It’s hard work, expensive and it can deal a hammer blow to the toughest of management egos, but the master of business administration (MBA) continues to be one of the UK’s most popular postgraduate programmes.
More than 8,000 new students enrolled at business schools in 2011 for courses accredited by the Association of MBAs. But if you are thinking of joining them in 2013, where should you start? Over the next few days, this series will guide you through the basics of MBAs, looking at the different courses on offer, how to apply, the cost and job prospects once you have graduated.
Fees at the top end are £57,500 for a two-year full-time MBA at the London Business School, or £33,000 for a two-year part-time executive MBA at the Cranfield School of Management in Bedford.
So the question has to be asked: is there a return on investment? Quantifying an MBA’s value is an inexact science but the Alumni Perspectives Survey of 4,000 MBA graduates, conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council in 2012, claimed that, on average, respondents had recouped one third of the cost of their studies within a year of graduation and the degree had paid for itself in four years.
Some schools, such as the London Business School, publish information on post-MBA salaries. Its 2012 MBA employment report shows the median base salary for its graduates going into consulting was £74,000; for corporate sector jobs it was slightly lower at £70,000; and for jobs in the financial sector it was £65,000.
A few colleges and rankings attempt to demonstrate the value of an MBA in terms of salaries commanded three or five years after graduation. The downside is that it is hard to know what the ambitious individuals would have been earning without the degree.
A lot depends on the attitude of employers. Phil Dunne, a partner at AT Kearney, the global firm of management consultants, says an MBA is not just about the topics you learn, but the people you meet and the networks you create. “We find graduates are equipped with very relevant, broad-based, team-oriented, problem-solving skills,” he says.
Sarah Hernon, a principal consultant for Right Management, part of the ManpowerGroup, says encouraging “high-value staff” to do master’s qualifications can be a creative way for employers to retain them when restructuring has reduced promotion prospects.”An MBA makes people more marketable,” she says.
But she adds a warning: “Working evenings and weekends is a huge commitment. But if you can get through it, the return on investment is vast.”