3 Things to Consider When Choosing to Do an MBA

If you’ve reached a stage in your career where you feel you’d like to take on more responsibility and have been told that an MBA is the way to do it, then you’ll find yourself with a number of decisions to make before applying. Though an MBA can be a great asset to any aspiring businessperson, it requires a large amount of commitment and should be thought through carefully before you take on the course. Here are a few key things to consider when choosing to do an MBA which should help you come to the right decision for you.

1. Are you at the right stage in your life to take this on? When someone describes an MBA it all sounds too good to be true – a qualification that is well respected, will increase your career prospects and give you the skills you need to progress up the career ladder. However, it is important not to be overwhelmed by how great it all sounds – an MBA only works for you if you’re at the right stage in your life to take it on. To begin with, you need to have had enough experience of business before applying – on many MBA courses it is a prerequisite to have around 5 years of real work experience (often around 10 if you’re looking at doing an EMBA). Also, you must consider whether you’re in a stable enough place in your life to take time out to study. Most full-time MBA courses take 1 or 2 years, and will require you to dedicate a lot of your time to study. If your situation will allow you to take the time to study an MBA, you need to be sure that you can afford it. Like most graduate and postgraduate courses there is some funding available (such as The MBA Loan Scheme financed by NatWest and administered by the AMBA) but you will also be expected to put some money towards the fees yourself.

2. What kind of a basis do you want to study on? If you’ve thought it through and decided that you are in the right stage of your life to take on an MBA, then you need to decide what basis you want to study on – full or part time. Most institutions like Ashridge Business School offer a full-time, 1 year MBA and a part time, 2 year MBA or EMBA, along with change management and leadership training. Many people, whilst ready to make the commitment to take an MBA course, do not feel secure enough in their situation to take a year out from their career to focus entirely on studying. If you’d rather continue working whilst studying, then a part-time course may be better suited to your needs.

3. Where do you want to study? Though the MBA course originated in the US, it is now a popular option for businesspeople worldwide. You can either choose to do your MBA at a UK institution, or if you’d rather have a taste of business abroad then there are many options available to you. Check out FT.com for the global MBA rankings to see which courses are most popular.

All About MBAs

(Master of Business Administration) is a master’s degree in business administration and originated in America in the late 19th century, as companies sought scientific approaches to management. The MBA degree is now recognised worldwide and attracts people from a wide range of academic disciplines.

MBA courses are offered by a range of institutions, from universities to specialised business schools such as Ashridge. The degree courses can be full or part-time and there many offering distance learning. With such a wide range of options, it is important that any prospective student ensures that the course they intend to take has been accredited. The Association of MBA’s is responsible for accrediting courses based in the UK and they provide lists of business schools and advice on choosing an MBA course. Newspapers, such as the Financial Times also often carry lists of the top ranking business schools and which MBA's are most respected. The list covers full-time, part-time and distance learning courses from not only the UK, but also across the world.

Most MBA courses cover the same curriculum. They offer training in various business disciplines and many now focus on teaching soft skills, such as human communication and group dynamics. Students undertake projects and assignments, either as part of a group or as individuals. Projects provide training in teamwork and material for analysis of group processes. Many MBA’s also offer specialised modules in topics, which include human resource management, logistics management, accountancy, health services management, association management, agribusiness and local government. This allows students to tailor their MBA to the work area in which they are employed or in which they intend to seek future employment.

Studying for an MBA is obviously expensive, so the question is, are they worth it? The answer varies, as some studies claim that people with an MBA earn a lot more than those who simply have bachelor degrees. On the other hand, there are studies that show no real financial advantage and some chief executives are not that impressed by an MBA. For instance, Jim Brown, a CEO who gained an MBA from Harvard University in 1995, claimed that he found the friendships he forged with future leaders whilst at Harvard were worth more than the degree. The fiasco of Enron and other corporate scandals may also have contributed to the degree losing some of its kudos.

Entering the Commercial World

So, the third year of your degree is drawing to an end and the job application deadlines are looming. The choices are overwhelming. Do you go for a civil service fast-track business scheme? A post-graduate internship with Price Waterhouse Coopers? An increasingly competitive post-grad business training scheme with Deloitte? Getting into the business world has always been incredibly demanding as every company is searching for the cream of this year’s graduate crop, but this year’s graduates are facing an even harder challenge – trying to get a job in the age of the Credit Crunch.

