My Homemade MBA Curriculum

As I mentioned previously, I took a look at Harvard’s MBA curriculum to see what the key components of a good business school education are.  Why Harvard?  Easy – it’s the best.  Harvard Business School is not only the pioneer of business education, but consistently ranks as the #1 business school in both domestic and international business school rankings.  Unless you are an alumnus of the likes of Wharton or Stanford, I think we can all agree that HBS is the best business school to use for my curriculum benchmarking exercise.


For this project, I am focused on the core curriculum of the business school.  Most business schools have some kind of core coursework requirement.  At Harvard, it’s the first year – called the Required Curriculum.  The second year at Harvard is filled with electives that allow each student some freedom to customize their MBA.  For my purposes, I’m looking at just the core – the Required Curriculum.


As you can see from their website, the Required Curriculum looks like this:


Using this is my ideal curriculum, I set out to find free, online courses that cover the same fundamental material.  Again, my goal is to acquire the same knowledge and skills from my homemade MBA as I would have at a real brick and mortar MBA program.


I was shocked at how easy it was to build my homemade MBA curriculum.  In practically no time, I found free, online courses on Coursera that align almost perfectly with the HBS MBA Required Curriculum.  Here’s what my curriculum comparison looks like:


Insert “that was easy” button here.


For those of you interested in the long(er)-winded version, here you go:


In my previous post about my homemade MBA plan, I showed a Gantt chart of my homemade MBA curriculum.  This is a great way to visualize my plan, but not the best way to explain why I chose the courses I did.  This post will go through a description of each course I am taking, and why I chose it.


My homemade MBA curriculum was designed to mirror Harvard Business School’s (HBS) first year – called the Required Curriculum.  This is the core set of business classes that lay the foundation of any good business education.


The HBS Required Curriculum consists of the following courses:

  • Finance 1
  • Financial Reporting and Control
  • Leadership and Organizational Behavior
  • Marketing
  • Technology and Operations Management
  • Business, Government, and the International Economy
  • Strategy
  • The Entrepreneurial Manager
  • Finance 2
  • Leadership and Corporate Accountability
  • FIELD 1: Leadership, FIELD 2: Global, and FIELD 3: Integrative


Taking a closer look at each of these classes, the course descriptions give us a better idea of what each class is all about:

Finance 1

  • This course examines the role of finance in supporting the functional areas of a firm, and fosters an understanding of how financial decisions themselves can create value.

Financial Reporting and Control

  • Recognizing that accounting is the primary channel for communicating information about the economics of a business, this course provides a broad view of how accounting contributes to an organization.

Leadership and Organizational Behavior

  • This course focuses on how managers become effective leaders by addressing the human side of enterprise.


  • The objectives of this course are to demonstrate the role of marketing in the company; to explore the relationship of marketing to other functions; and to show how effective marketing builds on a thorough understanding of buyer behavior to create value for customers.

Technology and Operations Management

  • This course enables students to develop the skills and concepts needed to ensure the ongoing contribution of a firm’s operations to its competitive position. It helps them to understand the complex processes underlying the development and manufacture of products as well as the creation and delivery of services.

Business, Government, and the International Economy

  • This course introduces tools for studying the economic environment of business to help managers understand the implications for their companies.


  • The objective of this course is to help students develop the skills for formulating strategy. It provides an understanding of: A firm’s operative environment and how to sustain competitive advantage, how to generate superior value for customers by designing the optimum configuration of the product mix and functional activities, and how to balance the opportunities and risks associated with dynamic and uncertain changes in industry attractiveness and competitive position.

The Entrepreneurial Manager

  • This course addresses the issues faced by managers who wish to turn opportunity into viable organizations that create value, and empowers students to develop their own approaches, guidelines, and skills for being entrepreneurial managers.

Finance 2

  • This course builds on the foundation developed in Finance I, focusing on three sets of managerial decisions: How to evaluate complex investments, How to set and execute financial policies within a firm, How to integrate the many financial decisions faced by firms.

Leadership and Corporate Accountability

  • In this course, students learn about the complex responsibilities facing business leaders today. Through cases about difficult managerial decisions, the course examines the legal, ethical, and economic responsibilities of corporate leaders. It also teaches students about management and governance systems leaders can use to promote responsible conduct by companies and their employees, and shows how personal values can play a critical role in effective leadership.

