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The Online MBA in General Management Explained

ManagementGeneral management MBAs are the Renaissance people of the business world. They know a little bit about every aspect of business and they know a lot about leadership, team building, long-term planning, strategizing, and morale boosting. Everyone who enters an MBA program, regardless of the specialization, garners some knowledge on the basics of general management. But some students actually make this their concentration.

Many of these graduates start their post-graduation career leading various divisions or projects within an organization. Typically, they progress to senior executive positions. Some of the best will end up running their own businesses or getting named CEO at an already established company.

What is an online MBA in general management?

Although the delivery of content is different, the material covered is basically the same as you would find at a brick-and-mortar program. In other words, you'll be charged with completing core courses in subjects such as operations management, finance, and marketing. Then, you'll have more in-depth, general management-specific electives that focus on subjects like communication, acting entrepreneurially in already established businesses, leadership, and crisis management.

The best programs offer a mix of face-to-face meetings and online course materials, says Scott C. Hammond, a clinical professor of management at Utah State University's Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. Most programs have students working on an online learning platform that offers a mix of videos, conference calls, and forum discussions. Webcams are sometimes used, so that students and professors can interact from long distances.

Who is the right fit for this program?

Anyone who gets accepted and enrolls in an MBA program has demonstrated some level of leadership. It's a requirement on most applications. But those who specialize in general management tend to be big on ideas. They want to create a vision for an organization and aim to oversee an entire company as opposed to leading one division at a time.

Often, they have a knack for communication, including boosting an individual's sense of loyalty as well as giving motivational speeches to a crowd and detailed instructions to other executives. They also tend to have a keen sense of the bottom line, meeting the needs of both shareholders and nowadays the public. Finally, they remain calm in the storm. Things are not always going to go well, and general managers have to keep cool in the middle of crisis.

Since this is an online program, which allows for more flexibility, it attracts students who can't make it to in-person classes on a regular basis. "I have one student who worked on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico two weeks on and one week off," says Hammond. "He had free time and an Internet connection on the rig but could not attend classes." Indeed, these programs are often most attractive to those who are juggling a full-time job and/or family obligations and aren't as mobile as other students.

While people often wonder about the networking and career planning available through online programs, there are some options. Many of the schools have students interact on group projects, simulations, and forum discussions, which foster relationships. Some even require in-person meetings and travel. Many schools offer some basic assistance with career planning, such as resume editing and mock interviews. Sometimes, it's limited because these students are usually already employed.

MeetingWhat are the admissions requirements?

Admissions requirements vary by school. Usually, they include an application fee, undergraduate degree and transcripts, standardized test scores (such as the GMAT), a resume, and a demonstration of leadership. Some also ask for essays and recommendation letters, preferably from your supervisor.

In general, you can expect the general management MBA to challenge you. "If you are just checking off a series of individual accomplishments, then become a girl or boy scout and earn merit badges," says Hammond. "If you want an MBA, join a community of learners. Test your ideas and approaches against theirs. Challenge your teacher and your textbook. Ask questions. If you can do that online, then you have a good program."

General management clearly is not for the faint of heart. You have to have a fighting spirit and dogged determination to establish a vision and lead an organization toward it. As a result, it's probably more of a calling than any of the other MBA specializations.