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MBAs are they worth it ?

#1
After leaving the services has anyone had an established career, and in an attempt to advance further and open doors, taken a year out to study full time for a MBA?

Did it work for you and open the doors you wanted ?
or
Did you change career as a result of passing the MBA ?

Would you recomend it to others ?
 
#2
I've not done one myself but I work in HE Admissions and can tell you one thing straight off - there are a lot of MBAs out there that aren't worth the money. What you should go for if you're intent on doing it are the ones accredited by the Association of MBAs. They audit their accredited courses on a regular basis and are pretty faeces-hot at spotting where standards are slipping. Most Business Schools will move heaven and earth to keep them happy, which means keeping strictly to the entrance requirements. This is generally a good academic performance (usually 2:1 Hons or better) and at least 2 years work experience at managerial level; or at least 5 years' managerial experience at a senior level. They will accept good quality work experience provided it ticks the boxes, so be prepared to emphasise your training and experience in organisational decision-making, personnel management/supervision and budgetary control.

Be prepared also to pay a sodding fortune for them. They're designed for people who're already working at middle-management level and can therefore be expected to have a few shekels to spend on improving their CV. If you can take the time to do them part-time, you may find this is a cheaper option; many institutions will also gear their p/t MBAs around people who can't take the time out of their careers and hold classes evenings and weekends. It's also worth shopping around for Schools which will include your core texts in the tuition fee. I've even seen 'free' laptops being included in the price.

As to benefits of doing it, the actual processes you'll be taught won't pose too many problems for anyone who's done Staff College and oughtn't to be beyond anyone who's been through their YO Course. The basic analytical tools you'll be taught are actually a lot simpler and less rigorous than a Combat Estimate, for example; whenever I'm plotting mischief, I prefer to use CE then translate it afterwards. What the course will teach you is the language of Planet Business, i.e. how to speak to future employers on their own terms to convince them you're senior manager level with potential to go even further. There are also several schools offering MBAs specialising in certain areas like sales and marketing, manufacturing, supply chain or HR. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

As to opening doors, there are precious few unemployed MBA Graduates. However, in the interests of fairness I should remind you that the entry requirement do pretty much guarantee that your civvy classmates will be pretty employable in their own right even without it.
 
#3
my background is I am an engineer and as you suggest i don't speak "business" fluently. Though I am often involved in management decisions, I am not regarded as management, but rather more of a influential specialist who can be reassigned/dispensed with once the project is up and running.

I am looking to break this pattern, hence the interest in a mba and those that have completed them.
 
#4
pdq_bar said:
my background is I am an engineer and as you suggest i don't speak "business" fluently. Though I am often involved in management decisions, I am not regarded as management, but rather more of a influential specialist who can be reassigned/dispensed with once the project is up and running.
Don't worry about it. I'm a squaddie (not an officer) and thrashing my way through the OU MBA at the moment. If I end up sleeping rough under Waterloo Bridge I'll be bloody pissed off!
 
#5
Like Poison Dwarf I am wading through the mire of an OU MBA. It's business school is triple accredited so is well regarded.

I started it in Nov 05 and left the Army in Jan 07. I used ELC to help with funding. it costs £2 - 2.5k per module. Overall it will cost me about £10k. Is it worth it? It depends on your personal circumstances -family, tours, understanding, supportive frau etc etc... - and depends what sort of career you want.

It didn't help me get a job on leaving (luckily I had one lined up) but I am learning a lot and the OU is a good way of networking. The MBA Association also has business breakfasts/seminars which are good for networking so they are some of the spin offs.

I think that it shows any employer more about you - commitment, self motivated, bright, self dicipline etc etc

Overall the MBA is a good call to do even though I threaten to kick it into touch every time an assignment or exam looms!

Good luck.
 
#6
I'm doing an OU MBA too. I cracked a lot of the early stuff on two op tours so although I missed the face-to-face seminars, I was able to throw a lot of time at the study.

The MBA per se won't help you get a job. As other posters have stated there are a lot of duff MBAs out there so you are counting on an employer to do the due diligence to work out if yours is any good. Some won't be arrsed.

The MBA will however help you to think in a business context and shift you across to understanding business. It follows that the MBA is only any good when you start to apply it to what you are doing. In that context the OU MBA is quite well regarded over a full time MBA because you are spending more time applying the training to your working context.

