First Steps for Choosing the Right Business School
Advice for Applicants Based on the Results of TopMBA.com Research
Over 100,000 people a year choose to study for an MBA all over the world.
With young professionals recognizing that there are no "jobs for life", an MBA can provide skills to make an individual more marketable and to provide greater career choice.
If you are interested in becoming an international manager, you may soon join the ranks of qualified MBAs. But business schools are not all the same. You need to carefully research your choice of school to ensure that it matches your personal requirements.
A systematic process for making your business school choice should be adopted. QS World MBA Tour and Topmba.com conduct annual research of 400 business schools, 50,000 MBA applicants and 500 MBA recruiters to assist you and some of the findings are summarized below.
Step 1: Why should I take an MBA?
The very first step is to analyze your personal motivations for taking an MBA. Are you a career switcher, or a career progresser? Do you want to carry on working whilst you take your MBA, or do you want to focus on your studies and consider your options? Is a jump in salary what matters most, or do you seek international experience? Is your primary goal to broaden your education and your horizons, or to develop specialist skills for career enhancement? An honest self-assessment will save you a great deal of time and energy and help you make a more focused selection of schools.
Our research demonstrates that MBA applicants around the world take an MBA for career related reasons. Year after year, MBA applicants have reported that 'improving career prospects' and 'learning new skills' are the main motivators to take an MBA.
'Building a professional network' comes next, followed by 'enabling a career change', which has diminished in importance in recent years. 'Boosting salary' remains only the 5th most important factor, comparable with 'starting an own business'. Only about 20% of people take an MBA just for the education.
Step 2: Self-assessment to identify my career goals
The second thing to do when considering business school is to try to narrow down the types of career you might like to pursue, balanced by a realistic self-assessment of your current abilities and skills base. Examine your motives carefully. Determining where you want to work after your studies should be a major part of this process.
Why ask these questions? For practical reasons, most business school application forms ask for your career aspirations.
They want to see a clear, cogent explanation of where you want to be in the future and why that school can help you get there. For example, if you think you want to become a management consultant or an investment banker with a starting compensation of over US $130,000, there are only 50 or 60 international business schools, of which 50% are in the US, where these companies actively recruit. If you wish to work in a particular country, you may well be better off taking your MBA in that country and accessing the school's local recruiter and alumni network.
Step 3: Budget & Study Mode
The full time MBA is still by far the most popular programme in terms of candidate numbers. Part time and executive MBAs are growing, but are still quite small by comparison. The standard period for an international full time MBA in the USA is two years.
Schools such as Wharton, Harvard and Stanford cost approximately US $38,000 for tuition per annum.
In Europe, London Business School and IESE offer a two year programme, whereas IMD, INSEAD, IE, Cambridge, Cranfield, Warwick and other leading programmes are one year.
In Europe, the annual cost of an MBA can be as little as 5000 or as much as 34,000 for tuition, with books and living expenses a further cost. However, financial aid opportunities exist that can make the most costly programmes affordable. Scholarships are offered by a variety of organisations, and many local banks offer low-start loans for the period of your study. Individuals are advised to apply to the school of their choice and to make specific enquiries about funding options.
If you wish to carry on working during your MBA, this will narrow down your choice of schools very quickly. Part time, executive MBA and distance learning study become the only options. For example, over 25,000 people are now using distance learning for an MBA or similar diploma with British institutions alone. Average costs for distance learning vary from 4,000 to 20,000 spread over 3 to 8 years. Within the Distance Learning arena, the schools most often referenced by HR Directors in TopMBA Career Guide research include: Aston, Durham, Henley, Heriot-Watt, Manchester Business School, Open Business School, Strathclyde and Warwick.
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