MBAs are they worth it ?

Discussion in 'Officers' started by pdq_bar, Jan 31, 2008.

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  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 ?
    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. 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...
  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.
  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.
  13. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    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.