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Picking an undergraduate degree is one of the first major decisions you’ll make in your college career. So, it’s important to choose a field that will allow you to pursue your goals and set you up for success. If one of your goals is to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA), then you may be wondering which undergraduate degree is the best route to take.
Most people assume they need a bachelor’s degree in business to get an MBA, but there are actually a lot more options that provide a solid base.
Here are some of the best undergraduate degrees for MBA candidates and how to finance your MBA program.
Undergrad degrees for an MBA
Before choosing your undergrad major, it’s a good idea to research what school you’d like to get your MBA from (e.g., MIT vs. Columbia vs. Northwestern, etc.). Some MBA programs might favor undergraduate students with an engineering, social sciences, or marketing background, so that can drive your undergrad decision.
Business schools break down incoming students’ undergrad degrees by broad categories, according to DegreeQuery. So it’s tough to identify specific bachelor’s degree majors. But in a study of some of the top MBA schools, the breakdown was as follows:
Perhaps not surprisingly, 34% of students who entered an MBA program have some sort of business major. But your degree doesn’t have to be in business management — many other potential majors in the business field will prepare you for an MBA program. For example, this category can include applicants who studied accounting, marketing, finance, international business, human resources, business administration, and management information systems.
Science and math
33% of MBA candidates were science or math majors. Business schools are often willing to accept applicants from non-business disciplines because they emphasize professionalism, skills, and motivation over prior education. Math and science majors can include biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, environmental science, and computer science.
Humanities and social sciences
25% of people entering an MBA program have a bachelor’s degree in the humanities or social sciences categories. In fact, these students with these majors may be viewed very favorably by admissions officers because they increase diversity of thought and experience in the program.
MBA students with humanities and social sciences can include those who majored in anthropology, communications, economics, education, English literature, geography, history, international relations, journalism, criminal justice, law, or linguistics.
Paying for an MBA
There are a few different ways to finance your MBA degree. Your first choice should always be funding that doesn’t have to be repaid, including savings, scholarships, grants, and financial aid from your school. But if those funding options fall short, student loans can help make up the difference.
There are two broad categories of student loans: federal and private.
Federal loans for MBA
Federal student loans are offered by the government and typically have lower interest rates and more generous repayment terms than private loans.
To qualify for a federal loan, you must be enrolled in a degree-granting program at an eligible school.
There are two types of federal student loans available to master’s degree students.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: With a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you can borrow up to $20,500 per year. The interest rate on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan is currently fixed at 7.05% for graduate and professional students. You are responsible for paying the interest on the loan from the time the loan is disbursed until it’s repaid in full. You can choose to either pay the interest as it accumulates or allow it to be capitalized (added to the principal balance of the loan). The standard repayment term for a direct unsubsidized loan is 10 years, although you may qualify for an extended repayment period.
- Direct PLUS Loans: With a Direct PLUS Loan, the maximum amount you can borrow is the cost of attendance minus any other financial aid you receive. The interest rate on a Direct PLUS Loan is currently fixed at 8.05%. You are responsible for paying the interest on the loan from the time the loan is disbursed until it’s repaid in full. You can choose to either pay the interest as it accumulates or allow it to be capitalized (added to the principal balance of the loan). Generally, you have 10 to 25 years to repay a Direct Plus Loan, depending on the repayment plan you choose.
To apply for either of the loans, you must first complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Private loans for MBA
Private student loans are offered by banks and other lenders and usually have higher interest rates and fewer repayment options. For that reason, they should only be used to fill in the gaps after exhausting your federal student loan options.
Private loans may also have more stringent eligibility requirements than federal student loans. To get a private student loan, potential lenders will consider your:
- Credit score: Student loan lenders look at your credit score to determine your eligibility for a loan and to set the interest rate. A low credit score or no credit history can make it difficult to get a loan approved or lead to a high interest rate.If you don’t have a good credit score, you might need a cosigner to get a private student loan. Among Credible’s partner lenders, you’ll need a credit score of at least 670 to qualify for a private student loan.
- Income: Student loan lenders also look at your income (or your cosigner’s income) to determine your eligibility for a loan. A high income can indicate that you’re in a better financial position to repay your loan, while a low income might suggest you’ll have trouble affording the monthly payments. Lenders typically require borrowers to provide proof of income, such as tax returns or pay stubs.
- Age: To get a private student loan, you must be at least 18 years old. This is because private student loans are considered to be an adult financial product, and lenders want borrowers who are old enough to understand the responsibilities that come with taking out a loan.
- Citizenship: Lenders often require borrowers to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents to get a private student loan. However, some lenders will work with international students or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients as long as they have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- School and program eligibility: Finally, most lenders require borrowers to be in school at least half-time in order to qualify for a private student loan.
With Credible, you can shop around to compare your private student loan options without impacting your credit score.
The companies in the table below are Credible’s approved partner lenders. Whether you’re the borrower or cosigner, Credible makes it easy to compare rates from multiple private student loan providers without affecting your credit score.
|Lender||Fixed Rates From (APR)||Variable Rates From (APR)|
|4.50%9 - 15.49%9||6.37%9 - 16.70%9|
Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available. Prequalified rates are not an offer of credit. | 10Ascent Disclosures | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 11Custom Choice Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
Learn More: 4 Best MBA Student Loans for Business School
So if you’re interested in becoming one of those sought-after MBA graduates, don’t let the fact that you don’t have an undergraduate business degree stop you. Plenty of full-time MBA programs and online MBA programs out there will accept all kinds of majors. You might even be accepted into a top-ranked program as long as you have a good GMAT score, high undergraduate GPA, professional work experience, and a strong essay and letters of recommendation.
But no matter which route you take, make sure to do your research on the business school you want to attend and talk to professionals in the field to get their advice. Then you’ll be better prepared to pursue the graduate degree of your dreams.