Studying for a Master of Business and Administration (MBA) in the UK remains expensive, those looking to pursue this option can expect to pay in the region of £15,000 for their course. However, a recent survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) revealed that job offers to executive MBA graduates were at an all-time high, with 76 percent of participants having received an offer of employment at the time of the survey (February 15 - March 18, 2012). With that in mind, can the advantages of holding an MBA really justify such a substantial investment in both time and money especially given the uncertain economic climate? Inspiresme talks to a group of business professionals who are also MBA graduates from the Open University (OU) to ascertain their thoughts about how they have benefitted from studying for, and receiving, an MBA.
Richard Baggaley - London Publishing Partnership
Richard Baggaley set up professional publishing services and research consultancy, London Publishing Partnership in 2012. Prior to this, he had worked in academic book publishing as an editor, publisher and director.
He notes: “When I first started, I worked for a big American company and they offered to pay half the fees. I figured that my CV would look better with an MBA. There was definitely no direct link between getting the MBA and getting a promotion but it seemed like a good idea to improve my marketability. I also had a bit of a hankering to one day start my own business.”
Baggaley explains that studying for an MBA has helped him by allowing him to "better understand the way that organisations work, what motivates people and the importance of company culture. Managing a creative business was a particular interest of mine and the course was great in that respect.”
When asked whether he would recommend studying for an MBA Baggaley adds a note of caution: “It depends on the MBA and where you are doing it. Some courses are a passport to consultancy work or promotion within a firm, some are more academic. I'd say the OU course is more academic. I'd say do it if you're really interested in the subject for its own sake, not because you're banking on it paying for itself.”
Peter Cardwell - Learning Dynamics
Learning Dynamics design business simulations for talent development, talent attraction and university course modules. Peter Cardwell is its director of business strategy and development.
Cardwell took up studying for an MBA in 1993 for reasons of personal growth rather than job advancement or increased earnings, setting up Learning Dynamics in 1997.
He explains: “Specific modules, particularly strategic management, introduced me to a disciplined approach to corporate strategy plus models and frameworks for analysing a company's strategic position and forward planning.”
“Being entrepreneurial - is an exciting prospect. There are obviously risks involved but if you are passionate about your proposition and it is well thought through and financed, the upside of being master of your own fortune (or misfortune) gives a real sense of purpose. Starting your own business is about passion, perspiration and persistence. What does an MBA contribute to this? It is about perspective on the business opportunity and providing you with a way of thinking and a set of tools that you can use in your business on a day to day basis.”
Cardwell’s advises other considering an MBA is to think about why they want to do it. "Choose very carefully which MBA and do a lot of research. Check that it is AMBA accredited and that it suits your purposes and your lifestyle. Choose your modules carefully so that they deliver learning you can use in your business life.”
Richard Garland - Gradient Consultants
Gradient Consultants is a chartered building surveyors practice. Director Richard Garland firmly believes that his MBA has played a key role in the company’s successes. In 2004, Garland signed up to study an MBA and during the first year of the course was inspired to set up Gradient Consultants.
Garland explains: “I was working for a large multi-national firm when I embarked on my MBA and the experience proved a light bulb moment for me. The course presented me with a tidal wave of possibilities as well as the business tools and knowledge I needed to give me the confidence to set up my own business which I did with my co-director during the first year of the course. By pursuing an MBA you learn a little of everything about running a business.”
“It was a life changing experience, which enabled me to look at challenges and problems in a whole new light. Moving through the course electives, from finance to creativity and knowledge management to marketing, you feel that you are becoming more confident with the business world and in many instances look forward to trying new ideas and showing that you want to take responsibility and the lead.”
"The MBA has been essential to my leadership development and I'm proud of the fact it has given me an all-round tool box of skills I can dip in and out of whenever I need to.”
MBAs can serve as a key differentiator during times when competition is fierce, according to Daniel Callaghan, managing director of MBA & Company. “The MBA qualification can have an immediate impact on your professional career. It is a clear statement that you have a wider understanding of the commercial drivers within a business than just from within your function. In a world where qualifications can be commoditised and experiences matched it is often this difference in attitude that matters most to employers.”