What is an MBA? Is an MBA a Terminal Degree?

As a bachelor’s degree holder with some experience and a desire to advance in the business world, you may find yourself wondering what a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is and how it differs from the business education you already received. And, as a prospective graduate student, you will want to know how an MBA degree differs from other advanced degree options such as the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). Some commonly asked questions include “Is an MBA a terminal degree?” and “How does an MBA differ from a DBA?”

Consider the following similarities, differences, features, and advantages of an MBA — and the benefits of choosing an online MBA degree program.

How Does an MBA Differ from a Bachelor’s Degree in Business?

As a widely recognized professional degree, the MBA indicates that you have received an education in business administration and management at the graduate level. The MBA experience is designed to build on past coursework and professional experience, allowing you to gain more advanced skills and expertise. In addition to further developing the knowledge and competencies you gained during your undergraduate studies, an MBA program will introduce you to new subjects and strategies while challenging you with more complex real-world problems.

One of the advantages of earning your MBA degree online is that you can continue working in your chosen field or industry while studying. This allows you to apply valuable new insights to your current position and draw real-world, real-time experiences into the virtual classroom, making you a better professional and student.

Is an MBA a Terminal Degree?

The Master of Business Administration is widely considered the terminal degree in business administration. But the answer isn’t quite that simple, since it’s not the single most advanced degree possible in business.

An MBA degree holder leads a work presentation

Throughout the United States, a terminal degree is generally considered to be the highest degree one can earn in a given field. More specifically, it is the highest degree that someone can or must obtain before they gain access to all of the “rights, privileges, and responsibilities appertaining to” their degree when it’s formally conferred upon them with this type of language during a commencement ceremony. In other words, someone may not have access to all possible professional opportunities in their field — including eligibility for higher-paid, senior-level roles — until they earn a terminal degree.

Across the world of academia, the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is considered the terminal degree and a requirement for most tenure-track positions. Someone pursuing a terminal academic degree will earn an academic master’s degree — such as a Master of Arts in History or a Master of Science in Physics — along the way to their doctoral candidacy.

But not all terminal degrees are doctorate degrees. In many professional settings, doctorate-level degrees do not exist. Even when they do, they are not generally considered terminal degrees for their fields. In these cases, members of the profession can gain access to higher-level roles, responsibilities, and salaries once they have earned a terminal master’s degree.

For instance, the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is considered the terminal degree for arts practitioners. However, someone could still go on to pursue a highly specialized doctoral degree in their artistic specialization at one of the few graduate schools where such a program is offered.

The same goes for the business community. There are doctorate degrees in business, but the MBA is typically recognized as the terminal degree in business administration.

But What About the DBA Degree?

When researching your graduate degree options, you may come across a type of professional doctoral degree in business or a related field.

Certainly, an MBA degree holder could go on to pursue a Ph.D. in Management or a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). But, as with the MFA in the arts, the MBA is most widely recognized and accepted as the terminal degree in the business world.

DBA admissions advisors told U.S. News & World Report that they typically seek out accomplished executives who already hold master’s degrees, rather than early- to mid-career professionals who hold bachelor’s degrees as with an MBA. By enrolling in a DBA or Ph.D. program, you will prepare yourself for an academic or research-based career where you explore business as an academic discipline or apply scientific principles and theories to business problems. Alternatively, as an MBA student, you will be grooming yourself for a leadership role in a business setting.

So, is an MBA the highest or most advanced degree you can possibly earn in the field of business? No; you can technically earn a doctoral degree. But is an MBA a terminal degree? Yes, in U.S. and international business settings, the MBA is indeed the terminal degree.

What Are Your Career Options After Earning an MBA?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top-paying business careers don’t always require an MBA credential, but you are more likely to access higher salaries and greater job responsibilities with this degree. Data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) reveals that slightly more chief executives hold master’s degrees than bachelor’s degrees alone.

With an MBA, you’ll have the ability to lead departments and provide direct input into the overall direction of a business from an upper-level management or C-suite position. A robust MBA curriculum will help you gain expertise in topics ranging from finance to information technology and supply chain management.

UAB’s online Master of Business Administration program includes a General Track as well as four optional concentrations — Finance, Marketing, Health Services, and Management Information Systems. You can either expand your business acumen or enrich your skill set in a specific industry.

Earn Your Online MBA at UAB

An online MBA from UAB’s Collat School of Business is a final, critical step for students who want to excel in the field of business administration. While a bachelor’s degree in business can offer a solid foundation, you can’t reap the rewards an advanced education can bring until earning a terminal degree in business.

Now that you know answers to important questions like “Is an MBA considered a terminal degree?” and “What is an MBA?” you can learn more about UAB’s online MBA degree program by contacting an enrollment advisor today.


Recommended Readings:

Online MBA Degree Programs at UAB

Five Things To Know Before Enrolling In An Online MBA Program

MBA Accreditation: Why It Matters


BLS — Business Careers With High Pay

O*NET — Summary Report for Chief Executives

U.S. News & World Report — What a DBA Degree Is and Why You Might Want One