There are certain pre-requisites that every clued up and ambitious undergraduate will know about that can help you break into the commercial sector. Firstly, work experience is absolutely key. If you haven’t already had some kind of relevant, paid or unpaid experience in the field of work which interests you most, now is the time to act. Most employers will be looking for graduates with a clear idea of the organisation and the market they will be working in and this is best achieved by getting straight into the workplace and finding out what your dream job really entails. It might be that it’s not at all what you thought and will give you the time to reconsider something better suited to you, or it might be sufficient to give you that all important interview edge.

Got experience but still not sure about graduate contracts? How about applying for a yearlong internship learning more about the kind of profession you think you’d like to be a part of. An intern’s salary won’t be the same as a post-graduate training scheme, but the experience gained could lead to faster progress up the pay scale once you do get a job. If you’ve already got a job in mind but you’d like to partake in further studying of business, Ashridge provide a wealth of possibilities. They offer a wide range of MBA business courses which can be undertaken full-time or part-time depending on your existing commitments. They are an award-winning educational establishment which prides itself on producing theoretically and practically capable graduates, with the appropriate skills for them to thrive in the workplace. The MBAs are organised in specific skill areas such as Executive Coaching, Management and Consulting, allowing students to improve in the particular area they require. More general courses are also on offer, covering all aspects of business in slightly less detail but providing a well rounded knowledge of all the skills required to work in the commercial world.

One of the most obvious but crucial things to do whilst applying for business jobs, internships or further education is to keep abreast of the current commercial climate. In a constantly changing market potential employers or professors will want to see that you’re on the ball and ready to adapt to the evolving demands of working in the exciting world of business.

Moving Forward with Further Education

In the face of the credit crunch everyone has got to work harder to be sure of their jobs. Businesses are pulling out all the stops to remain afloat and in many cases this has meant that many people are being made redundant. Already thousands of employees of Lehman Brothers and other firms in similar predicaments have been laid off and are left searching for a way in which to improve their career prospects. Whether you’re a student, a post graduate, an intern or already a business executive further education could be the tool to give your CV an edge.

Further business education can be a costly investment and is a decision which requires much careful consideration. Before committing to a particular course or programme it’s crucial to weigh up the pros and cons to ensure that it’s the right decision for you and your career. In many cases employers will be impressed by the dedication to furthering your own business knowledge and the time-management skills involved in taking a part-time course around your degree. The qualification itself could also give you the key edge to making yourself noticed in the office, teaching you how best to hone your business skills in a given specialist area. However, not all employers will value an educational qualification over concrete achievement in the workplace itself, so whether you’re looking for a promotion or a change of scenery and a new job it’s important to make a careful assessment of your audience first.

When deciding to embark upon further business education, it’s also important to spend a while considering which organisation to study with. This is very personal decision and different people will benefit from different courses and establishments, but there are a few general rules to bear in mind. There are league tables for business schools available to read online as well as independent student reviews charting student satisfaction. Employers also often have recommendations for preferred schools and there are award systems, honouring the most effective courses. Ashridge are currently number one in the Financial Times’ business school ratings and have been near the top of the Economist’s league tables for 4 years.

However you decide to further your business career, remember that executive education is an effective option that could be the key to your next big break.

What is Change Management?

Change management refers to a broad range of processes and professional specialities that are aimed at successfully introducing change. Today’s businesses face more demanding shareholders, difficult markets and discerning customers. With increasing global competition, businesses need to deliver higher levels of quality and service at competitive prices. To achieve these aims businesses often need to re-structure, eliminating unproductive work habits, redefining roles and integrating new technology.

Change management involves the following

  • Restructuring and organisational development
  • Managing and measuring intellectual and human capital
  • Leadership development
  • Performance management and outsourcing

Change management is not a soft skill with subjective outcomes, with the results of the process being measured in the satisfaction of customers, time to market and speed of delivery. Tools that are used by change management practitioners are lean manufacturing, 360° feedback, executive coaches, CRM, just-in-time supply; manufacturing processes, such as kanban and kaizen and total quality management or enterprise applications, such as SAP. For a major programme of change to be successful it needs to be carefully planned, the ramifications of change considered, have a development plan for re-education and information and have a map for monitoring the ongoing progress. In IT, change management involves standardising methods and procedures so that any changes to an IT infrastructure are carried out promptly and efficiently, in order to minimise the number and impact of any related incidents on the service.

There are a number of online sites that advertise change management jobs, including changejobs, which advertises jobs such as business analysts, consultants, project managers and programme directors across both business change management and IT. Companies such as Ashridge offer consultation on change and cover aspects of change management as part of their MBA course.