The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is the world’s most popular graduate management degree. Employers love it and students can’t get enough of it. Thousands of ambitious professionals apply to different types of MBA programmes each year. As a generalist degree, the MBA gives you fundamental management knowledge, meaning you’ll get a holistic view of business across areas like marketing, finance, and accounting, all while developing those vital soft skills and leadership skills. So, what can you do with an MBA degree? And is an MBA worth it? Dr Jako Volschenk, Head: MBA Programme at Stellenbosch Business School, shares some insights.
Is an MBA still relevant in today’s world?
Yes, an MBA is relevant today. The MBA at Stellenbosch Business School focuses on responsible leadership and never has the world needed such leaders more than today. With increasing inequality, climate change, social instability, and global economic challenges we need leaders and business leaders that can navigate complexity with compassion.
From a purely business point of view, it used to be that an MBA could distinguish you from others for the job you’re applying for. Today, it is more likely that an MBA is a hygiene factor for application, in other words you now require an MBA to apply or would not make the short list if you don’t have one.
What careers require an MBA?
It is hard to say which careers require an MBA. I think any job in which you perform general management duties or are required to act as part of a team of executives, would benefit from an MBA. Typically, the kind of students that benefit the most from the MBA are ones that work in complex or large organizations where you are required to make complex decisions that rely on a broad range of general management competencies.
What opportunities can an MBA unlock?
An MBA degree immediately signals to a potential employer that you all have a specific skill set. If you want to work for a larger organization or an international organization, one of the quickest ways of signalling your suitability for the position is to have an MBA degree. An MBA degree is aimed at management rather than at technical positions. So, if you wish to be a manager of people or a leader in your organization, an MBA would be beneficial.
What are the requirements for being accepted into an MBA programme?
It is usually a requirement to have a postgraduate degree when applying for a master’s degree. It does not have to be in a specific area but having management experience will improve your chances of being admitted to a top programme.
Historically, students with more extroverted traits do better, but I don’t think this is the case anymore. A good facilitator will be able to draw introverted students into the class debates. At Stellenbosch Business School we are looking for students that want to make a positive difference in the world.
It is well known that MBA degrees enables students to participate in complex management decisions. As a result, most MBA programmes will include selection criteria like quantitative skills, the ability to communicate clearly, and think critically. The Stellenbosch Business School is one of the more quantitatively challenging MBAs, so a strong numerical and verbal ability will count in your favour.
What are the biggest hurdles towards achieving an MBA?
To study towards an MBA degree requires hard work and much dedication. If you are not well motivated and not willing to walk the extra mile, it is unlikely that you would do well in, or even complete, your studies.
Life happens, and some students fail to complete the MBA degrees because of work pressure, pressure in their personal life, or a change in their priorities. We often find that students pause their studies and then return a year or two later to continue. This is perfectly possible and is what one should expect from institutions that care about their students.
Considering the cost and time of an MBA, what alternatives are there for people to pursue?
There are limited alternatives to an MBA degree, but in the end, one should decide what it is you wish to accomplish. If it is purely about gaining the knowledge, you could potentially educate yourself through videos and materials that are available on the Internet. However, these cannot compete with the efficiency and effectiveness of the curated content that you will find in top MBA degree programmes.
If you do not wish to have the degree itself, some alternatives include short programmes like the ones you will find at most executive education divisions of business schools.
How do these alternatives differ from the MBA?
Educating yourself through online material is unlikely to foster or yield a better result than doing a formal qualification. If your intention is also to gain employment through your qualification, there are very few alternatives. The only alternative that I can see would be the number of years of good business experience.