FIELD 1: Leadership, FIELD 2: Global, and FIELD 3: Integrative

  • FIELD 1 – Leadership Intelligence: FIELD Foundations engages small teams in interactive workshops—held in new flexible classrooms called “hives”—that reshape how students think, act, and see themselves. Through team feedback and self-reflection, participants deepen their emotional intelligence and develop a growing awareness of their own leadership styles.
  • FIELD 2 – Global Intelligence: FIELD 2 immerses student teams in emerging markets, requiring them to develop a new product or service concept for global partner organizations around the world.
  • FIELD 3 – Integrative Intelligence: FIELD 3 brings the entire first-year experience together by challenging students to synthesize the knowledge, skills, and tools acquired in the RC within a real microbusiness they must design and launch themselves.


Ok, so now we know what a first-year MBA is expected to learn at HBS.  I did a quick look at the core curriculum requirements of Wharton and Stanford, and they are pretty similar, so I’m confident that this is a good set of classes to use for my homemade MBA.


Now, as I mentioned previously, I think that coursework is the best way to learn; thus, I set out to find the above business classes available online for free.  This search quickly lead me to Coursera – one of the leading Massive Open Online Course providers.


On Coursera, I found the following free classes from world-class business schools:

  • Introduction to Corporate Finance
  • Introduction to Financial Accounting
  • International Organizations Management
  • Introduction to Marketing
  • Introduction to Operations Management
  • Globalization and You
  • Foundations of Business Strategy
  • Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship
  • Financial Markets
  • Critical Perspectives on Management


This list matches up almost perfectly to HBS’s Required Curriculum, as you can see here in my homemade MBA curriculum table.


However, one needs to look beyond just the course title to see if these classes are teaching the same concepts as HBS’.  So, here are the course descriptions, straight from Coursera:


Introduction to Corporate Finance

  • Parent University: University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
  • Description: Part of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series (more on this series later) This course serves as an introduction to business finance (corporate financial management and investments) for graduate level business school students preparing for upper-level course work. The primary objective is to provide a framework, concepts, and tools for analyzing financial decisions based on fundamental principles of modern financial theory.

Introduction to Financial Accounting

  • Parent University:  University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
  • Description: of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series, the course is designed to provide an understanding of financial accounting fundamentals for prospective users of corporate financial information, such as investors, creditors, employees, and other stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, customers).   The course focuses on understanding how economic events such as operating activities, corporate investments, and financing transactions are recorded in the three main financial statements (i.e., the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows). Students will develop the technical skills needed to analyze financial statements and disclosures for use in financial analysis.  Students will also learn how accounting standards and managerial incentives affect the financial reporting process.

International Organizations Management

  • Parent University:  University of Geneva
  • Description: This course provides an overview of the management challenges international organizations & NGOs are faced with. You will learn key theoretical frameworks and practical tools to excel in this environment

Introduction to Marketing

  • Parent University:  University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
  • Description: Part of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series, this course is part of the Wharton MBA foundation series in the MOOC format. It is taught by three of Wharton’s top faculty in the marketing department, which is consistently ranked as the #1 marketing department in the world. This course features on-location videos and debates between the three professors. The three core topics focus on customer loyalty. The first is about branding: given a very disparate world in which new startups are emerging constantly, brand equity is one of the key elements of keeping customers so that they have a trusted source for their needs. The second topic is customer centricity, which is taught in a global context where students learn how to gather needs and focus on the customer via discussion forums and empirical examples which are advanced by the mix of cultures in the course. Finally, the course explores practical, go-to-market strategies to help students understand the drivers that influence customers and see how these are implemented prior to making an investment.

Introduction to Operations Management

  • Parent University:  University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
  • Description: Part of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series, this course will teach you how to analyze and improve business processes, be it in services or in manufacturing. You will learn how to improve productivity, how to provide more choice to customers, how to reduce response times, and how to improve quality.

Globalization and You

  • Parent University:  University of Washington
  • Description: This course offers an evidence-based analysis of globalization that addresses what is happening to us personally as well as economically amidst the market-led processes of global integration.

Foundations of Business Strategy

  • Parent University:  University of Virginia, Darden School of Business
  • Description: In this course, we will explore the underlying theory and frameworks that provide the foundations of a successful business strategy. We will develop your ability to think strategically by providing you the tools for conducting a strategic analysis. Strategic analysis is critical for analyzing the competitive context in which an organization operates and for making reasoned and reasonable recommendations for how that organization should position itself and what actions it should take to maximize value creation. Aspiring managers, entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, analysts, and consultants all may find value in mastering these fundamentals.

Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship

  • Parent University:  University of Maryland
  • Description: Explore how to identify and develop great ideas into great companies. Learn how to identify opportunities based on real customer needs. Develop solid business models. Create successful companies.

Financial Markets

  • Parent University:  Yale University – School of Management
  • Description: Financial institutions are a pillar of civilized society, supporting people in their productive ventures and managing the economic risks they take on. The workings of these institutions are important to comprehend if we are to predict their actions today and their evolution in the coming information age. The course strives to offer understanding of the theory of finance and its relation to the history, strengths and imperfections of such institutions as banking, insurance, securities, futures, and other derivatives markets, and the future of these institutions over the next century.

Critical Perspectives on Management

  • Parent University:  IE Business School
  • Description: Innovative management and inspired leadership need more than rules and knowledge: imagination, creativity and lateral thinking are also integral. This class offers students the opportunity to consider different ways to ask questions, ponder problems, discover opportunities and explore key concepts that inform the contemporary practice of management.


As you can see, this is a match made in heaven.  The course descriptions match extremely well, and the universities offering these courses are extremely reputable.  I’m sure you noticed that 7 of the 12 courses here are offered by business schools that are internationally recognized as being top tier business schools.  Did I mention this is free?  Incredible.


One slight omission

Astute readers will find that there is one obvious omission from my homemade MBA curriculum – The Harvard FIELD classes.


I don’t have FIELD classes, or their equivalents, included in my homemade MBA curriculum because there is no need.  As a person working in the real world, I live and breath “FIELD” everyday.  Here is how I get the same “experiential learning” from each FIELD class at my normal job:

FIELD 1 – Leadership

  • FIELD 1 at HBS – Leadership Intelligence: FIELD Foundations engages small teams in interactive workshops—held in new flexible classrooms called “hives”—that reshape how students think, act, and see themselves. Through team feedback and self-reflection, participants deepen their emotional intelligence and develop a growing awareness of their own leadership styles.
  • FIELD 1 at work – I am a member of a small team, as are most people in most jobs, in my daily work.  I also am a member of multiple, short-term small teams as projects pop up that I work on.  The difference here is that I am developing an awareness of my leadership style and emotional intelligence at work, doing real things.  Whereas, an MBA student will be developing their leadership styles and emotional intelligence in a simulated work environment, doing simulated things.  I’d prefer my method.  “But, there’s no professor guiding you!” you might say.  No, but there is a boss.  And a boss has a lot fewer students to interact with, and more at stake than just a grade.

FIELD 2 – Global Intelligence

  • FIELD 2 at HBS – FIELD 2 immerses student teams in emerging markets, requiring them to develop a new product or service concept for global partner organizations around the world.
  • FIELD 2 at work – This one depends on your company, but is an easy one for me.  Those of us fortunate enough to work for large, multi-national companies with employees all over the world are lousy with global intelligence.  If you seek it out, you can get real-life experiences in almost any market.  For example, I worked on a project in Hong Kong for six months.  This was a great introduction to Asian culture, and an opportunity to travel around the region.  I am currently on a 2-year assignment in Norway; a great way to learn about the Scandinavian way of life, and see some of Europe in the process.  I would argue that spending a week in an emerging market putting together a PowerPoint for a company will garner you less global intelligence than the opportunities available to employees of large organizations.  For those of you at small firms, or with no international opportunities in sight – why not seek employment at a company that does have such opportunities?  The world is a big place, and you will become more culturally savvy – not to mention more marketable – with a little international experience under your belt.

FIELD 3 – Integrative Intelligence

  • FIELD 3 at HBS – FIELD 3 brings the entire first-year experience together by challenging students to synthesize the knowledge, skills, and tools acquired in the RC within a real microbusiness they must design and launch themselves.
  • FIELD 3 at work – Ok, so this isn’t the exact same at work.  Instead of designing and launching a microbusiness, we tend to do projects.  A good substitute for FIELD 3 would be to lead a multi-disciplinary team project.  Through leading a team with people from different functions – e.g. Sales, Engineering, Finance, HR, Marketing, etc. – you will get a similar “synthesizing” of knowledge, skills, and tools required to accomplish something at work.  The nature of your specific project will determine how similar your experience is to the HBS students in FIELD 3.


So, there you have it.  The content of my homemade MBA is a pretty close match to the core material of a Harvard MBA.  It is heavily dependent on Coursera, (maybe it should be called the Coursera MBA?) but I view this as a strength and not a weakness as Coursera is awesome at free online classes.



