What is the MBA?
The MBA (Master of Business Administration) is an internationally recognised and geographically portable post-graduate, post-experience academic course in a number of subjects that together can be said to constitute the science of management.
It is intended for those who work in business and management who seek career advancement, business ownership, or technical skills and business knowledge. The challenges imposed by the 21st Century place a high premium on upgrading skills and qualifications in order to meet the demands set by companies, customers and the environment that managers operate in.
Functional areas of management comprise: Human Resource Management, Operations Management, Marketing Management, Information Management, Financial Management, Strategic Management and Organisational Behaviour. At the end of an MBA programme, the graduate emerges with an upper level knowledge of functional managerial and business issues as well as new conceptual skills ready to meet the demands that are set by the competitive business environment.
However, in addition to developing strong technical skills, today’s managers must be able to influence people, interact with a broad spectrum of colleagues, customers and suppliers; and negotiate with individuals from all walks of life. They must know how their company relates to competitors in both the micro and macro business environments.
Prior experience essential
The MBA programme, which was first launched in the US in the 1950’s as a two-year post-graduate course and exported to Europe in the 1960’s, was initially rejected as irrelevant to the world of business and the schools were viewed as second rate.
Albeit, the MBA qualification grew largely within the framework of their non-vocational universities; the first year was devoted to the core disciplines of the science of management and the second year offered more specialisation through a choice of electives. Specialist MBAs were introduced with modular topics such as international business, finance, the public sector and even football. While the US model enrolled students after taking a first degree, business schools in Europe placed much greater emphasis on practical work experience prior to entering the MBA programme. By comparison, the learning curve of entrants with prior business knowledge and work experience played a significant role in re-writing the criteria for universal MBA enrolment.
Over a period of almost 30 years, from the beginning of the 1960’s to the end of the 1980’s, the MBA was transformed from being the Cinderella of professional qualifications to a coveted tool to be utilised in building existing competencies to find plausible solutions to concurrent business issues. By the late 1970’s, the battle for respectability had been won and the number of universities sprouting business school and MBA courses increased dramatically. Today, increased globalisation and changing lifestyles has meant that thousands of universities worldwide present the MBA qualification, offering more flexible ways of learning, including: distance learning, modular, in-company and part-time study.
Driven by competitive factors, new developments over the past 20 years have successfully changed the primary two-year MBA programme to offer entrants shorter programmes (the one-year programme being the norm in some countries); running different programme structures such as modular, consortium, international and joint, as well as programmes accommodating diverse groups of people from different business sectors or different age groups; and internationalisation of curriculum content.
While most established programmes around the world have adopted the MBA title, there are programmes that are similar to what other schools would call an MBA, which also lead to degrees with other titles. Such titles include MBL (Master of Business Leadership), which is a post-graduate degree in the management sciences, and MBS (Master of Business Studies).
Choose your course carefully
While entrants may benefit from the wide choice of programmes, making the right choice of programme is paramount. In choosing a school and an MBA programme, the entrant should bear two main considerations in mind: what he or she wants to gain from the programme in terms of the skills or competence they wish to develop, and what is appropriate for their personal constraints such as budget, time availability, location, etc. Competition is strong for enrolment at the best business schools and employers also place a high premium on the criterion to attract the best graduates.
The MBA programme of the 21st Century is in a state of perpetual change – continually adding value through creativity, knowledge, innovation and learning for the benefit of our future business leaders. It has become one of the most sought after qualifications in today’s corporate world as a prerequisite to most top management positions. Possibly even more important is the fact that an MBA is a dynamic qualification that is qualitatively linked to the continuous change and growth associated with the management of global economic models.
Worldwide, the best business leaders consider an MBA qualification key to the continual success of careers in sectors like manufacturing, business, education, healthcare and other service sectors. A good business programme offers skills not ordinarily mastered in a conventional work environment such as Finance, Statistics and Managerial Economics. While electives may opt to specialise within specific business components such as International Management, Human Resources and Finance, the MBA is clearly a process of lifelong learning. Besides equipping managers with executive skills, it is a medium that encourages self-motivated continual learning not just as a means to career progression, but also to make a viable contribution to stimulate growth and development of the global economy.
Yet, the classic profile of the MBA student is changing. Just a decade ago, MBAs were arming themselves with a qualification that would pave the way to a top managerial position with a multinational corporation. Today, the MBA is also relevant to those opting for a position with a smaller, but progressive company as well as business tycoons wanting to run their own company or join new-economy start-ups. This means that the traditional MBA is entering its most progressive stage of development.