The basics

What is an MBA?

The MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a prestigious postgraduate qualification that is highly respected by employers globally. It does not only hold currency within business, but rather its value is recognised in government, public sector work, and in academia.

As one of the world’s most popular master’s programs, the MBA comes in different forms and can open doors to students from any walk of life: for recent graduates with their sights on a future in business, to experienced managers and professionals looking to take their careers to the next level.

Check out our lists of top MBAs around the world to shortlist your desired programs:

Reasons to pursue an MBA

Why an MBA?

A prestigious MBA program is not cheap: the fees could easily run from $70k - $160k. So why should you bother with getting an MBA at all?

The most common reason for getting an MBA is career acceleration. An MBA is a valued credential recognized all around the world. The skills and knowledge obtained in an MBA program are highly valued by many employers. In several industries, such as management consulting and investment banking, an MBA is a de facto requirement for career progression. A study found that the average MBA holder’s career accelerates 30% faster than that of someone without an MBA.

Another popular reason is career change. For people from various industries, an MBA opens up the path to enter management consulting, investment banking or venture capital. An MBA is also useful in changing careers more generally, e.g. someone from a manufacturing background may find an MBA helpful in transitioning to the pharmaceutical industry. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 64% of MBAs who graduated in 2012 entered a new industry.

Make yourself a desirable employee

Expanded professional network, high employability.

One of the biggest benefits of an MBA is the expansion of your professional network. The MBA opens up your school’s academic, student, and alumni network to you, which can be very valuable. Many people, including those who’d like to pursue entrepreneurship after the MBA, cite this ability to make wide and relevant connections as their most important motive to seek an MBA education.

Finally, of course, employability of MBA graduates is high. For one, MBA graduates from highly-rated business schools are highly desirable for blue-chip employers. According to data released by Graduate Management Ad- mission Council (GMAC) in January 2013, even in a tight job market, 92% of 2012 business school graduates worldwide found employment within 3 months after graduation.

MBA salaries also remain high. Graduates from highly-rated schools could earn anywhere between $100k and $240k per year. These salaries represent 55% to 160% increase from pre-MBA salaries. In purely financial terms, an MBA typically pays itself off in about 4 years. The lifetime salary enhance- ment for the average MBA graduate from a highly-rated business school is over $2 million!

Manage your expectations

What should I expect from an MBA?

The majority of MBA programs will train you in core skills and theories, in accounting, marketing, leadership, or social responsibility. However, programs usually offer elective modules in which you can specialise.

Some schools even offer specific MBA programs, in Health Care or IT Management, for example, and it is also common for schools to offer different programs based on students’ previous experiences. Someone already in a senior managerial role might take an Executive MBA, for example, designed to support further career progression.

The MBA can also be studied part-time or remotely. A full-time program is completed in two years – and sometimes only one – whilst part-time programs are designed for professionals who cannot afford to take this time off work. Whilst completing an MBA part-time will take longer, it will allow you to study evenings or weekends to fit your lifestyle. The MBA online, meanwhile, will prevent the need for a commute to class, with courses, tutorials, and assessments conducted remotely.

Applying to an MBA

There are almost 3,000 MBA programs offered globally, producing hundreds of thousands of graduates annually. Top schools, including Insead, University of Cambridge, and Stanford Graduate School of Business, may require business experience prior to enrolment.

Most programs are conducted in English, so an IELTS or equivalent proof of English proficiency is usually required for non-native speakers. Often, it will also be essential for you to complete a General Management Admission Test (GMAT) and have an undergraduate degree with a 2:1 or higher.

Whilst admissions processes will vary between schools, you should expect to submit an essay and attend an interview during the application.

Getting started