Ask yourself these five questions to find out which qualification suits your goals and student loan best.
- How much industry experience do I have?
In an MBA class at Cass Business School, the average age is 31 and years of work experience is eight. This is because industry experience is the essential foundation of an MBA. Most courses require three or four years’ work in a junior or middle management position to ensure you’ll be able to handle the vocational nature of the content.
If you want to jump straight into a postgraduate business course after completing your degree, an MSc with links to your preferred sector is a good option. The courses are more theoretical and designed for those at the start of their career looking for a head start.
As Professor Dorothy Griffiths at Imperial College Business School explains, “An MSc teaches you something about the world you’re going into. An MBA, in contrast, requires you to reflect and build on your experience.”
- Am I interested in current theory or developing new ones?
MBAs concentrate on examining tried and tested theories and accepted practice. Although students should, of course, be aware of current developments, they aren’t expected to push boundaries through their own research. This is where the MSc steps in. These courses nurture creative application of knowledge and will develop your ability to deal with complex issues innovatively.
- Where do I see myself in five years time?
If you see yourself as a business leader or owner then an MBA is ideal. A generalist qualification, the MBA is designed to broaden your horizons rather than hone your specialties. So while your existing work experience will probably cover a specific area, an MBA will provide you with the full range of business skills needed to succeed at a managerial level.
On the other hand, if you’re seeking to become a recognised expert in your field, a relevant specialist MSc is one to seriously consider. Real estate investment, shipping, law and finance, managerial psychology, and corporate reputation management are just some of the courses available to help you explore your discipline.
Think of it in specific terms. A good MBA can help a qualified accountant move into general management. However, the same accountant can improve their reputation in the finance field with a specialist MSc in Finance.
- What do the industry players think?
If you’re still not sure which path to follow, start some conversations. Emad Rahim, University Dean of Business and Management at Colorado Technical University, recommends you “tap your personal and professional networks to gain access to decision makers that can provide you with clarity about potential career options and the degree needed to be successful.” Reach out to them at conferences and seminars, or digitally via LinkedIn and Twitter. If you have any contacts in common, ask your shared connections for an introduction.
- What financial investment can I make?
Cost can be a major factor when choosing a postgraduate business course. MBA fees range from £16,000 to £73,000 in the UK, whereas many MSc courses cost no more than a third of the price of a top flight MBA. An MSc at Oxford, for example, costs around £31,000, while an MBA at the same university could set you back up to £52,000. The investment is considerable in both cases, but with your career prospects at state, try to base your decision on aspirations only – financial rewards will be reaped later on.
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