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Does an MBA make a difference?

10:05am Tuesday 18th January 2011

Approximately 12,000 MBAs graduate each year from UK business schools, according to the Careers Advisory Service at the University of Kent. But is the investment of time and money worth it? Can this piece of paper really magically transport you to a better place?

Some MBA critics point to the many successful CEOs and entrepreneurs who never attended business school - or even finished college, for that matter. Well-known college dropouts include: Michael Dell (Dell), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Sir Richard Branson (Virgin), Steve Jobs (Apple), and Microsoft's Bill Gates (who dropped out of Harvard). Still that doesn't prove that those who have MBAs aren't better off than they would be otherwise. True, people can succeed without an MBA, but many use it to go further than they otherwise could.

Let's take a closer look at the ways that an MBA might help you.

An MBA could get you hired in a tough economy If you had your pick between two candidates - one with a BBA and one with an MBA - who were both qualified for a job, wouldn't you take the one with the higher degree? Because of the recession's affect on employment, many companies have a wealth of talent to pick from at the moment and some can afford to be choosy in their hiring. Candidates need to score every point possible, and a graduate degree may give that extra edge.

"I think that MBA students definitely have a competitive advantage in the jobs market - for some roles it is a minimum requirement to have an MBA," says Caitriona Conway, MBA Relationship Manager at Cass Business School.

An MBA may get you where you want to go faster

"In the long term an applicant would have a greater chance of getting a more senior role in their company if they already have an MBA," says Conway. "It is very dependent on their previous work experience, their level of proactive networking and if they have the relevant and desirable transferrable skills."

Some of the opportunities an MBA degree may jump-start include:

  • Managing larger teams
  • Running meetings
  • Greater interaction with clients
  • More decision-making power
  • Representing the company at events
  • "Choicer" projects
  • Responsibility for your own set of clients/projects

"MBA students have the ability to think strategically and are very good at working in a team situation as well," notes Conway. "They are very internationally and culturally aware and can adapt and fit into different job functions and sectors easier than other potential candidates.

"MBA degree holders are good project managers, problem solvers, very ambitious and big picture thinkers, very analytical, strategic thinkers, idea generators - and they have a good network through their business school."

There are fields that commonly utilise MBAs, including:

  • Consumer Brand Marketing
  • Corporation Finance
  • Venture Capital
  • Investment Banking
  • Commercial Banking
  • Production/Operations Management
  • New Product Development
  • Management Consulting
  • Private Equity
  • Strategic Planning/Business Development

The decision whether or not to pursue an MBA is a tough one. It involves serious thought about money, time, and career goals. But for those who decide that getting an MBA is the path they wish to take, the degree might open up a whole new world of possibilities.