Kentucky is famous for several reasons. Not only is it the home of America’s beautiful horses and bourbon distilleries, but it also boasts one of the most diverse economies. With Lexington and Louisville leading the way, the state’s economy is positioned to have a brighter future for everyone, regardless of what they’re up to.
Kentucky offers an advantageous business and personal environment, with a diversified economy, a notable labor market rebound, and a strong small business ecosystem. While Kentucky’s GDP of $203.8 billion in 2023 positioned it at the 28th rank among states, its disposable personal income (DPI) of $209.8k revealed a more nuanced aspect of its economic performance, securing the 25th spot in growth. Nevertheless, the cost of living, quality of life, and educational attainment are still promising.
However, Kentucky may not be the best of places when it comes to employment rate. The state’s unemployment rate in November 2023 reached 4.3%, which is higher than the 3.7% national average. This is brought on by several intricately interconnected elements that impact Kentucky’s labor market.
One important issue that has caused job displacement for a portion of the workforce is the reorganization of conventional industries, such as coal mining and several industrial sectors. The shift to a more technologically advanced and service-focused economy did not absorb these personnel as smoothly as anticipated.
The high unemployment rate may also reflect the difficulties that some groups confront, such as differences in skill levels and levels of education. The need for particular skill sets increases as the economy changes, and people who lack those skills may find themselves marginalized in the labor market. Thus, the importance of obtaining a graduate degree.
For aspiring business professionals in Kentucky, especially those facing the challenges of job displacement and navigating a shifting economic landscape, pursuing a graduate degree, particularly a Master of Business Administration (MBA), becomes a strategic imperative.
We’ve listed the Top MBA programs in Kentucky offered by accredited business schools with proven track records of producing business experts. Pursuing the best MBAs will help
you gain valuable skills, expand your professional network, open up new opportunities for career advancement, and ensure a great return on investment.
Top 5 MBA Programs in Kentucky
Gatton College of Business and Economics – University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky was founded in 1865 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky and expanded into a more comprehensive four-year university in the 1940s when it experienced significant growth in enrollment. Today, UKY is nationally ranked as one of the best universities for students pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees. It’s also popular for its unique dynamics and culture that fosters intellectual and personal growth.
UKY offers over 200 programs, leading to certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The university houses 16 colleges, including the Gatton College of Business and Economics. This AACSB-accredited business school has received multiple recognition from various reputable organizations, including the US News and World Report and Princeton.
Gatton College offers numerous business disciplines leading to degrees at various levels, including three MBA tracks:
These MBA programs provide students with a comprehensive and versatile education in business administration. The Full-Time MBA is designed for those seeking an immersive, traditional two-year MBA experience. The Part-Time MBA allows working professionals to pursue their degree flexibly, often taking classes in the evenings or on weekends. The MBA for Leaders in Healthcare is a specialized program catering to professionals in the healthcare industry.
Students at Gatton College follow a demanding curriculum that covers important business topics like finance, marketing, management, and entrepreneurship for all MBA programs. In addition, Gatton College emphasizes developing leadership abilities, encouraging a creative and cooperative mindset, and advancing a global viewpoint. The college works hard to provide its MBA graduates with the skills they need to succeed in a fast-paced, cutthroat corporate world.
Prospective MBA students can also pursue dual degree programs, such as the Dual Engineering MBA, JD/MBA, PharmD/MBA, and DMD/MBA. These dual degree opportunities allow students to tailor their MBA experiences and closely align their studies with their career goals.
Applicants for the MBA programs must have an accredited bachelor’s degree, preferably from AACSB-accredited business schools, with a minimum GPA of 2.75. They must also submit their GRE/GMAT scores to demonstrate their academic capabilities and readiness for the MBA program.
Rubel School of Business – Bellarmine University
Bellarmine University is one of the best schools for students who want to study in a tight-knit Catholic community. Bellarmine is well known for its dedication to community building, values-based education, and academic performance. Moreover, it offers comprehensive support services like academic advising, career counseling, tutoring, and wellness programs to ensure students succeed academically, personally, and professionally.
