What is an MBA?

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If you’re considering postgraduate study in order to boost your salary expectations, then you might be looking at master’s degrees or higher programmes such as PhDs or taught doctorates. Another option that we touched briefly on in our post about master’s degrees is the MBA. 

MBAs are the same level academically as other master’s degrees, but MBAs are a prestigious qualification that are highly regarded and so being awarded an MBA is likely to dramatically increase your career prospects. While MBA programmes involve a lot of hard work – they are definitely not for the faint-hearted – if you’re anticipating a high flying career in business, studying for an MBA programme could give your CV the boost you need to move up quicker.

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What's an MBA?

MBA stands for Master of Business Administration, and it is a postgraduate degree that educates candidates in business theory and practices. It is an intense programme of study that equips graduates of the programme with the necessary knowledge and skills to progress to the next stage of their career.

What are the different types of MBA?

There are several types of MBA programme, and which one suits you will depend on your individual circumstances as well as your personal interests and career aspirations. 

General MBA (or just 'MBA')

If you have spent more than three years in industry and have gained experience that is relevant but perhaps not in a management role yet, this is likely to be the best programme for you. 

General MBAs equip students with a wide range of business skills that can be appropriate for roles in a variety of sectors. Core modules usually include marketing, organisational psychology and behaviour, and financial management. There are often optional modules that allow you to create the programme that you find the most interesting.  

Executive (EMBA)

For senior managers who are looking to move into executive positions, the executive MBA is often the right option. These programmes cover some of the same types of detail that the general MBA cover, but they will also focus on leadership qualities that will help prepare you for C-suite and boardroom positions. Most EMBA candidates tend to be older, with more than five years of experience in management positions and often ten years in industry. 

EMBAs are usually studied part time around your day job, and they are less likely to take place on campus with course peers. EMBA programmes are sometimes also provided remotely.

Specialist MBA

If you are looking for an MBA programme that is tailored to your specific industry, then a specialist MBA might be appropriate. General MBA programmes may not provide the right sort of training and skills for certain industries, and so there is a wide range of specialist MBA programmes for those in industries such as oil and gas, football, biotechnology, aviation, music, maritime and shipping management and the arts. 

The course teams for specialist MBAs are made up of experts from the industry, and will deliver a programme that is far more in-depth and relevant to your field than general or executive MBA programmes.  

UWS London has four specialist MBA programmes that might be appropriate for you if you have a specific career goal in mind. 

  • If you’re already in the banking or finance industry (or are planning to head in that direction), then the MBA with Banking and Finance would be perfect for you.
  • For people who are in the creative industries, or that want to strengthen their understanding of what their marketing team are talking about, the MBA with Digital Marketing is a great option.
  • Managers in the logistics industry, or who are involved in supply chain management and want to move up in their careers would benefit from the MBA with Logistics and Supply Chain Management.
  • Students who have their eyes set on launching their own company, or taking a set in the C-suite of a major corporation will definitely want to consider an MBA that will help them to become a great leader. The MBA with Leadership at UWS London could be the next step in a long and fruitful career at the helm of some of the world’s greatest companies!

Distance learning MBA

With many candidates fitting in study around work and other life commitments, universities are offering distance learning, and online MBA programmes. While these types of MBA programmes offer more flexibility and allow you to continue working while you study, don’t think this is an easy option – these programmes are just as tough as their on-campus counterparts, and generally you’ll need a minimum of 20 hours per week. In some cases though, tuition fees are lower than on-campus options.

MBA without work experience

Where graduates don’t want to delay studying for their MBA, because they want to progress to a senior role more quickly, there are some programmes that don’t require work experience. In these cases, you may need to study a pre-Master’s, or another postgraduate qualification. While this might sound attractive in order to save time and to get into a better paid role quicker, much of the course material for the MBA is much easier to comprehend when students have had some work experience. Many employers value experience too, so although you’ll show your academic capability by graduating from an MBA without work experience, your salary expectations may be lower than if you return to study after gaining some experience first.

