and applications.
Advantages of business education
  • Diverse program selection. Business education offers a wide range of options, including traditional bachelor's, master's, and PhD programs, as well as specialized BBA, MBA, and DBA degrees. Additionally, short courses and Certificate / Diploma programs provide focused knowledge and skills.
  • Abundant career prospects. Graduates of business programs have the flexibility to work in almost any field. By choosing relevant specializations, such as entrepreneurship or HR, students can align their studies with their desired career path. Short-term refresher courses also enable them to master new markets and trends.
  • Develop key skills and a competitive edge. Understanding business theory and fundamental principles empowers individuals to construct more effective business processes. This sets business program graduates apart from those who rely solely on intuition without grasping the underlying intricacies of specific challenges.
  • Networking opportunities. The cohort principle is a vital aspect of business education. Students gather in groups comprising individuals from similar or related industries. This environment fosters the exchange of insights, experiences, and stories, facilitating mutual support and a deeper understanding of their respective businesses.
  • Higher salary potential. Research demonstrates a significant 50,000 USD increase in earnings for middle management professionals after obtaining an MBA degree[2]. Graduates of business programs often qualify for promotions or managerial positions, leading to higher salary prospects.
Disadvantages of business education
  • Missed opportunities. Education demands significant time, effort, and commitment. Established managers and working professionals may hesitate to enroll in business programs, as it could mean sacrificing potential profits during their learning period.
  • High admission requirements. Requirements for admission vary based on the level of education and the prestige of the school. A strong command of English (at the level of B2-C1), passing the GMAT exam, and maintaining a high GPA are often prerequisites. Moreover, many master's and PhD programs in business require relevant work experience, preferably in leadership roles.
  • Cost considerations. Business education entails a considerable financial investment. The average cost of such programs in the USA is approximately 60000 to 70,000 USD per year, while in some parts of Europe, it might be around 43,442 USD per year. In contrast, universities in Russia offer business education at a more affordable rate of 5,646 USD per year.
  • Focus on major players. Many business programs emphasize teaching management techniques tailored to large corporations. As a result, applying such methods to small startups and businesses might prove challenging and less practical.
University of Pennsylvania Wharton School

Types of business education

Business education can be pursued at the bachelor's, master's, and PhD levels.

At the same time, there are two main types of business education: traditional higher education and the more prestigious field of Business Administration — including BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration), MBA (Master of Business Administration), and DBA (Doctor of Business Administration). These types have several fundamental differences.

  • Applied orientation. Business administration students analyze real cases from large international and local companies, studying their strategies and proposing changes. The program often includes projects, field practice, and brainstorming sessions.
  • Prestige. Business administration degrees are highly valued in the industry due to the practical training and experience they provide. Graduates of such programs are considered to have a better understanding of business through practical application, in contrast to "theorists" who graduate from traditional higher education.
  • Cost. Business administration education is always tuition-based, costing 2-3 times more than regular programs. It is more commonly offered by private universities and business schools, and finding such a program at a public university can be challenging.

Additionally, the business sector often offers short-term programs for additional education. These programs are particularly useful for current managers and executives who cannot take a break from work for 1-2 years to pursue full-time university studies.

Bachelor's degree in business

There are two options available: pursuing a traditional bachelor's degree in business or management, or selecting a bachelor's degree in business administration — BBA.

Both traditional business studies and BBA programs primarily focus on theoretical knowledge, providing students with a solid understanding of business principles. This stage prepares students for further education or entry into the workforce. Students delve into macro- and microeconomics, fundamentals of management, business ethics, data analysis, team leadership, and strategic decision-making.

Specializations may lead to varying additional subjects. For instance, marketers and HR managers might study social sciences, psychology, and cognitive science. Aspiring entrepreneurs and accountants, on the other hand, need advanced courses in mathematics and statistics.

BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) is a less common choice for a bachelor's degree in business. Although such programs emphasize theory, they also offer a more applied approach compared to traditional bachelor’s studies. The curriculum includes fewer general subjects and incorporates more business games, project work, and real company case studies.

Bachelor’s programs in business typically last four years. Graduates can find employment in junior positions, such as assistant roles, junior financial or marketing analysts, or accountants.

Admission requirements:

  • High school diploma
  • GPA — 4.6 out of 5
  • IELTS score of 6.5 or TOEFL score of 79 iBT / 500 paper-based

You may also need:

Specific requirements depend on the chosen university and program. For a full list of requirements, refer to the official website of universities.

