As a new crop of Harvard Business School students arrive for class this fall, they can expect to bulk up on mandatory first-year fundamentals such as financial reporting, leadership and organizational behavior.
Meanwhile, second-year students are offered a wider range of elective courses that reflect the changing times, with increased emphasis on overseas travel, hands-on workshops and case studies on disruptor startups like Buzzfeed.
It is "mission critical" to have first-hand experience in emerging markets, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, HBS senior associate dean, told CNBC's "Power Lunch" this week.
"Students must be globalized and diversified," Oberholzer-Gee said. "We take them out of the classroom for extended periods of time, teach them competitive strategies beyond our borders. It's imperative for any future leader to be completely global."
Unlike HBS students of five or 10 years ago, the current MBA class is less likely to end up at marquee firms like Goldman Sachs or Google because the tough post-recession job market has led many business-minded grads to eschew traditional jobs, and strike out on their own.
Oberholzer-Gee said he thinks that's not such a bad thing.
"Today's millennial graduates want to skip middle management and take on greater responsibility earlier on in their careers," said Oberholzer-Gee. "Unknown micro-businesses with relatively shallow hierarchies have become much more attractive."
In 1908, with a faculty of 15 professors and 80 inaugural students, Harvard was the first school to establish a Master of Business Administration program. The program, which today has 936 full-time students and tuition topping $58,875 per year, is widely considered to be the gold standard for business leadership in Wall Street, Silicon Valley and other major economic sectors.
It also is often one of the fastest routes to the corner office—or Oval Office—than any other business degree, with former President George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg, Jamie Dimon, Jeff Immelt and Sheryl Sandberg, just to name a few, among its alumni.
U.S. News & World Report ranked HBS the No. 2 business school in the nation, behind only Stanford. However, the starting salary and bonus for the average Harvard MBA graduate was $138,346, just edging out the Stanford MBA average of $137,525, according to Poets and Quants research.
Job titles and six-figure starting salaries aside, the most important takeaway for HBS graduates is to always have a long-term goal firmly in mind, Oberholzer-Gee said.
"We educate students not for the first five or 10 years of a career, but the last five, 10 years, when they are really in senior positions, when they take on significant leadership roles," he said. "That's what many graduates are looking for as part of their education at Harvard Business School."