That's what an employer is looking for - not just the postnominals. You therefore need to find a closing job in the Army that in which you can apply elements of your MBA training and squeeze that fact into your CV. Then you stand out from the crowd.

I got a job within a few months of leaving without an MBA (although I cited all the MBA modules I'd passed in my CV).

One final note - Officers do not get enough exposure to meaningful budgets. Occasionally getting to glare at some tw@t called BudMan in a meeting isn't quite the same. You need to get stuck into the financials. In the OU context this is an exceptionally painful optional module called Financial Strategy that IMHO beats Staff College into the kindergarten and unlike the other modules is a lot easier to fail.

It really isn't a long attendance course but actually a pretty cerebral slog, so I can only imagine how tough the year-long versions are. You need to really throw yourself into it. Good luck!
 
#7
A friend of mine who is an HR Director always recommends CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) as a good alternative to an MBA. Allegedly, it covers the same stuff plus more, has a lot more of the financial management side HM Forces miss out on and is apparently very well regarded. It's also modular and designed to be done alongside a job, so you can do the first few levels (OU Foundation course, level 1) before taking a job and then go and get the work experience necessary to progress.

An alternative, anyway; he also, having worked as a consultant to DPA (as was), thinks it would help more officers win those fights with the civil servants at higher levels...
 
E

Epiphany

Guest
#8
Some good advice on here for sure! As for distance learning accredited MBAs both Leicester and Bradford Uni also offer good alternatives to the OU option.

There is supposedly an emphasis when studying for an MBA that it will be something you can refer to and use throughout your resulting career as an ongoing tool for personal development, not just a 'pick up and put down when completed' qualification like most degrees.

Both Belfast and Victorian Major are spot on with the other bonuses for studying, it demonstrating self discipline to employers, being a good tool for networking etc...

Also importantly it gives you valuable civi speak jargon and enables you to correlate a lot of the management experience you have gained in the military and turn it into identifiable civi blah.

If anything the fact I was studying for one gave me much confidence when going for interviews before leaving. If planning to study full time I would strongly recommend looking at the more 'prestigious' Unis that offer MBA programmes and also pin down what specific slant it has i.e. one with a specific emphasis on accounting or finance might be better suited, clearly depending on the sector in which you wish to eventually work.
 

expat

Old-Salt
#9
pdq_bar,

I am a chartered engineer and OU MBA grad. While it was hard work and didn't immediately open any new doors for me it did get me promoted faster than my peer group. My boss announced his resignation (the business unit wasn't doing too well) and the combination of what I was learning on my MBA course and the leaderships skills instilled into me in the TA drove me to work through the night and prepare a plan for the business going forward. I presented my plan first thing the next morning on 2 hrs sleep while the other thrusters wanting the job were still walking into the office talking about how they were going to get the promotion. They didn't, and I got another one in short order thereafter.

Would I have been able to do this without learning what really matters in a business and how to communicate and present information in business speak? No.

There were a couple of Army officers in my various tutor groups, and several years ago if you had done the Shrivenham MA (?) the OU would give you a years credit. The OU gives you a greater number of ways of getting onto the course depending on your existing educational qualifications (or lack of).

If you are going to do an MBA as V_M suggests Finance is vital as is any module embracing operational /process improvement as it is those two areas that run a modern business and keep it competitive. Marketing is mostly fluff, and the HR stuff is mostly common sense, and strategy is pretty straightforward too. Having said that most job adverts I have seen recently where an MBA is a requirement are in Finance or Marketing. The Financial Strategy module is definately cerebral and allowed one of my classmates to tell when the traders and other wide-boys in the city were BS'ing him.

I went into my MBA somewhat reluctantly thinking I knew a lot about business, it would all be easy and I soon learned I was wrong. Having now graduated (and the with the rose tinted glasses on) I don't regret having done it for one minute and would recommend the OU course to anybody. I would also employ a an OU MBA graduate in a heartbeat (not that I have an opening now though)

Good luck.
 
#10
folks
thanks for all the replies,

I to am chartered (IET) and have been thinking about doing this for sometime, but have not meet anyone who had taken this particular route to compare notes with.

I have accepted a place on a MBA (industrial management) from sheffield hallam (full time for a year) and as such have about another 5 days before i can withdrawn with no penalty.