Master’s degree in business

The most popular and promising areas of business are taught at the master's level. Similar to bachelor's programs, students can choose to enter a "traditional" master's program in management and related disciplines, or opt for MBA (Master of Business Administration) programs .

The duration of programs typically lasts 1-2 years, and the curriculum varies depending on the chosen major. Some offered courses may include:

  • Project management
  • Product management
  • Strategic marketing
  • Finance, accounting, auditing
  • Risk management
  • Business ethics
  • Leadership theory and personnel management

Master's programs provide in-depth knowledge of theory and methodology. They often include internships, although not as extensive as those in full-fledged MBA programs.

"Traditional" master's programs are less commonly chosen, as many students who do not plan on pursuing an academic career in business prefer to work for a few years after completing their bachelor's degree and then enroll in an MBA.

An MBA is a specialized type of master's degree in business. The main difference lies in the focus on practical experience. The curriculum includes solving real cases, participating in company internships, engaging in business games, and attending brainstorming sessions. As a result, individuals pursue an MBA not just for academic study, but also to gain experience, practical knowledge, and a professional network.

Main types of MBA programs:

  • General — programs that train specialists with a broad skill set.
  • Specialized — programs focusing on specific areas of business, such as marketing, HR, entrepreneurship, and logistics.
  • Global — programs emphasizing international cooperation, intercultural dialogue, and business globalization. Designed for managers of international and transnational companies, often including visiting lectures at foreign universities and semester exchange programs.
  • Executive — tailored for senior managers and general directors with at least 5 years of work experience.

Admission requirements:

  • Bachelor's degree in a related specialty. For MBA programs, a relevant bachelor's background is preferred but not mandatory.
  • Business schools typically do not have a minimum GPA requirement — 3.5 out of 4 or 4.0 out of 5 is recommended.
  • GMAT results. A minimum score of 600 is required. However, prestigious MBA programs often expect scores above 700, regardless of previous education.
  • Motivation letter.
  • 2 recommendations. For MBA programs, one must come from a colleague or an employer.
  • IELTS 6.5-7.0 or TOEFL 80-105 / 550-600, though prestigious schools may have higher requirements.
  • At least 1-2 years of work experience.

Requirements vary by program. For a full list of requirements, refer to the official websites of institutions.

More about MBA programs

EMBA — Executive MBA

EMBA programs, a variation of MBA, cater to entrepreneurs, experienced senior managers, and CEOs. A minimum of 5 years of work experience is required for admission.

These programs typically last 6-12 months and often follow a part-time study format, with classes held in the evenings and on weekends.

A modular format is also common, where students attend a full-time module lasting 1-2 months before returning to work until the next one starts. Full-time programs are also available, which are usually the shortest and most intense.

Students delve into various subjects, including organizational behavior, leadership theory, effective risk management strategies, as well as project and product management.

CharacteristicsMBAEMBA
Requirements
  • Bachelor's degree
  • 1-5 years of work experience
  • Bachelor's degree
  • 5+ years of work experience
Exams
  • GMAT — not required if the student has a business education
  • IELTS — 7.0
Duration1-2 years6-12 months
Average cost per year35,000 USD85,000 USD

More about EMBA programs

Business PhD and DBA

PhD programs in Business are tailored to equip graduates for research, academic, and leadership roles. At this level, students can choose between earning a PhD or a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration).

DBA programs train managers with strong research skills and a broad perspective. DBA alumni are prepared to assume senior management positions in large companies with complex business processes. On the other hand, PhDs in Business are more research-oriented, making them more suitable for those pursuing academic and teaching careers.

To be eligible for a Doctor of Business Administration degree, applicants should have 5-10 years of experience in senior management roles.

Students are organized into cohorts based on relevant principles. This means that individuals from different industries, such as the head of an oil and gas corporation and the CEO of an advertising agency, are unlikely to be in the same DBA stream.

Teaching methods in DBA programs

DBA programs include:

  • Academic courses. The curriculum comprises classes in organizational theory, HR management, risk management, and strategic economic analysis.
  • Networking and experience exchange. Students actively participate in group projects, collective case studies, field trips, and visiting lectures, where they share their valuable experiences.
  • Research track. Instead of writing full-length research papers like in PhD programs, DBA students engage in what is known as action research. They select a specific problem and outline practical actions to resolve it. The focus of action research can be the student's own business or any other relevant subject.
  • Self-analysis. Students conduct analyses of their own businesses, identifying reasons for success or failure and recognizing areas for improvement. This could take the form of a course project or a comprehensive research endeavor.