What are the entry requirements for MBA programmes?

Each university or business school will have different entry requirements for their MBA programmes, but an honours degree is essential, usually at 2:1. Your undergraduate degree doesn’t usually have to be in business, but sometimes a relevant subject is preferred, especially for specialist MBAs. Many programmes require that applicants have a minimum of three years of full time work experience (or the equivalent if the applicant has worked part time) too. 

In addition, some institutions will require you to take the GMAT – the Graduate Management Admission Test. This test assesses your ability in analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative aptitude and verbal reasoning, and isn’t to be taken lightly. If you’re considering taking the GMAT in order to gain access to an MBA programme, start to prepare early – there are plenty of resources online including mock tests. Once you’ve passed the GMAT, your score is valid for entry onto an MBA programme for up to five years. 

As with many other types of qualification in the UK, international students will need to provide evidence of their English language proficiency, and will need an IELTS score of at least 6.0 to 6.5 (or equivalent).

You can study the general MBA full time in under two years, or part time over a longer period.

How long does an MBA take to complete?

You can study the general MBA full time in under two years, or part time over a longer period. Usually start dates are in September, but some institutions offer starts in January. Where courses are delivered online there may be additional start dates throughout the year.

Where can I study for an MBA?

MBA programmes are internationally recognised, and as such they are offered at institutions worldwide. Programmes that are offered at UK universities are highly regarded by employers around the globe, and there are more than 225 different courses to choose from here. 

The MBA isn’t just a UK programme though, and studying your MBA with universities in other countries may present unique opportunities. There are many different options for MBA programmes, each with their own unique opportunities, so be sure that you have chosen the one that is the best fit for you. 

What is MBA accreditation?

Accreditation is one way in which you can be certain your MBA study will be recognised internationally. There are three main bodies that provide accreditation for MBA programmes: 

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

Association of MBAs (AMBA)

EFMD Quality Improvement System

As we write this post, just 102 business schools worldwide are accredited by all three international bodies. While this isn’t necessarily a deciding factor, it is one that you should bear in mind when you’re comparing courses and institutions. 

What will I do while studying for an MBA?

The structure of the course will differ between institutions, but in most cases you’ll complete 180 credits, with some core modules and optional modules, as well as a strategic business project or dissertation, which is usually worth 60 credits. 

Subjects that you are likely to find on the curriculum for an MBA include: 

  • Financial management 
  • Human resource management 
  • Customer relationship management 
  • Marketing research 
  • Operations management
  • Business fundamentals
  • International business 
  • Executive leadership skills

You should expect to complete some essays, and some institutions will require you to sit exams as well as completing assessed coursework. In addition to these, you’ll conduct projects with clients, case studies, company visits and simulation work. Depending on the institution, exchange programmes may be part of the course. 

Because the MBA programme is a multi-disciplinary course that draws from theory and practice from so many different fields, combined with your undergraduate degree, and your experience, the career opportunities that the MBA will open up for you are endless.

Why should I study an MBA?

There are many more personal reasons that people might decide to study for an MBA, but some of the most commonly cited reasons for applying include: 

  • Increased salary potential
  • To become an entrepreneur and start a business
  • Better career opportunities, both in the UK and overseas
  • To build a business network
  • To prove their abilities and competencies
  • For an internationally recognised qualification
  • To enrich their understanding of business decisions
  • To increase their communication skills
  • To develop and grow within themselves
  • To keep up with peers

Because the MBA programme is a multi-disciplinary course that draws from theory and practice from so many different fields, combined with your undergraduate degree, and your experience, the career opportunities that the MBA will open up for you are endless.

Who is a good candidate to study an MBA?

An MBA is a challenging course and isn’t the right option for everyone. The majority of people who study the MBA are professionals who have gained between five and ten years of work experience in relevant roles since they graduated from their undergraduate degree, and who have gained an understanding of the world of business. Often candidates consider an MBA when they are ready to progress to the next stage of their career. 

