Deciding to do an MBA: your questions answered

Deciding to do an MBA

Choosing to do an MBA is a big step. It requires self-discipline, time and financial commitment, and potentially a career break if you study full-time.

The course fees and prerequisite experience mean that typically graduates applying to masters in business administration (MBA) programmes want to advance their careers, make a career change (from finance to consulting, for example) or move into entrepreneurship.

What are the advantages of doing an MBA?

Even in the fledgling recovery, an MBA can significantly improve your prospects and future earning power.

It's not only finance firms that value the MBA, blue-chip companies such as IBM and Google recruit MBA graduates. Most business schools also have very strong alumni networks, and you can create a useful network of contacts (fellow students, lecturers and even speakers invited to campus) who could help you throughout your career.

Employers usually look favourably on the qualification because the format promotes knowledge and skills that are applicable to any organisation (regardless of the sector). The universal appeal stems from the MBA's focus on collective business principles like finance, marketing, operations, technology, accounting, business strategy, organisational behaviour, economics and entrepreneurship.

What are the requirements for applying to an MBA programme?

Generally, a first degree and at least three years' work experience. Many business schools will also require you to sit the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) when you apply.

If you haven't got the prerequisite experience, you could consider a Masters in Management (MiM) instead. The MiM puts more emphasis on theory rather than requiring candidates to draw heavily on their own business practices.

When is the right time to do an MBA?

Most entrants to MBA courses are already managers of some description. MBAs are designed to allow people to progress further in their chosen careers, or make a career switch – not to start at the bottom. It's unusual to start an MBA course immediately after graduating, unless there are special circumstances (such as you've been running or helping to run the family business since you were ten years old), and most accredited courses will require you to have at least three years' work experience before applying.

Part of the appeal of doing an MBA course is coming into contact with fellow students who can share their business experiences, which wouldn’t be possible if everyone was fresh out of university. You're expected to learn from your peers and gain from their experience as well as that of the lecturers and guest speakers.

What are the components of a 'typical' MBA progamme?

There's usually a core set of subjects offered by the school, such as accounting, marketing and finance, and several electives to choose from. At the London Business School, for example, electives include entrepreneurial, strategy, technology management, international business private equity and change management. Courses often finish with a project or dissertation. Many two-year courses include a summer internship.

Online and distance-learning MBA courses

Online and distance learning MBA courses are gaining momentum and credibility in the market. The Financial Times list of the top online courses includes two UK schools in the top ten (only one made its on-campus Global MBA Ranking 2014 dominated by US schools).

The online format can offer flexibility and the chance to choose specialist tuition that otherwise might not be available. Your peers could literally be from anywhere in the world, but you need to be willing to approach networking in different ways to get the most out of the opportunity.

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