If it breaks the cycle of just been seen as a techie then that will do otherwise I will have to put it down as a year of being able to lear at the young things in the student bar again.
 
#11
Nice to see that your MA is focused.

The world is filling up slowly with general MBAs and the next generation is the mature post graduate market focused MAs.

I am just entering my dissertation period, good luck.
 
#12
Some good advice above.

Whilst it's not a bad thing to have, particularly if you are a senior officer leaving the army and hoping to jump straight into a more senior job in business, I would personally advise against spending time and money on an MBA, at least until you have a couple of years minimum experience in industry.

It is not a magic key to a well paid job that some people think it is though it's useful and should make you better once you do get a job.

I see an mba as the civi equivalent as staff college and I would suggest doing an MBA without business experience is akin to going to staff college straight after Sandhurst. Whilst you could get through the course, it would be a bit abstract without experience to apply it to. A civi employer might view it in the same way A CO would view a brand new platoon commander with staff college training: it's fine that they have it but it doesn't necessarily make that person a better platoon commander, it might mean they can be promoted quicker, may aid judgement but equally it might give them an over inflated idea of ability and even arrogance.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#13
Funnily enough I dont rate them as a measure of business ability and no I dont have one, the only people with any sense that I know with them generally call them the Means Bugger All!
Too many young Ruperts think this will see them through without the specialist knowledge or even discipline experience that you would get from serving time on the job.
It isnt a be all and end all and in fact a lot of the stuff that it forces you to do are a waste of time, dont add anything to a project apart from increased overheads. Then there is Risk and six sigma. More Sceptic bollox dragging down our industries.
I must add that discipline (self) and a thorough grounding in the subject cannot be replaced by learning a few key techy buzzwords and bullshoiting yourself into trouble!
 
#14
Can't say I dis-agree with any of the above.

However, if your CV is headed by 'Joe Snipes MBA' (not my real name, obviously) it may stand less of a chance of ending up in the shredder.
 
#15
I would always recommend a discipline focussed MA or MSc above an MBA.

MBA is business "General Studies" whereas a discipline focused Masters is more focused.
 
#17
smartascarrots said:
I've not done one myself but I work in HE Admissions and can tell you one thing straight off - there are a lot of MBAs out there that aren't worth the money. What you should go for if you're intent on doing it are the ones accredited by the Association of MBAs. They audit their accredited courses on a regular basis and are pretty faeces-hot at spotting where standards are slipping. Most Business Schools will move heaven and earth to keep them happy, which means keeping strictly to the entrance requirements. This is generally a good academic performance (usually 2:1 Hons or better) and at least 2 years work experience at managerial level; or at least 5 years' managerial experience at a senior level.
Completely agree with this, and the rest of carrot's advice. I see quite a few applicants each month, and an MBA is now standard for a certain type of management career path. However, it doesn't mean that someone with a impressive cv that lacks an MBA will be filtered out - the Services are regarded highly enough, especially if the profile includes both operational experience and Staff College. Perhaps the greatest value an MBA seems to bring is the network it provides, as well as the ability in develops to move smoothly from last year's buzzwords to new lot that happens to be in vogue this year. So even more like various staff courses.

MBAs are not a doddle - see carrot's note on the importance the business schools place on being accredited. Financial Times (ft.com) used to run a series of articles written by MBA students on how the courses were developing and what this meant to them. Most ended the year admitting to becoming completely obsessed and without any social life beyond the course. And the very best courses do have a professional cachet which endures. But, as ever, only a few are the very best.

Hope this helps, and good luck.
 
#18
Phillip-Kotler said:
Furryturd said:
MBA is business "General Studies" whereas a discipline focused Masters is more focused.
...and would, I assume, tie you down to one particular area of management, and cramp your style a little.
Actually, not necessarily. I opted for an MSc in my "professional disipline" rather than an MBA, but it covered a lot of common ground in terms of finance, HR law, corporate law etc but it did it in a single module rather than a module each. Most chartered routes will not require more than a module on the general principles of management anyway.

A Masters degree, as has already been said, doesn't guarantee you a job. It does, however set you out from the crowd. In days gone by you could get a Bachelor's degree and do the milkround into a decent paying graduate job (or join up), Now there are so many graduates kicking about with degrees in Underwater Basket Weaving Studies from the Numpty University College of Higher Education Chipping Sodbury that first degrees have lost their value (unless you go to one of the top 20, when you can still expect to have decent employment prospects beyong a call centre job but you have to be a lot more committed to getting it) and the Masters is the benchmark that the Bachelor's used to be. They are particularly useful when applying to US companies as their corporate culture is one that presumes that you will have undertaken advanced study of some kind at the middle-management level in order to progress further.