The Rubel School of Business is one of the top AACSB-accredited business schools in Kentucky, offering a range of undergraduate and graduate business programs. Rubel School of Business offers an innovative curriculum, experienced faculty, and connections to the business community, preparing students with theoretical knowledge and practical skills for successful careers.
Students seeking a valuable MBA degree can pursue the Rubel MBAs:
The Bellarmine MBA program offers flexible, online, and on-campus formats that provide students with the knowledge and skills to advance in their careers or succeed in entrepreneurial ventures. The Weekend and Virtual MBA programs offer a range of concentrations, including Finance, Marketing, Management, Innovation, or Analytics, with real-world experience from well-connected, aspiring business people.
Students from all MBA tracks will learn from the same experienced faculty members, composed of seasoned business professionals. They can also pursue an optional international experience, learn how culture affects business processes, and gain a global viewpoint. This learning opportunity exposes you to political, social, legal, and regulatory issues in a global environment.
In addition to its known rigor, the Bellarmine MBAas are also notable for their affordability, particularly when compared to institutions of similar caliber. There are also various financial aid opportunities given to students who pursue on-campus MBAs. The university offers scholarships for historically underrepresented minorities, employer partner employees, and a referral program. High Achiever Scholarships provide scholarships ranging from $1000-$2500. Corporate Scholarships offer $5,250 towards tuition. Graduate Assistantships cover tuition and offer up to $10,000 over the academic year at an hourly pay rate of $12.
MBA program admittance is based on undergraduate GPA and work experience, with a bachelor’s degree required and official transcripts of all work.
College of Business – Eastern Kentucky University
Founded in 1906, Eastern Kentucky University is one of the most comprehensive institutions in the United States. EKU is known for providing accessible and quality education to students inside and outside the region. It’s also recognized for its commitment to supporting military-affiliated students. It has been designated as a Military-Friendly® School, offering various resources and services to veterans, active-duty military members, and their families.
EKU offers 100 degree programs across four campuses and an online learning platform. One of its most sought-after colleges is the College of Business, known for a high retention rate of 81%. EKU’s COB is accredited by the AACSB to grant business education programs, including:
The EKU MBas offers advanced coursework in business, enhancing any undergraduate field of study. The online MBA is suitable for those seeking to enhance their managerial skills, advance into leadership positions, and have a compressed course format compatible with full-time work schedules. On the other hand, the campus MBA is best for students who want to accelerate their MBA journey and want a more hands-on learning approach to finishing their studies.
Regardless of which format prospective MBA students pursue, they can tailor their program and pursue a concentration, which includes:
- Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence in Data Science
- Manufacturing Management
- Community Development
- Emergency Management & Disaster Resilience
- Computer Science, Game Design
- Computer Science, Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics
- Corporate Securities Operations
There are more concentrations offered under the online and on-campus MBA. You can also choose a “Customized Concentration,” which allows you to choose up to nine graduate courses from any of the concentrations. Each MBA student will be guided by a COD academic advisor to help them navigate their MBA journey, choose the perfect concentration, and create a flexible schedule.
MBA students will also benefit from various valuable offerings, including a free application process, access to free textbooks through EKU BookSmart, a generous credit transfer policy, and complimentary online tutoring and career services assistance.
School of Business Administration – Morehead State University
Morehead State University was originally a private, church-supported institution. But over the years, it has evolved into a public university offering affordable and top-notch education to students within the region. MSU adopted online learning formats to keep up with economic and education trends, providing students with flexible and accessible education options. This strategic move reflects the university’s commitment to meeting the evolving needs of students in a rapidly changing educational landscape.
MSU offers undergraduate and graduate level degrees and certificates in four colleges, including various business education programs in its School of Business Administration. Students at MSU, including those undertaking business programs, have opportunities to immerse in academic research as early as their first year. This opportunity provides them with valuable hands-on experience and the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge research within their respective fields.
The School of Business Administration offers various business degrees, including the:
MSU’s online MBA program is an AACSB-accredited program noted for its flexible learning opportunities and low tuition cost. It focuses on enhancing students’ skills for management success in various fields. Those interested in pursuing positions in the healthcare sector can pursue the Health Systems Management Track.
