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Harvard MBA: What you Need to Know!

Updated: Mar 15

In the second entry of our MBA Spotlight Series, we’re looking at arguably the world’s most famous university and MBA program; The Harvard Business School.



Harvard MBA: The Basics


Established in 1908, Harvard Business School has been a pioneer in business and management education for over a century. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the university houses close to 6,800 undergraduate students and 14,000 postgraduate students every year.


Coming to the business school itself, the HBS MBA is a residential full-time two year program, with an average class size of close to 930 students. The average full time work experience of the current MBA batch is 4.7 years, with a median GMAT score of 740.


The program was ranked 1st and 2nd in the FT Global MBA rankings for 2020 and 2019 respectively.



Harvard MBA: Key Program Details


Case Method

Harvard was the world’s first MBA program to introduce the case method, which takes students out a theoretical setting and launches them into the challenges of the real world. The case method requires study to analyze and assess the problems in front of them, understanding the causes and collaborating to find meaningful solutions. The MBA class at Harvard covers close to 500 cases over the two years, of which ~33% are international cases.


The Field Method

Along with the case method, HBS also introduced the FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development) method in 2011 as a year-long course for first year students for them to translate their ideas and initiatives into action. This also includes a semester long ‘FIELD Global Immersion’, where students are paired with a Global Partner company with a product or service challenge to address. It culminates in a one-week immersion at the company’s location during which students meet with their GP and local consumers.


Joint Programs

HBS has created six joint degree programs with other schools in the university to allow students to develop their management skills and specific expertise together. These joint degree programs are MS/MBA Biotechnology, MBA/MPP, JD/MBA, DMD/MBA, MD/MBA, and the MS/MBA Engineering Sciences.



Harvard MBA: Admission Criteria


The MBA application consists of academic performance, test scores, professional experiences, essays and recommendations. The HBS website lists three primary characteristics that they look for in successful MBA candidates:


  1. Habit of Leadership: The school believes leadership is a trait in its students which will further be enhanced during the program, and it looks for evidence of the same in their past experiences. It looks for displays of leadership at all levels and across all aspects of life, from academic and business to personal and societal.

  2. Analytical Aptitude and Appetite: The HBS MBA is a rigorous program and a large majority of its curriculum, through the case and field methods, requires students to be independent in their thought, analytical in their understanding, and vocal in discussions. The evidence of these attributes is assessed through past academic/competitive testing, and an applicant’s experiences at work.

  3. Engaged Community Citizenship: The community at HBS is built upon active collaboration between all its students. The program looks for candidates with high ethical standards, who are eager to share their experiences, and teach as well as learn from other students.


The MBA application has only one essay on the topic ‘As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?


As is evident, the prompt is very open ended and can be used creatively by applicants in a variety of ways. This freedom, however, is also what makes it a very challenging question as applicants need to spend a lot of time introspecting and understanding how to present their personal story in the best possible way to the admissions committee.


The essay should neither be an elaborated version of their resume & work experience, nor should it be a summary of their entire life. It is important to identify key themes which they wish to convey and piece them together in a coherent way.


The essay has a 900-word limit. The school’s website itself says ‘Don't overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don't know your world can understand.’


Harvard MBA: Career Outcomes


  • 94% of graduates seeking employment received an offer.

  • The average base salary was $148,750 and the average expected other compensation was $52,000.

  • The top industry destinations for graduates were finance (29%), consulting (21%) and technology (20%). Other industries students joined include healthcare, non-profit, manufacturing etc.

  • 7% of the class started their own business ventures.

  • 86% of the class accepted offers in the United States, of which 40% were in the Northeast region of the country.


Harvard Business School may be one of the oldest, but it’s safe to say it’s not simply resting on its past laurels. The HBS MBA continues to be among the best in the world, and is at the top of most student’s dream B-school lists!


Liked this article? Check out the Spotlight on Stanford GSB.

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