I’m interested to hear what you think of this curriculum for a self study MBA?  What’s missing? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


2 pings

Skip to comment form

    • Arun on December 3, 2013 at 5:32 am
    • Reply

    Hello Sir,
    I happened to see your site when was making my own (home made ) MBA course mapping with those offered at Coursera. The details you have provided are very helpful. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Arun. If you have the time, I’d love it if you would let me know what your Homemade MBA ends up looking like on the “Your Homemade MBAs” page of the site. Good luck with your Homemade MBA!

    • Chris on January 18, 2014 at 8:01 am
    • Reply

    Hey Anon,

    thanks for your site – great aproach.
    Benchmarking with HBS MBA is pretty demanding. Nevertheless, as I understand, you get your inspiration from their curriculum. But in my opinion, you have to bear in mind that HBS is very much into case method, which means it is not comparable.
    Maybe you have a look at other top b-schools with a more lecture based approach.

    For example Wharton (, Stanford or LBS (
    If you compare their curriculas with yours there are gaps in law, economics, statistics/models and ethics in the core curriculum.
    Maybe you have a look at these coursera courses:

    Law and the entrepreneur
    Intro into logic
    Microeconomic principles
    Model thinking
    Introduction to computational finance and financial econometrics
    Practical Ethics

    Anyway, great approach/site. Good luck!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Chris. You make some good points, and I agree that I should consider looking beyond HBS to make a more robust homemade MBA. I will check out those Coursera classes, and think about what other gaps might exist in my curriculum.

      Let me know if you take any of those courses – maybe I’ll join you. Good luck with your studies!

    • paul on January 29, 2014 at 9:25 pm
    • Reply

    Great idea to develop a homemade MBA.

    I did BBA at Saylor University and on Coursera:

    Introduction to Psychology as a Science
    Calculus I & II
    Micro and Macro economics (University of California)
    Organizational Analysis
    Law & Economics
    Social Psychology
    Moralities of everyday life (by Paul Bloom, Yale professor and world famous psychologist)
    Constitional Law (Yale)
    Foundations of Business

    I like to add:
    Game theory
    Financial markets
    Financial engineering

    A work load quite heavier than they do at HBS.

    1. Wow, Paul – that’s quite a list! What did you think of Saylor? I’ve done all my homemade MBA courses on Coursera so far, but am considering other platforms for future courses.

      Good luck with your homemade MBA!

    • Paul on February 4, 2014 at 7:04 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you, Sir.

    I find great. You can do everything on your own velocity. And I bet you can beat those Harvard boys.
    If for example you do a major in Mathematics or even 1/4 of it you know already more about quantitive stuff than 95% of those Harvard boys.
    So, you can take a major in business administration combined with economics, history, computer science, a bit of psychology and you are far ahead of HBS graduates. That is my opinion and believe me I have studied a lot the last 50 years.

    • paul on February 5, 2014 at 5:51 pm
    • Reply


    I also follow History at Saylor and some courses of Philosopy, just to be sure that my level of ethics will be a good match to HBS. Since I am a JD/PhD and polyglot, I know I guess at least the same as an average HBS-MBAer. With 25 years of experience and 1,000 of cases, hunderds of pleas, dozens of articles and some books on my name I guess I can skip the Field work I-III.

    Best regards and Good luck to everyone who follows a Homemade MBA based on worldclass MOOCs.

    P.S. starts also with some interesting “MBA” courses.

    • tickern on April 3, 2015 at 9:58 am
    • Reply


    I find you website really informative and appreciate the work you are doing.
    I’ve finished a Bachelor, have some years work experience and interested in doing a Master degree with MOOC courses.

    Unfortunately, I still dont get the full picture and I’m hoping you can help me to get it clarified.

    Imagine, if I’ve decided which MOOC courses to take and doing successful. The question, I have is. How and from where I will get on the end of all completed MOOC courses my Master degree, from which University?

    I hope you can helm with it and clarify it.

    Thank you for help and.


    1. Hi Erik, thanks for the comment. I think I should clarify – in completing a Homemade MBA you will not receive an MBA degree from a University. This is a self-study pursuit in which you will gain business school knowledge an understanding, but no degree. The only credential a Homemade MBA could offer is the individual Certificates of Completion from Coursera, but these are by no means a degree.

      Again, if it is the degree you are after you will not receive one from this website, or by creating your own DIY MBA.

      Best of luck with your future studies!

  1. […] Curriculum […]

  2. […] My Homemade MBA Curriculum […]

Leave a Reply to Chris Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.