The value of studying for a Master's degree is the knowledge you gain from the people studying with you. That's why you won't normally get on a higher degree/MBA with a professional bent to it unless you have some experience as you rely on it quite heavily through the teaching/learning process, and to my mind p/t courses can offer more than distance learning, though obviously you have to pick the course that best suits your circumstances (the other issue is that of motivation - when I did my MSc p/t I had a collegue doing a PG Dip through distance learning and he found it a lot harder to stay focussed when he had to rely on reading course notes and watching lectures online and on DVD than being in the room with the others on the course. Equally their main interation with each other was on a forum, and he struggled with getting his assignments in on time as he was on his own pretty much throughout).

Once you get beyond the strictures of your pure discipline (as anyone getting into the level of running a business or operation strategically will do), then the main skills are strategic planning and implementation, change management and leadership, and key is understanding finance. Having a single-discipline MSc/MA won't necessarily hold you back if you have a good grasp of this as long as your business acumen is well rounded, and no MBA will give you that!
 
#19
You can’t think of an MBA as a commodity that is the same all over the world, it isn't. The MBA started as an American qualification early in the last century and used to be associated only with the top schools like Harvard, Tuck, Chicago and Wharton. Your usual MBA would have been a preppy annoying American who could fund the fees, was called Henry Courtney-Love III Jr and wore a red cardigan with his college crest stitched onto the breast pocket.
That's changed now and thousands of colleges/universities are offering there own MBAs (some accredited, some not). I spoke to someone recently (ex-RRW), who had sent off for his MBA with a cheque for £300. Apparently the University(??) was running a scheme whereby they accredited his previous experience and qualifications to obtain the degree. It may have allowed him to add three letters to his CV but the qualification was worthless with any recruiter who may be specifically looking for MBAs on application forms. It was therefore a futile exercise. There are a plethora of available courses in the spectrum in between.
Ultimately you need to establish why you want to do a MBA against the context of your career objectives. If you want to become a project manager in a small industrial then spending £60,000 (incl. living exp. and opportunity cost) at London Business School maybe a slight overkill. If, however, you want to be on the trading floor as a Goldman Sachs Associate selling equity derivatives then you won't be looked at without a global top 10 MBA. There are a number of recruiters that still look for genuine MBAs (including distance learning) to recruit into their MBA programmes. Here's a non-exhaustive list:

ArcelorMittal
Pepsico
GE
AngloAmerican
Shell
BP
Halliburton
Most investment banks (Goldman, JP Moran, Citigroup and the rest)
Most strategy consultants (McKinsey, Booz, Bain, BCG and the rest)

Have a look on the websites for role descriptions and a list of business schools they recruit from.

If you go this route be aware that the programmes are highly competitive even with a top MBA (Goldman receives over a thousand applicants for each Associate spot).
Whether the qualification is actually worth anything to a business is debatable. Most FTSE 100 CEOs probably have MBAs but then most successful entrepreneurs do not.
As for me I just finished a full-time MBA last year which I began after nine years service. I self funded it and the expense was crippling, however my current employer paid me a sign-on bonus which was in excess of the expense. I wouldn't have got the job without the MBA.
On a final note, don't forget the experience you've gained in the forces. Whilst many employers won't initially recognise it you will have an intangible advantage in many skills that many civilians don't have and although you may start at a lower level you should, if you have the drive, be able to progress quicker than those around you. I still find it surprising how bad civy senior managers are at presentation and people management skills that we take for granted.

Hope this helps, happy to correspond (e-mail/telephone) if you want any further info.
 
#20
This thread comes around from time to time and gets a pretty good response each time. Perhaps we should merge it into a sticky in the training cell, with a separate thread for PRINCE, Six, Sigma, etc?

Having done the lion's share of an OU MBA - Fundamentals of Senior Management, Strategy, Financial Strategy (with Managing Knowledge and Making a Difference planned), I now see that after I complete the MBA I'm only two thirty-pointers away from an MSc in International Finance and Management. I might just have a look at doing this...
 

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