Undertaking a masters in business administration (MBA) is not a decision one takes lightly. Often, it is completed part-time on top of a full-time job, with the cost of the course coming in at about €35,000.
We spoke with experts on the topic to break down the 10 most important things prospective students should know before deciding to do an MBA course.
1. It’s important to research the course in advance of signing up
Michael Bulman, president of the MBA Association of Ireland, said planning and researching the course is vitally important. "There's lots of variation in terms of whether they're online entirely or they're full-time or part-time, and what days you're in class. You need to choose the right one for you," he said.
Eimear Nolan, director of the flexible executive MBA at Trinity College Dublin, said believing in yourself and not allowing fear to hold you back, is another important consideration. "A lot of people wait for the 'perfect time'. In reality, is there ever a perfect time? If you are interested in an MBA, do it," she added.
2. You don’t have to have a background in business studies
While some level of work experience is often an eligibility requirement for MBA courses, it doesn’t have to be in a business or finance background. “In an MBA class, you will have people who work in the IT industry sitting beside people who work in finance, sitting beside someone who works in pharmaceuticals, sitting beside someone whose day job is car hire,” Bulman said. “You have a real spectrum of industry backgrounds.”
3. You will learn from people, just as much as you will from books
With that diversity comes the benefit of being able to pick up information from sectors and industries with which you may not have previously interacted.
“That’s a huge part of it. You’re constantly being introduced to new materials,” Bulman added.
While mixing during your course is important, maintaining that network of contacts after you graduate is equally beneficial. Dr Nolan said: “Yes, you are getting an MBA but you are also obtaining the chance and opportunity to network with a diverse global cohort of students. Form relationships with your fellow classmates and nurture them – you have the opportunity to make lifelong connections.”
5. Don’t underestimate the commitment it requires
Bulman said it is important prospective students go into an MBA with their eyes open because it has an impact on every part of a student’s life, and often results in having to sacrifice extracurricular activities for the two years. Dr Nolan said time management and stress management are key skills students need to have to undertake MBAs. “Make sure you can carve out the time to do it. It is a lot of work, time and dedication,” she added.
6. It involves a lot of group work
This provides students with an opportunity to work with colleagues on projects, which is becoming more common in the workplace. It also enables students to develop a support network of like-minded people who can understand the trials and tribulations of undertaking the course. Dr Nolan said this can be a good motivator to get work done on time, too. “You have to be committed to the group. It’s not a sole journey,” she added.
7. You learn skills other than just how a business works
One of the biggest takeaways from an MBA is how to look at things strategically, Bulman said. “Looking at a situation or a business problem, and looking at it from an evidence-based perspective,” he added. According to Nolan, time management, prioritisation and cultural awareness skills are also invaluable learning outcomes of MBA courses.
8. You will grow personally as well as academically
Confidence and increased self-esteem are key outcomes to these courses too, according to Bulman, largely as a result of having to deal with different groups of people and having to carry out presentations in front of an audience.
9. Can open up career opportunities
One of the greatest benefits of undertaking an MBA is that a majority of them are non-industry specific, giving you a diverse set of skills that can be applied to any industry. “It gives you exposure to people in other jobs and you do tend to look at things and think you can do that job. So you do see people tend to be promoted relatively quickly after the MBA, move role or move employer,” Bulman said.
10. A good stepping stone for setting up your own business.
Given an MBA is largely about business, it should come as no surprise that those who are considering starting their own company tend to undertake these programmes. “A lot of what you learn is about entrepreneurship and how to take an idea to turning it into a business plan, how you will get an investment,” Bulman added.