Do You Need a BA for an MBA?

Explore the relationship between Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees, including prerequisites and alternative paths for pursuing an MBA without a BA.
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Considering pursuing an MBA, but not sure if you need a bachelor’s degree? This article explores the relationship between Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees, including prerequisites and alternative paths for pursuing an MBA without a BA. We’ll also weigh the potential advantages and drawbacks of pursuing an MBA without a BA, and what you need to know before making a decision.

Understanding BA and MBA Degrees

When considering higher education options, it’s common to come across various degree programs, including the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA).

These two degrees have distinct entry requirements and outcomes, which we will discuss in detail to help you decide about your higher education path.

Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree

A Bachelor of Arts (BA) is a versatile undergraduate degree program focusing on various subjects in the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts. This degree aims to provide students with a foundation in critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and creative skills, which employers in various industries highly sought after.

A typical BA program spans four years and involves a combination of general education, major-specific coursework, and elective classes. Some examples of BA degree courses are:

  • Introduction to Sociology
  • World Literature
  • Modern Art History
  • Political Science
  • Anthropology

Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a graduate-level program that provides students with a well-rounded education in various aspects of business management. The primary goal of an MBA program is to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and expertise needed to effectively lead businesses and organizations.

An MBA program typically lasts two years and covers various business-related topics, including accounting, finance, marketing, operations, human resources, and strategic management. Students may also choose to specialize in areas like entrepreneurship, supply chain management, or international business. Graduates with an MBA degree can pursue high-level management roles across multiple industries, such as consulting, banking, technology, and healthcare.

Examples of MBA degree courses include:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Marketing Management
  • Corporate Finance
  • Operations Strategy
  • Global Business Environment

Prerequisites for an MBA Program

Admission to an MBA program can be highly competitive and requires candidates to meet several prerequisites. Let’s dive into these requirements in greater detail.

Educational Background

To be eligible for an MBA program, candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. Although a business-related undergraduate degree can be helpful, it’s not a requirement for admission. As MBA programs are designed to provide comprehensive business education, candidates from diverse educational backgrounds, such as engineering, liberal arts, or sciences, are welcome to apply. In fact, a diverse cohort can enrich the learning experience for all students by bringing unique perspectives and ideas to the classroom.

Work Experience

Many MBA programs require candidates to have a certain amount of work experience before applying. This work experience should be relevant and demonstrate a candidate’s potential to excel in a leadership role. Typically, MBA programs look for at least two to five years of post-undergraduate professional experience, though the specific requirements may vary across institutions.

Gaining work experience not only enables candidates to apply the knowledge and skills learned during the MBA program to real-life situations but also enriches classroom discussions with those who have different professional insights.

Standardized Exam Scores

Lastly, standardized exam scores are a crucial aspect of the MBA application process. The most common exams for MBA admissions are the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). These exams assess applicants’ quantitative, verbal, and analytical writing skills, helping schools evaluate candidates’ academic readiness for the program.

Each MBA program has specific score requirements, so it’s essential to research your target schools and set realistic goals for your test preparation. Preparing well for these exams significantly enhances your chances of securing a spot in your desired MBA program.

Can You Pursue an MBA Without a BA?

One of the most common prerequisites for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is possessing a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. However, is it possible to pursue an MBA without a BA?

The answer is not a straightforward “yes” or “no,” but rather it depends on the specific MBA program you are considering and your individual qualifications.

Alternative Bachelor’s Degrees

It is essential to note that not all MBA programs strictly require a BA degree. Some MBA programs accept alternative bachelor’s degrees, such as a Bachelor of Science (BSc) or Bachelor of Engineering (BEng), as long as the degree is related to business, management, or a related field.

Therefore, before assuming that your non-BA degree is an obstacle to your MBA pursuit, research the specific admission requirements of your chosen MBA program, and look into any accepted alternative bachelor’s degrees.

