NEWS | Do I have what it takes to get an MBA?
Published On: Tuesday, 3rd Jan 2023
‘Should I study for an MBA?’ is one of the most important questions you may ask yourself when thinking about advancing your career. Indeed, if you are reading this article, it’s likely that you are currently asking yourself that exact question.
From a career point of view, the ‘should I study’ question almost answers itself. There is no doubt that the addition of the three letters MBA adds real ‘weight’ to an engineer’s CV. The qualification is internationally recognised, and, in many ways, an MBA is the gateway to new and exciting career opportunities.
In essence, the MBA course is specifically designed to provide students with the requisite knowledge and skills to understand complex business issues and the ability to express their views in a senior management level environment. The MBA degree is notoriously intensive, so exploration of motivation and commitment to complete the course is essential.
In this article we examine the practical considerations of studying for an MBA such as eligibility, cost and living expenses before looking at the personal qualities that you will need or can expect to learn during your time at business school.
First things first, you will need to check that you are eligible to study for an MBA. Most MBA courses will require you to have gained a 2.1 or 1st class honours bachelor’s degree but it’s worth checking the criteria of individual schools.
Most MBA programmes also require a minimum score on a Graduate Management Admissions Test. The GMAT is used as a reliable predictor of potential academic success and, as the GMAT is standardised it is fair to everyone.
You will also be given the chance to create your own application which will outline your academic achievements as well as presenting your reasons for study and how you think an MBA will help you reach your goals.
Another question you will have regarding an MBA course will relate to affordability. The cost of MBA courses does vary, and it may be necessary to explore external funding sources, such as bank loans, employer contributions or scholarships. Indeed, there are organisations that can help with bursaries, and this link provides useful information on the subject. Engineers in Business Fellowship provides the Sainsbury Management Fellows MBA Scholarships specifically for engineers.
In terms of a budget for living while studying this will vary from individual to individual. You should factor in the cost of accommodation, food, travel to and from campus, and entertainment and anything else you feel you may need during your course. The cost of living will be different depending on your school’s location and may influence your choice of business school when you begin to budget.
Personal qualities you will need to succeed
When it comes to the non-practical issues of studying for an MBA, one of the most common questions students ask themselves is ‘am I good enough.’ This is unsurprising as the MBA course is challenging and there may be times when you will doubt your ability to complete it.
In many ways, the simplest way to answer the ‘am I good enough question’ and prove to yourself that you are, is to apply. The application process is strict but fair and you can be certain that if a business school accepts you for the course that they see great potential in you and your achievements to date.
There are many personal qualities that you may already possess or can learn to sharpen during your MBA course which will help you enormously through your degree. For the purpose of this article, we are going to concentrate on four - motivation, focus, creativity and the ability to display soft skills.
Motivation: An MBA course is by its very nature designed to push you to new limits and take you well outside of your comfort zone. During your course you will be encouraged to experiment with new ideas and concepts which may at first seem alien to you. This is simply part of the learning process and a way of getting you used to communicating your ideas and occasionally failing. Without a few failures and more importantly, the right motivation, you will be unlikely to learn the true lesson of success. In short, the world of business is fraught with difficulties and setbacks so it’s better to understand this and move on during the learning programme that is your MBA.
Focus: As well as being motivated to work your way through your degree it is important that you have or learn the ability to focus. Once again this is as true in the world of business as it will be in your MBA classroom. Whichever direction you decide to take once you complete your MBA, be that starting your own business or working in industry at a high level, you will be constantly faced with critical decisions that affect the business and its outcomes. Your MBA course will teach you how to focus on each individual decision for the best possible outcome. You may have this ability already which is helpful, but business school will strengthen your focus and make good decision making natural.
Your classroom activities will be tightly scheduled but you will need to focus on how much extra work you do outside of school and balance that with any social activities that you feel maybe beneficial to you in the future or just simply enjoy.
Creative: You may be creative already or it may be something you struggle with. Either way, creativity can be learnt and it’s fun. During your MBA course you will be encouraged to display your creative side, such as developing a business model, alone, or as part of a team, or in preparing a proposal for the launch of a product you have developed. Business school is the experimental platform where you can be as creative as you like in a controlled environment. What you learn in thinking ‘outside the box’ sessions will stand you in good stead for business problems you are likely to face in the real world.
Soft Skills: Increasingly employers state that they prefer MBA graduates with ‘soft skills’ above others. Soft skills are those which allow you to work with others easily and interact in a productive way. It’s really the ability to understand a variety of situations and people around you and to be able to communicate with them to explore the best possible solution to a shared business problem. Again, this skill is innate in many people whilst others might have to actively work at it.
Teamwork experience will happen in class most days. Outside of class, you will have the opportunity to further develop teamwork skills by joining clubs and societies, and to participate in extracurricular activities. These opportunities also offer you a great chance to meet people outside your classes and to network.
Once you have completed your degree you will have access to the people you met and interacted with at business school and be part of a valuable network which may help you find a new career or opportunity, either immediately or sometime in the future.
To sum up, when considering your application to study for an MBA the practical aspects of your study and time at business school should be relatively easy to determine. When assessing your personal qualities to see if you have what it takes to succeed it may not be so simple. Bear in mind that the topics covered in this post may come naturally to some people and may need to be taught to others. Whatever your strengths, business school is the ideal environment to shape your development.