A two-year graduate program intended to train individuals with non-business undergraduate degrees in the finer points of business. Required by many companies for one to move from technical work into a management position.
MBA programs generally offer a core curriculum of basic business courses, including: accounting, finance, statistics, management, marketing, economics, business ethics, and strategy. Colleges then supplement these "foundation" courses with classes in information systems, written and oral communications, negotiation skills, small business management, entrepreneurialship, international marketing and management, tax evasion, and insider trading. (Just kidding on the last two.)
The MBA is designed to be a generalized degree for students with any kind of background. Many people use the degree to reach a higher position within their current firm, while others use MBA programs as a springboard to launch themselves into a new career. Schools often look to create a diverse class, so people with technical and/or liberal arts degrees are especially welcome, regardless of what they were in their "former lives."
Generally speaking, there are two types of MBA programs: full-time and executive. Full-time MBAs take classes like any other master's degree student would; courses are scheduled throughout the day during normal work hours. Executive MBA programs offer night and weekend classes in the hopes of attracting people who already have jobs. With Executive MBA programs, professionals can work during the day and go to class at night, allowing them to keep their jobs while advancing their academic goals.
To get into a graduate business program, you will need to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Don't get this confused with the GRE; some schools used to accept this other type of test, but most have since begun to rely on GMAT scores alone.
Each year, BusinessWeek publishes a list of the top 50 business schools in the country. Consistently ranked near the top are the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, Harvard Business School (big surprise there), and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. For an up-to-date list, see BusinessWeek's B-school website: http://www.businessweek.com/bschools