MBA courses: Top selections for career advancement

An MBA helps professionals advance their careers. Learn how to strategically select MBA courses based on your professional interests and goals.

Graduates with master's of business administration (MBA) degrees bring key skills to the workforce. But what MBA courses pay off on the job market and beyond? Which classes offer the best return on investment for different career paths? 

Enrolling in an MBA program is a substantial investment. Students need to think strategically to get the most out of their program. Prospective and current MBA students can use our guide to choose the best courses to reach their career goals. 

How to choose MBA courses

An MBA prepares graduates for roles in leadership and management. Many MBA programs let students choose their MBA courses. However, some MBA programs use a set curriculum, where students complete the same courses without elective options. 

When choosing MBA courses, learners must weigh several factors. What skills do different courses emphasize? Do particular courses help learners strengthen in-demand abilities?

Students should also consider their career goals and choose classes that align with their chosen career path. For example, courses in venture capital and business innovation can help future entrepreneurs.

MBA courses that will prepare you for career advancement

Business school builds advanced analytical, leadership, and problem-solving skills. In core and elective MBA courses, students strengthen their knowledge, communication skills, and decision-making strategies.

Students focus on core courses during the first year of an MBA program. As learners advance through the program, they can choose electives. Many business schools offer MBA concentrations to further specialize the degree. While each MBA program sets its own curriculum, many offer the following core and elective course options to prepare graduates for career advancement.

Core MBA courses

Business ethics and accountability

Typical difficulty level: Medium

What you'll learn: Most MBA programs include a class on business ethics and accountability. The course trains students in ethical decision-making, including ethical frameworks and corporate social responsibility. Other topics include ethical risks and challenges in business ethics.

Who will this course most benefit? The course benefits MBA graduates in every specialty, from accounting to sales. The ability to make moral decisions and analyze ethical dilemmas helps all business leaders and decision-makers. 

Finance I and II

Typical difficulty level: Hard

What you'll learn:  In core MBA finance courses, students study corporate financial management, investment strategy, and business finance. With a focus on financial theory, learners examine capital budgeting, cash flow methods, asset pricing, and financial policy. In addition to managerial finance, key topics include corporate finance, financial markets, and economic theory. 

Who will this course most benefit? Courses in finance benefit MBA students planning careers in financial management. These courses also help professionals analyze the financial health of organizations, make financial decisions, and evaluate corporate financial strategies.

Financial accounting

Typical difficulty level: Hard

What you'll learn:  Students in this course learn how to effectively analyze financial statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Financial accounting MBA courses focus on how to use accounting information to make decisions. While strengthening their accounting skills, learners also study financial forecasting, business valuation, and investment strategy. 

Who will this course most benefit? Managers in diverse fields rely on financial accounting skills to determine the health of an organization, drive business strategies, and analyze investment opportunities. The course is particularly beneficial to professionals in accounting and finance.

Leadership of teams and organizations

Typical difficulty level: Medium

What you'll learn:  The course offers a research-based approach to leadership. Students examine key leadership principles at different levels of an organization, including executive-level leadership. Topics may include effective management approaches, leadership competencies, strategic thinking, and leadership challenges. 

Who will this course most benefit? MBA graduates often pursue leadership roles as project managers, supervisors, directors, and executives. These leadership roles require specialized training. This course benefits MBA students seeking executive-level roles in any industry. 

Managerial communication

Typical difficulty level: Medium

What you'll learn:  Managers rely on their communication skills. This course teaches public speaking, leadership, and communication strategies. Students explore communication methods and challenges to effective communication. 

Who will this course most benefit? MBA graduates in every career path rely on communication abilities. Whether communicating with customers, team members, executives, or shareholders, this course will provide valuable training. 

Managerial statistics

Typical difficulty level: Hard

What you'll learn: This class covers core concepts in statistics and probability, including regression analysis, probability distribution, and risk assessment. The material draws on examples in marketing, finance, and other business fields. 

Who will this course most benefit? Business decision-making roles require statistical and data analysis training. The course prepares graduates for careers as managers, business analysts, and consultants. 