Applicants with a bachelor’s degree in other fields can be considered for application but with conditions. These applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, no lower than 2.5 GPA, and GMAT/GRE scores. Applicants with an AACSB-accredited degree with a 3.50 GPA are automatically exempted from submitting standardized test scores.
Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business – Murray State University
Murray State University was founded in 1922 as a teacher’s college and later became a comprehensive university in 1966 to stay relevant. Murray State has enhanced research opportunities, developed a reputation for academic excellence, expanded global initiatives, and prioritized community engagement through research, internships, and service projects benefiting local and international communities.
Murray State has seven focused colleges, schools, and learning centers, offering a diverse array of academic programs to cater to the evolving needs of students. The Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business at Murray State is one of America’s leading business schools. This business school is known for its business experts teaching degrees at all levels and integrating cutting-edge research and industry insights into the curriculum.
The MSU College of Business has an outstanding Business Administration Department dedicated to equipping students with expertise in various business fields. One of its popular programs is the:
The MSU MBA offers a curriculum that prepares students for middle- and upper-level management positions in small businesses and multinational corporations. The program is accredited by the AACSB and is one of the most efficient cost-to-quality programs in Kentucky. Students can pursue the program in an online, on-campus, or hybrid learning format, giving them maximum control over their schedules.
As one of the longest-standing AACSB-accredited business schools, the MSU COB has built a strong network in the business world. This network includes connections with small and large-scale businesses, opening up various opportunities for our MBA students. Students can engage with renowned companies through internships, co-op programs, and mentorship initiatives, providing them with invaluable real-world experience.
Applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 must have four years of full-time work experience, while those with a 3.0 must only have two years of full-time work experience. However, applicants with a 3.5 GPA or higher are not required to have any work experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most appealing industries in Kentucky?
Several industries are gaining popularity for business professionals. Two of the most appealing include the bourbon industry and the startup scene. The bourbon industry is a $9 billion industry in Kentucky, generating over 22,500 jobs. Simultaneously, the startup scene remains a dynamic and ever-evolving arena for business professionals in Kentucky seeking to make a mark in the fast-paced world of innovation. More than 46,000 businesses were established in 2022 alone.
What is it like living in Kentucky as an MBA graduate?
Kentucky has one of the lowest living costs, which, according to RentCafe, is 8% lower than the national average. This means that while MBA professionals in Kentucky earn $34,612 lower than the national average, they can still live more comfortably than those in states with higher salaries but extremely expensive living costs.
Additionally, Kentucky offers diverse lifestyles, rich cultural heritage, and a welcoming atmosphere with traditions like bluegrass music, horse racing, and bourbon distilleries, fostering a sense of community. You’ll have a lot to do other than work. At the same time, Kentucky’s strategic location provides easy access to major metropolitan areas, making it an ideal choice for MBA professionals seeking career expansion.
How can I overcome Kentucky’s high unemployment rate?
A high unemployment rate means that there are more applicants than the job market demands. You can still face unemployment, even with an MBA degree, especially in today’s stiff competition. There’s really no assurance that you won’t be affected by the state’s economic challenges. However, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of unemployment.
For instance, you should consider obtaining an MBA degree that focuses on developing industry-specific skills or choose a concentration that directly leads to industries with the highest demand. Based on the top GDP generators in Kentucky, it’s wise to pursue MBA concentrations in finance, accounting, real estate, supply chain management, operations management, healthcare, and marketing.
Another thing you should do is continuously enhance your skills and your professional network. Online courses, workshops, and industry-specific certifications are excellent avenues for skill development. You should also utilize online platforms like LinkedIn, actively engage with your connections, share insights, and comment on relevant posts.
Are there networking opportunities in Kentucky for MBA students?
Kentucky offers various networking opportunities for MBA students, such as professional organizations, alumni networks, local chambers and events, and business roundtables. As an MBA graduate, you should stay in touch with your business school and stay updated with their upcoming networking events. ProMatcher offers a list of Business Networking Groups in Kentucky.
Before you go, see the following:
- The Best MBA in Finance Degree Programs
- The Top MBA Programs in Indiana
- The Best Online MBA in Management Information Systems