PhD programs have an average duration of 3 years, though some programs may extend up to 6 years. The DBA program focuses on practical application and adopts a module format, where students gather for several days to study specific topics, exchange ideas, participate in business games, and conduct research projects. Following this, they return to their work commitments until the start of the next module.

At the end of the program, students write and defend a doctoral dissertation.

Admission requirements:

  • MBA or master's degree in business or management. In some cases, relevant work experience and academic knowledge may be considered in lieu of a master's degree.
  • Minimum 5 years of managerial experience.
  • GMAT 600 / GRE 160. For PhD studies, this requirement is optional. However, if you lack relevant education, your exam results can help validate your knowledge and improve your chances of admission.
  • IELTS 7.0-7.5 or TOEFL iBT 109.
  • Motivation letter.
  • 2-3 recommendation letters — from a university professor and from colleagues and/or supervisors.
  • Research proposal — an outline of your future research plans. Universities often provide a list of potential topics from which students can choose their preferred one.
  • Interview with the admissions committee. The interview typically involves standard questions about your motivation, learning plans, work experience, and goals.

Additional business education — Non-degree business programs

Accomplished managers conduct additional education programs for individuals seeking to expand their knowledge and explore new markets. These programs are also ideal for aspiring entrepreneurs who lack theoretical knowledge and plan to establish their own businesses.

Diploma

Diploma programs typically span 1-2 years and primarily focus on specialized disciplines. While these programs may provide fewer practical skills, they aim to equip students with essential knowledge for their future work in a relatively short period. For example, a diploma program in business management may cover subjects such as strategic management, leadership theory, personnel management, and business intelligence.

Upon completing the program, graduates receive a diploma without being awarded a degree and are eligible to work in junior positions or even venture into entrepreneurship.

Mini-MBA courses are also included in this category, lasting around 6 months. Similar to full-fledged MBA programs, mini-MBA courses involve case-solving, project development, participation in business games, conferences, and more. Upon successful completion, students receive a certificate of completing the retraining course without being granted a degree.

Requirements:

  • Documentation of previous education: depending on the program level, applicants may need to provide either a high school or bachelor's diploma with a grade transcript OR experience
  • English proficiency at a B2 level
  • Motivation letter
  • Resume

Certificate programs

Certificate programs offer the opportunity to acquire specific skills, deepen knowledge, or enhance your professional profile. For instance, digital transformation courses are suitable for individuals aiming to transition their business to the online realm.

Certificate courses are available at different levels: undergraduate and graduate / postgraduate. Undergraduate programs accept applicants directly after high school, while graduate programs typically require a bachelor's degree.

The duration of certificate programs ranges from 1 week to 3 months. Upon completion, students receive a certificate attesting to their successful course completion; however, no degree is awarded.

Requirements:

  • Documentation of previous education: depending on the program level, applicants may need to provide either a high school or bachelor's diploma with a grade transcript
  • English proficiency at a B2 level
  • Motivation letter expressing the applicant's reasons for pursuing the certificate program
  • Resume outlining the applicant's educational and professional background
  • Work experience of at least 2 years may be required, depending on the specific program

Executive education

Executive Education comprises short-term courses designed for executives and company leaders, typically ranging from 1 day to a week. These courses focus on specific aspects of business or skill development. For example, HEC Paris offers short-term programs in corporate finance management, direct selling, and digital transformation.

These courses often follow a modular structure, where students meet in person once a month for several days of intensive study.

Requirements:

  • A minimum of 5 years of experience in a managerial position — applicants are required to provide the name of their company and their current position when registering for the courses.
  • Proficiency in English at a level not lower than C1 — while a certificate is not always necessary, applicants should demonstrate a solid command of the language.

Some executive education programs have open enrollment, allowing free entry for individuals who meet the relevant work experience criteria. To apply, candidates simply need to fill out an application form on the program's website.

Where to get a business education

When selecting a business education program, consider the following criteria:

  • Career goals. Clearly define your career objectives, as they will shape the format, duration, and content of your program choice. If you are just starting your journey, consider applying for a BBA or Bachelor of Management and then progressing to an MBA. Short-term Certificate / Diploma courses are suitable for young entrepreneurs and startup founders, providing essential knowledge in modular formats.
  • Budget. Take your budget into account while choosing the country of study. Business education in Europe tends to be more affordable than in the US, without compromising on prestige and quality. Decide on your budget and explore potential sources of funding, as business scholarships are relatively scarce and often modest.
  • Ranking. For business education, particularly for an MBA, the prestige of the school is highly significant. The reputation of the institution plays an important role in the value of the education received and the status it confers.
  • Geography. If your career plans involve working or establishing a business in the East, consider pursuing an MBA in locations like Hong Kong, Mainland China, or Singapore. On the other hand, if you prioritize an international approach and seek to expand your professional network and opportunities globally, consider Europe.

