Do You Need to Be Good at Math to Get an MBA?

Published 1/13/2023

Some people may be concerned that they’re not up to speed on mathematics when considering a Master of Business Administration degree. There are math requirements for an MBA program but maybe not as much math as you think.

Typically, universities might require the following math classes for an MBA:

  • Algebra
  • Calculus
  • Probability
  • Statistics

Tonya Balan, Associate Teaching Professor at Wake Forest University, knows how much math is needed for an MBA. She has an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a PhD in statistics.

Find out more about how mathematics is integrated into an MBA and how that math can help you in your business career.

How Much Math Is Required in an MBA Program?

The amount of math required for an MBA program depends on your specialization. For example, Wake Forest offers online MBA specializations in Business AnalyticsFinance, and Strategy and Leadership.

MBA programs typically require basic math skills. Students should be able to:

  • Perform conversions on percentages, fractions, and decimals
  • Represent numbers as percentages, fractions, and decimals
  • Simplify mathematical expressions using the appropriate order of operations
  • Solve problems using percentages, decimals, fractions, and mixed numbers

“Finance and Business Analytics obviously require some math, but the math typically in the MBA program is much more applied math,” Balan says. “If you have a general understanding of college algebra, that usually is sufficient. You don’t need more theoretical math.”

Balan says the Business Analytics path will require more skill in math, as will the Finance specialization.

“But if you’re interested in organizational leadership, strategy, or human resources, those areas are going to have less math associated with them,” she says.

Can Someone Who Isn’t Good at Math Get an MBA?

An MBA involves more than mathematical skills so that shouldn’t be a barrier to deciding to get the degree, Balan says.

“If you have mathematical skills, there are lots of places where you can dig in and do more,” she says. “But if you’re not mathematical, that shouldn’t prohibit you from being able to do more with an MBA degree.”

Balan says there are some courses in the program that don’t require math at all. For those that do require math, students who need help should be able to get support to get them past the hurdle.

“One of the hallmarks of Wake Forest is our high-touch faculty experience,” Balan says. “Faculty members are available for office hours, for one-on-one conversations, to try to help students. Beyond that, we can help connect them with tutors and other services.”

Balan says Wake Forest faculty are ready to help.

“I’ve yet to meet a faculty member at Wake Forest who would not be willing to sit down for a couple of hours with the student and make sure that they start to understand,” she says.

How Can Math Skills Help in an MBA?

Two MBA specializations offered at Wake Forest have been mapped out with mathematics in mind. These are Business Analytics and Finance.

Business Analytics – This specialization is intended for business professionals interested in using data and analytics to guide big-picture business decisions. In this program, students learn:

  • Analytical methodology
  • Analytical tools
  • Communication
  • Forecasting
  • Machine learning
  • Optimization

Finance – This specialization will help students learn to analyze investments, make complicated financial decisions, manage risk, and solve complex challenges. In this program, students learn:

  • Accounting
  • Budgeting
  • Capital markets
  • Compliance
  • Data-informed decision making
  • Investment banking
  • Modern financial theory

“If you are mathematical and analytical, there are a lot of opportunities for you,” Balan says. Those with that skill set can do more with math, finance, or data.

That said, Balan says an MBA can be harder for those who struggle with math.

“It can be a little bit of a disadvantage,” she says. “You can start to feel like, ‘Maybe I’m not going to be able to do this.’ You just have to kind of hang in there and keep going.”

Balan is quick to remind students that help is available, from peers, instructors, and from the university itself.

How Much Experience with Math Should You Have for an MBA Degree?

Most students pursuing an MBA degree are already in the workplace.

“If you have had some experience in your career working with numbers or working with data, getting an MBA is more about practical experience than anything else,” Balan says. “Most people in their undergrad have had a statistics course or college algebra. If you have that basic background, you’ll be fine.”

Balan notes that the MBA program caters to people of many different backgrounds and different skill sets.

“The common denominators are that [students] have some business experience, and they know a little bit about how to do this in practice,” she says. “We then try to make sure that we get everybody to a level playing field so they can do well.”

What Are Some Other Skills You Need for an MBA?

“The ability to think critically and analytically is really the thing that’s going to help you in an MBA degree,” she says. “It’s less about the academic skills and more about the personal skills that you have that allow you to be successful.”

Here are some of the other skills MBA candidates will need:

  • Analytical/strategic thinking
  • Communication
  • Gathering and using data
  • Leadership/management/negotiation
  • Networking
  • Knowledge of technology

“I think the ability to communicate, the ability to work well in teams is important,” Balan says.

“I really think that if you have a little bit of experience out there in the real world, you will get more out of your MBA. If you’ve worked for a couple of years, then you’re going to get more out of your MBA.”

>> Read: Five Skills You Learn in an MBA Program

Find out How Wake Forest Will Help You Find the Right MBA Program

Balan offers words of encouragement to students who may be worried about the amount of math needed for an MBA.

“If you want to learn it, we will help you,” she says. “If you’re proactive, then reach out, and we’ll try to make sure that we get you to where you need to be.”

Find out more about the Wake Forest MBA program and request information today.