MBA Programs with Flexible Requirements

There are MBA programs out there that offer flexible admission requirements, meaning they could potentially accept candidates without a BA or similar degree. These programs often value extensive professional experience and other qualifications, such as certifications or specialized training, allowing them to consider nontraditional applicants. Examples of such MBA programs include the Executive MBA (EMBA) or part-time MBA programs, which frequently cater to experienced professionals of various educational backgrounds.

Case-by-case Admission

Some MBA programs take a case-by-case approach when it comes to admitting students without a BA. In such situations, the admissions committee will carefully assess applicants’ qualifications, professional backgrounds, skills, and achievements to determine their fit for the program.

For instance, an applicant with a successful entrepreneurial background or extensive experience in a specific industry could be considered for admission despite lacking a BA degree. It’s crucial to highlight your unique strengths and accomplishments in your application to increase your chances of admission based on this case-by-case evaluation process.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Pursuing an MBA without a BA can have both benefits and limitations. To better understand whether this path is suitable for you, let’s explore the potential advantages and drawbacks.

Potential Advantages of an MBA Without a BA

For some individuals, pursuing an MBA without a BA could yield certain advantages, such as:

  • Diversified skill set: Having a nontraditional educational background can provide you with a unique and diverse skill set that sets you apart from other MBA candidates.
  • Real-world experience: A strong professional background can compensate for the lack of a formal BA degree, as relevant experience can be equally or even more valuable in certain business settings.
  • Opportunity to pivot careers: For individuals considering an MBA to transition into a new career or industry, obtaining an MBA without a BA could offer them the necessary credentials to make such a change.

Limitation of Not Having a BA

Despite the potential advantages, there are also notable limitations and drawbacks in pursuing an MBA without a BA, including:

  • Limited access to MBA programs: Many MBA programs still consider a BA as a requirement, which can limit your options and inhibit your chances of admission to top-tier schools.
  • Perceived lack of academic foundation: Some employers may view an MBA without a BA as insufficient, believing that you might lack the necessary academic foundation to succeed in a management role.
  • Potential difficulties in coursework: Without a BA or similar degree, you could face challenges in understanding certain aspects of MBA coursework that rely on a robust undergraduate foundation.

About Xavier University

If you are looking to pursue an MBA, Xavier University has a program for you. Our Williams College of Business offers a range of MBA and business programs, including:

  • Part-Time MBA
  • Full-Time MBA
  • Online MBA
  • Executive MBA
  • Accelerated MBA
  • Accountancy
  • Customer Analytics

Our MBA and other graduate business programs allow students to gain real-world experience, network with our broad alumni network, and receive a fruitful education rooted in our Jesuit ethics. Learn more about how Xavier’s MBA programs can help you achieve your personal and professional goals today.


What is a BA and how is it beneficial for an MBA?

A Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is an undergraduate degree, typically earned in three or four years, offering students a foundation in liberal arts and sciences. This degree can expose students to various subjects such as literature, history, philosophy, and social sciences. A BA can be an excellent stepping-stone for an MBA because it provides a broad knowledge base and transferable skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication.

Do MBA programs prefer applicants with a BA or BS degree?

MBA programs do not typically favor applicants with a specific undergraduate degree, whether a BA or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. Instead, most programs focus on work experience, personal achievements, and general academic performance.

What are some valuable skills a BA graduate can bring to an MBA program?

A BA graduate can leverage their unique skill set underlying the liberal arts upbringing, which can benefit an MBA program. Some essential skills that BA graduates contribute include:

  • Effective Communication: Critical exposure to disciplines such as literature, language, and history enables BA graduates to develop excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Critical Thinking: A BA degree encourages the development of analytical and critical thinking, equipping graduates with the ability to find creative solutions to complex business problems.
  • Teamwork and Adaptability: The supportive learning environments and collaborative experiences in BA programs prepare students to work effectively in teams, becoming adaptable leaders in varied situations.

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