Career advice article: Should I study for an MBA?By Prof Sattar Bawany
AS Singapore progresses through the 21st century, new and exciting technological advances are continuing to occur at an ever-increasing rate, and global commerce is fast becoming the standard for today's marketplace.
Along with these and other changes comes a greater demand for managers with the necessary expertise to navigate the increasingly complex terrain of the current business environment.
This is good news for graduates of management programmes and holders of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
The economy in the past several years has changed the way organisations conduct business.
The shift in demand, the rising expectations of employees, customers and other stakeholders, as well as issues such as unemployment, downsizing, globalisation, mergers and acquisitions, have caused organisations to rethink how to do business and reinvent themselves.
Managers at all levels have a critical role to play in ensuring that their organizations remain competitive in today's interconnected world.
Being competent in their respective functions is not good enough. To understand the business of all functions within the organisation is of paramount importance to a manager's success and, ultimately, that of the organisation.
Why an MBA?
The MBA degree is an internationally recognised credential and is popular with those who work in business and management as well as those who seek career advancement.
To meet the increasing demands set by companies, customers and a challenging business environment, managers place a high emphasis on continuously upgrading their skills and qualifications.
The logical path they take is to enrol in an MBA programme, which broadens and enhances knowledge and builds business skills.
While one of the more popular reasons for pursuing the MBA is for financial gain, the degree undeniably leads to wider career opportunities and broadens one's personal networks.
Having an MBA qualification is a necessity if you are aspiring to a senior management position, as the people who work for you may also be well-versed with the latest management techniques, concepts and practices.
In today's business environment, companies also expect individuals to possess good communication skills, the ability to resolve conflicts and handle challenges in a competitive work environment.
An MBA can help broaden your perspective about work and the world, improve your working relationship with bosses, co-workers and clients, and boost your self-confidence when tackling difficult situations on the job.
It can enhance your job satisfaction, since the skills you acquire through the programme prepare you for a heightened role in your organisation.
MBA = career success?
Earning an MBA may contribute to career success, but it is not a guarantee for greatness.
In the thought provoking article in The Economist article Which MBA: Think Twice it is stated that an MBA is not required for business success. It cited Apple, which recently usurped Microsoft as the world's largest technology firm (by market capitalisation), has hardly any MBAs among its top ranks.
Most of the world's top hedge funds also prefer seasoned traders, engineers and mathematicians, people with insight and programming skills, to MBAs brandishing spreadsheets.
Not every business leader or executive has an MBA. However, it may be easier to assume or be considered for leadership roles if you have an MBA education behind you. While enrolled in an MBA program, you will study leadership, business, and management philosophies that can be applied to almost any leadership role.
Business school may also give you hands-on experience leading study groups, classroom discussions, and school organizations.
It can give you the tools you need to perform well, but success depends on a combination of many factors - some of which may be beyond your control.
Consider the following:
Two people are up for a senior management role. One has 10 years of relevant experience and has a number of proven achievements. He has no MBA. The other has just completed an MBA course from a top university but has less experience in management.
Whom would you choose?
The fact is that corporate life - in the public as well as the private sector - is about track record and performance.
If you are not performing, your qualifications will not matter. If you do not have experience - successful experience - then you will not get the job.
You should examine the pros and cons of enrolling for an MBA programme against your longer-term goals. Often, many people lose sight of the real objective of higher education.
An MBA programme will give you the opportunity to gain industry-specific knowledge and skills, as well as improve your ability to take on leadership responsibilities.
It is worth working for if you are clear about how it will enhance your career success - not guarantee it.