The following sections will explore the distinctive features of business education in various countries.

Business education in the United States

In the US, business education is offered at top universities such as Columbia, Harvard, MIT, and others. Alternatively, there are specialized institutions dedicated solely to training entrepreneurs and managers. These schools hold prestigious positions in both global and subject-specific rankings, making them highly esteemed in the field.

The top 10 best business schools in the world, as ranked by the magazine Financial Times, include 7 American business schools from renowned universities[3], known as the Magnificent 7 (M7). Admission requirements in these schools are particularly stringent compared to other institutions and countries. Aspiring students are expected to achieve a minimum GMAT score of 720 and a TOEFL score of at least 105.

In the United States, business schools primarily offer master's and MBA programs. However, there are also options for bachelor's programs, known as BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration).

Top business schools in the US
SchoolCost per yearGMAT score (2022)Financial Times ranking
Columbia Business School77,376 USD7262
Harvard Business School74,919 USD7323
MIT Sloan73,440 USD73011
Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management76,368 USD7275
Stanford University Graduate School of Business78,954 USD7306
University of Chicago Booth School of Business74,706 USD7387
University of Pennsylvania Wharton School83,230 USD7331
Jacobs Center at Kellogg School of Management

Business education in Europe

European business schools are on par with their American counterparts in terms of prestige and the quality of education. Moreover, they offer distinct advantages that set them apart from New World schools:

  • Classroom size. European schools boast smaller class sizes, leading to a more favorable student-to-teacher ratio. On average, European schools have 200-500 students in a class[4], while institutions like Wharton may have up to 900 students[5].
  • Price. European business education is more cost-effective than American programs — the average cost of a two-year MBA program in Europe is 90,142 USD, compared to 154,000 USD in America.
  • Duration. European business schools offer shorter, intensive programs that typically last 1-1.5 years. This shorter duration contributes to reduced overall educational expenses.
  • Multiculturalism. European business schools attract a higher percentage of foreign students. For instance, institutions like HEC Paris have 95%[6] foreign students, while London Business School has 92%[7]. In comparison, US business schools have a lower number of foreign students, such as Harvard Business School, with only 37%[8]. This multicultural exposure provides valuable networking opportunities, and understanding national characteristics becomes essential in negotiations and conducting business with international partners.

Top business schools in Europe
SchoolCountryCost per yearGMAT score (2022)Financial Times ranking
INSEADFrance / Singapore / UAE49,958 USD7063
London Business SchoolGreat Britain52,945 USD7088
IESE Business SchoolSpain43,170 USD67010
HEC ParisFrance29,975 USD69011
SDA Bocconi School of ManagementItaly32,038 USD70013
INSEAD France

Business education in Asia

Asian countries are becoming increasingly popular choices for applicants seeking business programs. The instability of the global economy during and after the 2008 crisis raised doubts about the viability of the Western model of economics and management. As a result, 15 Asian institutions now rank among the top 100 best business schools worldwide. Among them, INSEAD's Singapore campus holds a prominent position in the top three, with China's CEIBS at 16th place and the National University of Singapore at 21st place[3].

Graduates of Asian business schools benefit from their knowledge of the region's cultural characteristics and specificities of conducting business in the East. These students gain insights from real local and international business cases and interact with individuals from diverse cultures. Such experiences contribute to shaping their vision and business strategies, considering national characteristics.

Top business schools in Asia
SchoolCountryCost per yearGMAT score (2022)Financial Times ranking
INSEAD SingaporeSingapore49,496 USD7063
CEIBSChina33,150 USD68416
National University of Singapore Business SchoolSingapore24,029 USD67021
HKUST Business SchoolHong Kong17,927 USD66036
NTU Business School SingaporeSingapore48,206 USD66239
One of the most beautiful and unusual campuses in the world — Business School at Nanyang Technological University

Business education in Russia

Business education in Russia appeared in the 1990s along with the market economy. Based on the American and European models. Over time, it became clear that it could not be applied to the Russian economy in transition.

Still there is a rethinking of Western models of education and attempts to apply them to Russian reality. Therefore, many Russian business schools still build the educational process according to the traditional models and it is rare to find even MBA programs in them. They are not included in the rankings, and their diploma does not have the same prestige as an American one.