Marketing

Typical difficulty level: Medium

What you'll learn: MBA programs incorporate marketing management courses to train students in researching customer demand, identifying gaps in the market, and increasing market share. Topics include competitor research, brand identity, pricing strategy, and promotion. Learners debate case studies and present market research plans. 

Who will this course most benefit? The course benefits MBA students considering careers in marketing, advertising, and sales. It can also provide helpful information to managers in diverse fields. 

Microeconomics for managers

Typical difficulty level: Hard

What you'll learn: Microeconomics courses focus on pricing strategy, supply, and demand. MBA students learn about how markets function and what consumer decision-making processes involve. Through microeconomic research, economic models, and case studies, learners strengthen their understanding of profit-maximizing output.  

Who will this course most benefit? With its focus on market structure and behavior, the course benefits students interested in marketing. Microeconomic principles also benefit anyone considering a career in management.

Top elective MBA courses, by concentration

Accounting

  • Federal taxation and business strategy
  • Auditing and forensic accounting
  • Financial statement analysis and valuation

Accounting MBA electives prepare graduates for the CPA exam and licensure. Accounting electives focus on areas like forensic accounting, financial statement analysis, federal tax policy, and business strategy. Learners strengthen their financial analytical skills while also building their knowledge of regulatory and tax policies.

Business, government, and the international economy

  • International financial policy
  • Valuation for global firms
  • Emerging markets finance and entrepreneurship

Many MBA programs offer concentrations in business, government, the international economy, or global business. Learners in study international financial policy, the business valuation process, and identifying opportunities in emerging markets. The concentration strengthens analytical skills with a global focus, preparing graduates for careers in international business. 

Entrepreneurship

  • Innovation and business strategy
  • Venture capital and private equity
  • Early stage ventures

MBA students looking to launch their own businesses or work in venture capital benefit from an entrepreneurship concentration. During the specialization, learners study business strategy, private equity, early stage ventures, and innovation. By analyzing entrepreneurship case studies and completing business plans, students build their critical thinking and analytical skills. 

Finance

  • Financial markets and risk management
  • Corporate finance and restructuring
  • Financial regulation

Finance MBA students study financial markets, government regulations, corporate finance, and risk management. They also learn about corporate restructuring, public finance, and strategic financial analysis. These courses strengthen analytical abilities and teach decision-making skills for financial managers. Graduates work as risk managers, financial managers, and chief financial officers.

Marketing

  • Consumer behavior and market research
  • International marketing management
  • Digital marketing and social media

MBA learners with a marketing concentration strengthen their marketing management skills. Many marketing electives focus on a research-based approach to increasing market share and identifying growth opportunities. Students may study consumer behavior, international marketing, digital marketing strategies, or other specialized coursework. The concentration builds career-ready skills for leadership roles in marketing.

Organizational behavior

  • Negotiation strategy
  • Organizational change
  • Learning and strategic management

An organizational behavior concentration evaluates how organizations respond to change. MBA students in this concentration explore research on organizational change, negotiation strategy, and managing human resources. By analyzing research and applying skills in hands-on projects, students strengthen their ability to evaluate an organization's strengths, weaknesses, and growth opportunities. 

Which MBA specialization is most in demand?

In a 2019 corporate recruiters survey, companies reported the highest demand for strategy, finance, and business analytics MBA graduates.

What subjects do they teach in MBA?

Learners in MBA programs study data analysis, strategic decision-making, and organizational behavior. Many programs offer specialized training in healthcare, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, and logistics.  

How can I become a CEO?

Most CEOs bring extensive business experience. Many also hold an MBA or a similar business degree. Becoming a CEO often entails progressing in leadership roles from manager, director, VP, and finally CEO. This progression involves increasing business acumen, leadership capabilities, industry knowledge over years of experience. Earning a CEO title doesn't require an MBA, but completing your degree program can help you develop the required skills, capabilities, and network to progress more quickly.

This article was reviewed by Krystal Covington, MBA 

Krystal Covington, a woman with medium-length, curly hair, smiles at the camera.

Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations. Her company, Go Lead Consulting, provides clients foundational tools to build new client and customer relationships. 

Covington founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills and connect with other high-achieving women. Covington received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.

Krystal Covington is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.