Is an MBA the next step for you?
If you’re looking to further your career in business, there’s a good chance that you’ve considered undertaking an MBA. Yes, a programme such as this can bring about great future benefits and has real potential to accelerate your career. But how much do you actually know about MBAs, and have you weighed up all the pros and cons?
What can I study?
MBA programmes have really evolved since their early days at the beginning of the 20th century in America. Here, they were originally focused heavily on finance and accounting. Today though, they give students a firm grounding in key tools of business management, covering areas such as finance, economics, HR, marketing, IT and business strategy. Depending on an individual’s preferences, core subjects are then supplemented by a range of electives in areas such as entrepreneurship, leadership, brand management or corporate ethics.
On top of this, many schools are introducing much more specialist courses. Desautels at Canada’s McGill University, for instance, has programmes targeted at lawyers and doctors. And a number of schools are expanding all over the world as a result of globalisation, for instance one of Europe’s top schools, HEC Paris, now has a dedicated location in Qatar.
It’s clear that choosing the right school is key, and a variety of courses and locations mean that there’s bound to be something to cater for your specialism. But what does an MBA programme actually look like? Well, in the UK and Europe, a course often means you have to take at least a year away from work, and if you’re looking to do this in the US it’s more likely to be two years.
When should I do it?
If you look at the standard profile of individuals undertaking full time MBAs, they’re usually in their mid 20s – mid 30s. However, we’re now seeing more mature students taking on an MBA, either through an executive MBA or, as is becoming increasingly common, off their own back. If you are looking to do an executive MBA, a great example is OneMBA, which is provided by an alliance of five top schools around the world. Students get to experience key markets, such as the US, Europe, and Latin America, and learn from businesses around the world.
Can I do a part-time course?
If you can’t afford to take the time off of work (and if you have a lot of self-discipline, stamina and an understanding family) you could undertake a part-time Executive MBA. This typically means completing the majority of your studies online using distance learning technology, combined with occasional evenings or weekends in the classroom. The benefit of this type of MBA is that it gives you the flexibility to work around your day job, and in many instances the fees may actually be paid for by your employer.
In the UK, there are a variety of part-time course available. Warwick Business School, for example, is a leader in distance and flexible learning, offering solutions that allow you to build the programme around your personal and professional commitments. Other schools, such as the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge, run programmes that require you to only spend one weekend on campus per month, with the rest of the studying carried out through distance learning,
What are the problems?
An MBA is not without its challenges. There’s no doubt that the course is hard work, often with tight deadlines. And even if you think you can handle the pressure, there’s the cost to think about. Although the price of programmes varies hugely depending on the quality of delivery and international reputation, an MBA worth having is not going to come cheap. To give you an idea of the money you could be spending, two years at one of the world’s top schools, Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania, will cost you well over $100,000. And that’s not including the cost of accommodation, travel and sustenance.
Is it worth it?
Well, there’s no clear cut answer to this question. Yes, they’re expensive, but an MBA can make a significant difference to your future earning power. In fact, recent figures show that the average London Business School graduate can expect a basic salary of well over £70,000 straight after graduation. In the US, figures are even higher, with an MBA from Harvard seeing an average graduate net a starting salary of over $140,000 including bonus.
When considering an MBA’s value, much of it depends on your work commitments, career goals, and personal situation. It can give you more confidence in your abilities, introduce you to new contacts, open you up to different perspectives, and boost your career earning potential. But there are many students who expect a programme to change their career path beyond recognition, which is unlikely. Most employers regard an MBA as icing on the cake, not the cake itself. So it’s important to really weigh up the pros and cons, and not sign up to a programme unless you’re 100% sure it’s the right step for you.