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What is an MBA?

MBA stands for Master of Business Administration. It’s a top level, internationally-recognised business qualification, designed to train up the next generation of high-flying managers, with a hefty price tag to match.

MBAs date back to the turn of the century, when it was devised in America as a response to the growing need for scientific approaches to management. Fast-forward 60 odd years and business schools in Europe started offering the course. Forget The Beatles, mini-skirts and flower power, the 1960s was the time that Europe started to embrace the MBA.

Over time, the European MBA has evolved into something slightly different from its American predecessor, but a classic MBA still has the same basic function: to cover the major areas of business, from accounting, finance, and human resources to operations management, I.T., change management and marketing.

If you’re studying full-time, it’s a one to two year course. MBA students can also take it part-time or through distance learning, so they don’t have to leave their current role. However, even distance learning students have to commit at least 20 hours a week to studying.

Reputation is a key factor when choosing MBA courses, as employers will not just be looking at the MBA, but where you took it. MBAs can be pretty expensive (certainly more than your average postgraduate qualification); however, course fees do vary from provider to provider, and some employers may also be willing to subsidise the MBA course fees for you.

MBA entry requirements

MBAs are designed for those with at least five to ten years of experience, and you won’t find many MBA students under the age of 26. Other requirements include: having a first degree and completing an admissions test.

Business schools might devise their own entry exam or they will ask applicants to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), which is used by business schools worldwide. The test is designed to test academic aptitude for further management studies and is thought to be a good indicator of academic performance at graduate level.

Why do the MBA?

For starters, the MBA is regarded as THE qualification for a successful management career. The majority of people who choose to do an MBA, do so for the purposes of career progression and use it as a booster into a senior-level management role.

Hand in hand with this, MBAs are often seen as conducive to a higher salary. According to the ‘Association of MBAs 2010 Career Survey’, the median salary of MBA students was £64,000 before starting the qualification. On average, graduates earned 33% more immediately after completing the course, rising to 92% more three to five years later.

In addition, many people also take the MBA for its professional networking opportunities. Many of the most respected MBA courses have an illustrious list of alumni who go on to become very big cheeses in their respective industries.

Haven’t got enough experience?

There are other postgraduate management courses you can look at. In particular, many business schools offer MSc/MAs in management or more specialised master’s qualifications in certain business areas.

You could also look into lower-level professional business qualifications. Of course, if you’ve really got your heart set on doing an MBA, one of the best things you can do is work your corporate socks off to rise up the ranks and gain the relevant business experience.