Best Universities to Study Business in Russia
SchoolProgramsCost per year
Higher School of Economics Graduate School of Business
  • Bachelor
  • Master
  • Aspirantura
  • MBA
  • DBA
  • Additional education
7,340 USD — 14,680 USD
Moscow State University Graduate School of Business
  • Bachelor
  • Master
  • MBA
  • EMBA
  • professional retraining programs
6,098 USD — 14,680 USD
St. Petersburg State University Graduate School of Management
  • Bachelor
  • Master
  • Aspirantura
5,081 USD
Kazan Federal University Graduate School of Business
  • Master
  • Aspirantura
  • MBA
  • DBA
7,227 USD — 14,680 USD
Moscow School of Management Skolkovo
  • Master
  • BBA
  • MBA
  • EMBA
  • short courses
22,584 USD
Graduate School of Management, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia
Mikhailovskaya Dacha is the main campus of the Graduate School of Management, St. Petersburg State University
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Scholarships and free business education

Business education is a valuable investment in one's future. The average cost of programs may differ based on the country and the reputation of the school.

Fortunately, numerous business schools provide scholarships and grants to their students. Moreover, the most prestigious institutions set aside dedicated resources to support international students, as networking and multicultural exposure are vital in business education. However, these scholarships are often more readily available for MBA students. There are limited options for traditional business education scholarships. Therefore, it is advisable to explore funding opportunities directly on the university website under the Financial Aid section.

Scholarships for business students
ScholarshipCountryEligibilityAmountDeadline

IMD Young Leaders Scholarships

SwitzerlandMBA students under 28 who have already succeeded in businessup to 54,819 USDWithin 2 weeks after enrollment

AAUW International Fellowships in USA for Women

USAFemale students of master's and doctoral programs in business at any university in the United States20,000 USD / 25,000 USDNovember 15th

ESMT Central and Eastern Europe Scholarship

GermanyStudents from Central and Eastern Europe25% tuition discountDepending on the program deadline
INSEAD Russian Alumni Endowed ScholarshipFrance, SingaporeCitizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus studying at any level of education in one of the campuses at INSEAD21,721 USDDepending on the program deadline

University of Amsterdam Merit Scholarship

The NetherlandsMaster's in Economics and BusinessTuition fee + 5,430 USD per yearJuly 24th
University of St. Gallen Excellence ScholarshipSwitzerlandMaster's in Management, Economics, Finance, Marketing and Accounting21,927 USDDepending on the program deadline

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program

USABachelor’s in Business Administration, Accounting, and Finance from any US university1,000-10,000 USDSeptember 15th
Trinity College Dublin’s Global Business ScholarshipIrelandBachelor’s in Business3,258-5,430 USDMarch 1st / May 1st / June 1st

Job prospects with a business degree

Graduates of business programs can work in almost any industry. Typically, they opt for managerial, finance, and accounting roles. However, the range of career opportunities expands significantly based on their specialization. Each stage of business education equips graduates for distinct positions.

For instance, bachelor's degree holders may start as junior financial analysts or accountants. Advancing to senior positions like manager or chief accountant often requires a master's degree or an MBA. Graduates from such programs can even aspire to become a CEO or Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Areas of employment for business graduates

  • Consulting. In this role, your primary task is to provide advice to firms and companies, helping them optimize business processes and enhance efficiency. Projects and clients can vary widely, from large industries to application developers.
  • Marketing and advertising. Marketers are responsible for analyzing markets, developing marketing and advertising strategies, and evaluating the outcomes of their implementation. Strong knowledge of statistics and an analytical mindset are essential in this area. Assessing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns is crucial.
  • Sales. Retail and sales encompass more than just arranging goods on shelves and making cold calls. They offer diverse perspectives and opportunities, including office-based and travel-oriented work. Sales professionals engage in negotiating, competitive analysis, and presenting products to potential partners. Graduates with a major in IT and digital economy can also explore opportunities in e-commerce.
  • Producing. The profession of a producer suits individuals with exceptional organizational skills and a creative flair. For instance, a film producer conceives the main idea for a film, selects a director, secures funding, and organizes the filming process. Thus, producing involves a blend of management skills, industry understanding, and creativity. Business graduates can venture into producing various forms of media, from movies and series to music and online content.
  • Human Resources (HR). This field is ideal for those who have taken additional courses in psychology or received their first degree in this discipline. Within HR, you can work as a recruiter, facilitating the onboarding process for new employees, and organizing and conducting training sessions for them.
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