MBA degrees are hugely popular. According to Fortune, they are the most subscribed to Master’s qualification in the United States. The qualification is older than you might think; Harvard School of Business Administration in Boston was the first institution to offer an MBA qualification, enrolling their first cohort in 1908. Since then, the MBA qualification has flourished into a highly recognized and well-respected degree.
Today, an MBA is an umbrella term for any qualification bringing students to the level of ‘Master of Business Administration’. However, the business world is diverse, and different skill specializations are needed for different roles. As you might expect, this has led to a diversification of business education.
MBA courses differ hugely from one another. You’ll need to choose carefully to find the course that suits your ambitions. This can feel like a bit of a herculean task, but luckily we have created a handy guide to make your decision-making process ever so slightly easier.
Without further fanfare, here is our guide to the options you’ll be faced with when choosing an MBA.
Full Time Or Part Time?
The first big decision you have to make is whether you want to take your MBA course as a full-time or part-time student. Many MBA students enroll during periods of employment, and do not want to sacrifice their work-life for study – after all, it can be mightily hard to jump back into work after a long time off.
Part-time MBA courses cater to people who wish to work and study at the same time, and this can seem like the best option at first glance as it’s easy to assume that this would give you far more financial security. There is, however, a catch.
90 percent of all MBA scholarships and fellowships are handed out to students enrolling in full-time courses. Securing funding is far easier if you opt to study full-time. Why? Well, business schools’ reputations and ranking rely far more on their track record in the field of full-time courses. Because of this, business schools are far more eager to tempt students into taking a full-time MBA, as the school is more likely to benefit from it.
If you have a supportive work environment, it might be worth broaching the subject of arranging for some time off specifically so that you can study for an MBA full-time. After all, when you return from your study you are likely to bring new ideas to the company, so allowing you time to study could be beneficial to your organization in the long run.
Are You Ready For An Executive MBA?
An Executive MBA is a variant of the MBA specifically intended to train students who are already on their way up the corporate ladder. To qualify for an Executive MBA, you must prove that you have lots of relevant work experience and plenty of ambition.
Executive MBA courses are, generally speaking, smaller than regular MBA courses and they tend to enroll older students that already hold senior roles. Executive MBA cohorts are almost always highly international, with university business schools fighting between each other to tempt the most talented senior business officers to their courses.
Executive MBA courses are almost always full-time and have a massive workload. You will need to be absolutely sure that a future career in the highest echelons of business is for you – and it really isn’t for everybody.
One of the most important aspects of any Executive MBA course is the opportunities for networking and information sharing that it presents. Before enrolling in such a course, make sure you check out a list of former students over the years to try and get a handle on what kind of people you are going to rub shoulders with. Call the admissions department and ask to speak to a course administrator. Simply put, if you are not studying alongside a fascinating and innovative cohort, you won’t get nearly as much out of your Executive MBA as you might hope.
Executive MBA programs are generally more expensive than regular MBA programs. They typically cater to students who already earn high wages or have been able to source funding from their organizations.
As Times Higher Education’s Michael Desiderio quite rightly pointed out, an Executive MBA is not necessarily a higher qualification than a regular MBA. Instead, the difference comes in the specific focus. If you are a fresh-faced graduate with a couple of years of experience, a regular MBA course would suit you. If, however, you are an experienced executive that wants to improve your business acumen while also networking with fellow industry leaders, then an executive course could be the right choice for you.
Choose A Specialization Carefully
As with all postgraduate educational settings, you will be expected to specialize within your MBA. In the world of business education, specialization is often known as a concentration. You should think carefully about your career goals before committing to a concentration.
At present, some of the most popular concentrations within MBA courses are Marketing, HR, Finance, Operations Management, International Business, and Healthcare Management. Choose wisely; your experience and plans for future moves up the corporate ladder should help you determine what concentration you wish to follow. Draw up a physical plan and see how your goals correlate to the different concentrations on offer.
Once you have chosen, you need to do a little bit of detective work. Research the faculties of prospective universities and make sure to check out what the concentrations of the teaching and administrative staff are. Try and find a faculty with specialists in your field lecturing and administrating in it. Following the expertise is a very reliable way of choosing the MBA program that you can get the most out of.
Online Or In-Person
Traditionally, MBA courses have been conducted in person, often in business schools associated with established universities. However students are increasingly being educated online, often attending courses run by similarly established schools.
In-person education offers something that online learning cannot. An MBA benefits hugely from networking and collaboration opportunities and it can be very hard to establish these important connections online.
Despite this, universities are investing huge amounts of money into online courses. Networking and online lecture facilities are improving at a rapid pace, and the rise of online conferencing software such as Zoom has enabled educational institutions to emulate the in-person experience online.
Taking an online course demands a certain level of proactivity from the student. They must seek out networking and collaboration opportunities without much guidance or ‘chance meetings’. However as a businessperson, connective proactivity is almost certainly your bread and butter, so this shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge.
Online courses are typically cheaper and more flexible than their in-person equivalents, but it can be very hard to access extra funding and scholarships for any education that is not undertaken in person. It is, however, an emerging market. This means that resources are likely to pour into online learning as the market continues to grow.
If you do choose to study online, the safest option is to enroll in an online version of an established course from a well-known university business school. Scammers have been known to lure would-be students with cheap-looking online learning opportunities in an attempt to steal their money. Choosing a course from an established school means that there will be a trusted faculty you can call upon with the skills to help you.
Seek As Much Guidance As You Can
This might seem like an obvious point, but you absolutely should not rush in and choose an MBA course without researching how you might get the most out of it, check out what your cohort and faculty will be like, and exploring all of your options.
University admissions departments will usually be more than happy to point you towards resources regarding their business schools. More importantly, it is advisable to talk to people who have taken the course in the past and check out how they are doing. Have they managed to climb the corporate ladder? Do they consistently innovate in their field and make great connections?
You’ll also need to do a great deal of research once you have chosen a course so that you can get the most out of it. There are plenty of guides to getting the most out of your MBA course online. Click here for a short guide to start you off.
If you are already an experienced executive thinking about studying for an Executive MBA, you need to seriously assess what the benefits of studying might be. It might be that you would get very little from an executive MBA if you are already happy with the way you work. You have to be ready to learn, and seeking guidance from people who have taken a similar leap is always recommended.