The MBA has been around since 1908 when the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration was established in the USA. Across the world today, the MBA is the watchword for business career success, and prospective students are spoilt for choice as to where and how they study – from the world-leading schools like Harvard and London Business School (which was the first UK business school) to virtual online schools, from full-time courses to part time study.
MBA programmes prepare professionals for senior management roles in business. Typically, MBAs are taken by those who have already been working for several years, but that’s not always the case. Some people go straight from their first university degree to study for an MBA degree and this is the beauty of the business school offering; there are options to suit everyone. This includes MBAs at premium business schools, like LBS or Harvard, and, for want of a better term, ‘mainstream’ business schools. Courses are available either full-time (30-60 hours per week) or part-time (one or two days per week) and there are Executive MBA programmes for senior corporate executives and managers who study whilst working, and sometimes their study is partially or fully funded by the employer.
Requirements to Study an MBA
To study for an MBA, you will usually require an undergraduate degree. Most MBAs require a 2:1 or above, but there are some that will accept 2:2 degrees so long as they are paired with an exceptional application and a set of relevant skills and experiences. Some work experience is generally required; this being the case most MBA students are between the ages of 27 and 30. One important entry criterion to meet, particularly for top schools, is the GMAT exam score. The Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, is designed to test your abilities across a wide range of areas. A good score will often facilitate entry into leading schools, and each school’s GMAT averages are widely published.
Benefits of an MBA
MBAs expose students to many areas of business including accounting, finance, marketing, people management and leadership skills, and full-time courses do so in an intensive, immersive way that challenges and stretches students’ perspectives and thinking. The MBA experience often pushes candidates hard – the speed and sheer amount of work faced is sometimes described as a re-wiring of candidates’ brains, such that they can think critically and quickly analyse information, filtering out what is important from the irrelevant. The skills taught in an MBA programme enable you to read, assess, structure and plan rapidly; skills that will enable you to find innovative ways of dealing with big problems. An MBA graduate also gains an up to date and razor-sharp ‘tool kit’ to apply to any business challenge. These aspects are some of the reasons why the MBA has become so highly regarded by employers.
People from all walks of life want to gain an MBA qualification in order to improve their understanding of business and to accelerate their career. Developing your business skills is not only good for your personal and career growth, but it is also good for companies and organisations and essential for the economy – enhanced knowledge and skills leads to better solutions to problems which can increase productivity, as well as transform products and services that affect people’s lives.
If you are at that pivotal point in your career where you want to learn more about business and the decision-making processes, it’s important to know that as valuable as the MBA is, the programme is not a final destination, it’s very much the start of a longer journey. In an MBA you will be introduced to many facets of business and gain a foundation that enables you to confidently delve deeper into areas of interest across a range of subjects as you need to. Because of this solid framework, when you are back in the world of work, it will be easier to go deeper into subjects that are needed in your job. You will be able to understand business issues and explore them at a level you were unable to do before your MBA.
A Wealth of Choice of Business Schools
Every year thousands of professionals start their search for the right business school for them. At the top of the MBA tree are the premium schools – these are equivalent to Ivy League ranked universities, which often have long histories, coveted brands, outstanding facilities and attract the best staff and candidates. The institution’s brand, the quality of faculty and quality of student admissions are all perpetuated by each other, creating an institution designed to offer the very best environment for business education.
Gaining a qualification from a top international business school will open new opportunities. However, their prestige and resources mean they command high fees – some can be as much as 10 times more expensive than mainstream business schools. On the upside, their brands add considerable value to the graduates’ own personal brand, giving them an additional asset when they go back into the job market.
There is fierce competition to secure a place at the top business schools – because their brands are so revered. Unsurprisingly, these schools are often 7 to 10 times over-subscribed for places, so getting-in requires some real work. Candidates must be very driven and highly organised to maximise their chances. Having access to the necessary funds also helps – some will seek assistance with fees by applying for a scholarship (eg through charities) to supplement their private financing arrangements. Many candidates have a risk profile that allows them to take on loans, confident that their future income growth will resolve any debt soon afterwards.
There are many fantastic mainstream business schools that do not cost the earth. More and more, universities are developing high-quality MBA programmes. Excellent business education is on offer but, being newer into the MBA market, these do not have the same historical pedigree and reputation enjoyed by their premium counterparts.
While those who attend the mainstream business schools may not come away with quite such a prestigious brand to append to their own, they receive a rounded business education (perhaps with less of the heightened level of induced stress that the premium schools engender into their programmes) and can use their new skills to further their career goals.
The Enduring Power of the Alumni
Apart from the new skills propelling your career prospects and salary (it’s not uncommon for business school graduates to double their pre-MBA salary), there is a huge ‘hidden’ benefit. During the MBA, students develop a network of peers that become long-term associates and lifelong friends. The business school Alumni is a powerful asset – because of their shared experience, members will reach out to each other when they need help or advice at any stage in their business career, whether that’s as a senior-level employee or as an entrepreneur.
MBA – A Cause for Celebration!
The tremendous success of the MBA is a cause for celebration: the diversity of schools (some offering campuses in several countries as part of the curriculum), programmes and study timetables allow many people to attain business education in a way that suits their ambitions and circumstances. The timescale over which one can study an MBA has transformed access – there are full-time courses that run from nine to 21 months depending on the school, and part-time learning up to five years. Schools can be physical or virtual. And, there are prices to fit almost all budgets.
It’s come a long way since its origins in 1908, adapting and evolving to meet the market needs. Accessible, flexible and current – today’s MBA is a truly wonderful platform to boost business education.
If you are an engineer considering an MBA, visit or scholarship page for details on how to apply for a £50,000 award.