For EMBAs specifically, up to ten years of experience may be required to enter the programme, since it is usually studied by more senior managers.  

How much does an MBA cost?

In the UK, tuition fees for the MBA differ between universities. Some institutions will charge the standard £9,000 per year but the most prestigious universities and in-demand courses charge as much as £88,000 for the programme. MBA fees are often the same for both home and international students, but some universities will charge higher fees for international students. 

While the fees for an MBA might be prohibitively expensive for many students, it doesn’t always follow that the most expensive course will be the best, or the right one for you. Make an informed decision once you have also considered the course content, the location of the university and the credentials of the course team. 

How can I pay for an MBA?

While many students pay for their MBA themselves, there are options if you don’t have a huge amount of money in the bank. 

Studying part-time while working can make paying the fees more achievable, allowing you to save each month towards the cost. 

Sponsorship may be an option with some employers, especially if the MBA will bring much needed skills and experience to the business. If you pursue this option, but may need to work for the company for a certain number of years after you finish the programme or repay the fees to the company. 

Postgraduate loans provided by the UK government may be an option if you need to self-fund your MBA, which can help you to fund your MBA study. There are different rules for students in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

In addition to government backed loans, some banks and commercial lenders have special MBA student loans. Be careful to understand the terms of these loans, since rates of interest can be high and repayments will need to be made immediately, rather than when your salary exceeds a certain figure. 

Scholarships and bursaries are available for students to apply for at many institutions that offer MBA programmes. They are usually limited, and competition for the awards are high, so you should be prepared to write a strong application. If the university that you studied your undergraduate degree with offers the MBA, it is worth enquiring whether they offer any assistance for alumni applicants.

Of course, you won’t need to just cover your tuition fees – you’ll need to be able to cover your living expenses too, so be sure to factor those in, especially if you are applying to study in the UK from overseas. 

While many students pay for their MBA themselves, there are options if you don’t have a huge amount of money in the bank.

Where can I get more advice about whether an MBA is right for me?

There are several places that you can get more advice about studying for the MBA, and since it is going to be hard work and take up a significant amount of time, you should be absolutely certain it is the right course for you. Here are a few places you can seek advice: 

  • Contact the course team at the institution that you’re hoping to study with.  
  • Careers advisers at your local careers service can guide you to the right choice for you. 
  • Message current students on social media – LinkedIn is likely to be a great source, and may help you contact potential connections for the future too!
  • Visit open days – either on-campus or virtual – and business fairs, where you can speak with employers who look for MBA graduates.
  • Find alumni of the course that you’re considering – they will be able to tell you about their experience.

How do I apply for an MBA?

Usually you’ll apply directly to the institution that you want to study with. You’ll need to write a strong personal statement, detailing why you want to study the MBA and how you expect the course will contribute to success in your career. As part of the application, you may also need to write an essay and attend an interview, although the interview may be conducted online depending on your circumstances. 

You’ll need to provide evidence of your academic qualifications and professional experience. Usually, you’ll need two referees as well – one academic and one professional. If the entry requirements state that you need a certain score in the GMAT or other admissions test, you’ll need to present evidence of that too. 

Students from overseas will need to present their English language proficiency with their application. International students should apply early, to ensure sufficient time to arrange accommodation and work, to ensure sufficient time to transfer money out of the country (if necessary) and to secure the correct visas. 

Applying as early as possible is advised for home students too, since the most popular courses can be full up to a year in advance. Getting your application in early will show that you are keen to study the course, and will give you time to save for your fees or get funding in place. 

Final thoughts

While the MBA is an incredibly tough qualification, it is internationally recognised and graduating from an MBA programme will open doors for you much quicker than you might achieve without. It is a huge commitment in terms of both time and finances, so before you decide whether the MBA is right for you, and which one you’re going to apply for, be sure to do your research carefully.

Find out more about the Master of Business Administration programme at UWS here



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