What an MBA covers

A typical Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree gives students a broad understanding of running an organisation. Several MBA topics and MBA subjects are common to a typical MBA curriculum, with the option to specialise in certain fields.

Some MBA schools will offer specialist MBAs that put a focus on specific MBA topics. Other schools, like the University of Johannesburg, offer a general MBA with the option of choosing elective subjects so you can specialise in the MBA topics of your choice.

People starting on an MBA generally come from a wide range of backgrounds, such as science, medicine or social science. For this reason, they must obtain a grounding in MBA subjects and topics. The business environment is also constantly changing and a good MBA degree will cover the latest business trends around the globe and offer practical opportunities to work on improving a business.

In this article, we will cover what is included in both the first year and second year of a typical MBA curriculum and take a closer look at the MBA course details and the subjects and topics that are usually covered. We’ll also cover admission requirements and fees.

MBA Subjects List – How many Subjects are there in MBA

The exact number of subjects will depend on the course that you are doing. Depending on the particular course, there is likely to be quite a lot of overlap across modules while other modules will combine what might be considered two different subjects into one.

A typical MBA curriculum is made up of modules. The MBA course details do however vary quite a bit between different countries, with a typical MBA curriculum in the US being made up of about 40 to 60 modules compared with South African curriculums having around half that number.

The University of Johannesburg online Master of Business Administration programme comprises 23 modules and a project. Modules are done two at a time and take seven weeks to complete.
The core subjects in an MBA are accounting, finance, marketing, organisational behaviour, economics, management and business ethics. With specialisations, several other MBA subjects can be studied as well.

Typical MBA curriculum – subjects in MBA 1st Year?

A typical MBA curriculum covers general business subjects. It is important that these MBA subjects are covered as people who study an MBA do not all come from the same area of expertise.

The exact MBA course details differ between schools, but the important MBA subjects covered in the first year of a typical curriculum include accounting, economics, marketing, management, business leadership
To illustrate, these are the modules covered in the first year of study for the University of Johannesburg’s Master of Business Administration:

  • Leadership in the Growing Business: Getting started
  • Contemporary Management – A
  • Innovative Marketing
  • Accounting
  • Operations and Supply Chain Management
  • Business Ethics
  • Economics and International Business
  • Business in Society

Typical MBA curriculum – subjects in MBA 2nd Year?

In the second year of a typical MBA curriculum students will usually start specialising. This is also where students are given the opportunity to practically apply their new knowledge in the form of a project or some other practical application such as an internship.

In the second year students will often cover the same subjects and MBA topics as in the first year, but in more detail, building on the skills they will have learned in the first year of study.

Here are the subjects studied in the second year of study for the University of Johannesburg’s Master of Business Administration:

  • Competitive Strategy: Winning in the Market Place
  • Contemporary Management – B
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the 4th Industrial Revolution
  • Leadership in the Growing Business B
  • ICT Driven Decision-Making in the 4th Industrial Revolution

The above MBA subjects are the core modules in the second year of study, but there is also a practical project with several milestones to be achieved over the course of the year. Students also choose three elective subjects where they can choose their area of specialisation. The elective subjects are:

  • Entrepreneurship and Start-Ups
  • Management Accounting for Decision-Making
  • Contemporary Issues in Business Leadership (Leaders who get results)
  • Contemporary Issues in Costing and Pricing Models (Pricing for profit)
  • Contemporary Issues in Digital Marketing (Social media marketing)
  • Contemporary Issues in Digitalising Operations (Technology to facilitate operations)
  • Contemporary Issues in International Business (Marketing beyond South Africa)
  • Global elective – international study tour (Optional)

Students may choose to specialise in an area that they already have qualifications and skills in, such as an accountant choosing to specialise in areas of financial management. Others may choose to specialise in areas where they feel they do not already know enough, such as a business owner choosing to specialise in marketing to drive more customers to their business.

Course details – admission, fees, and duration of MBA course

An MBA requires candidates to have completed four years of university-level study as well as having a few years of relevant work experience. Generally, the type of degree is not important and MBA candidates come from a range of fields.

Typical MBA curriculums are completed over two years.

MBA admission minimum requirements:

Exact requirements can differ internationally as different countries have different names and standards within their education systems. In South Africa, all MBA degrees are accredited by the Council for Higher Education, which uses the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).
Here are the requirements that students must fulfil to apply for the University of Johannesburg’s Master of Business Administration:

A 4-year Bachelor’s degree (NQF level 8)
Honours degree (NQF level 8)
3-year Bachelor’s degree (NQF level 7) plus a Postgraduate Diploma (NQF level 8)


A minimum of four years’ work experience

MBA course fees:

Fees for MBAs are quite a bit more than for most other Masters degrees. The reason for this is that the people who teach these degrees are themselves highly experienced and accomplished. There is a lot of demand for their skills and time outside of academia.

The tuition alone for some of the world’s most expensive MBA programmes comes to much more than R2 million. Fortunately, costs at South African institutions are considerably lower and the cost of the University of Johannesburg MBA is less than 10% of that. For a detailed and up-to-date breakdown of the costs, please have a look at the MBA fees page.

While an MBA may appear costly, it offers a fantastic return on investment due to the high salaries that MBA graduates can earn. Studying online also saves on costs, among other benefits enjoyed by students doing any of the University of Johannesburg’s online programmes.