FT: Financial Times (world rankings)
USNWR: U.S. News & World Report ( U.S. Rankings)
EIU: Economist Intelligence Unit (world rankings)
WSJ: Wall Street Journal ( U.S. rankings)
BW: BusinessWeek ( U.S. rankings)
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) will prepare you for a career at senior management level, and will help you understand and contribute towards your organization's strategic position and development.
The MBA is granted after one to two years of graduate-level university study that provides training in the theory and practice of business management. An MBA can be a career accelerator across a number of industries; MBA graduates can usually command higher salaries than graduates of comparable backgrounds without business degrees.
In today’s global economy, organizations need to be competitive and innovative. The condition of the global economy impacts on the content and context within which management education takes place. Business schools teach students not only how to think about business, but also how to manage businesses efficiently and practically.
Innovation as taught in the world’s premier MBA programs relates not only to new products and individuals, but also to a company’s operating practices, management tactics, and business strategies.
The ideal MBA provides a blend of both traditional content knowledge (finance, operations, marketing, strategy, and human resources) and new economy business skills (team skills, problem solving, and innovative thinking).
Reasons for embarking on an MBA include sharpening business skills, changing career paths, or progressing within an existing job or industry.
The MBA route is deemed by many employers as a crucial way of gaining many of the skills required to succeed at the highest levels of management.
The MBA is normally available only to those who have at least an undergraduate university degree. By insisting on a first university degree as a minimum entry requirement, MBA programs attempt to ensure a high level of academic competence in their student body.
Choosing an MBA program
Some of the vital questions you need to consider when choosing an MBA are:
- what kind of skills do you hope to gain from your MBA?
- what management specialization are you interested in?
- do you want a full-time or part-time MBA?
- do you want a distance learning, intensive, virtual, or classroom MBA program?
- how international do you want your MBA program to be?
- would such a course help you attain your career goals?
- what personal sacrifices are you willing to make?
- what is your personal ROI on an MBA?
- what are the financial costs of getting an MBA?
Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC®) conducted a survey of how students decide which business schools to attend and how corporate recruiters decide which schools to visit. After polling more than 4000 students from 96 countries who were asked how they chose their schools, they were told that characteristics related to quality and reputation were paramount in their decision, with 39 percent rating it as extremely important. Published rankings came in fifth, at 33 percent, behind location, career options, and faculty quality.
The surveyed students were very brand conscious, but they did not rely purely on reputation and other external measures as a mark of school quality. Within the category of quality and reputation, the students said the following characteristics ranked most important in deciding to attend a particular school:
- prestige and global recognition;
- career options the school affords;
- quality and reputation of faculty;
- rankings in publications; and,
- reputation of alumni.
Types of MBA
A specialized MBA may take longer but may make you more marketable. Specialized MBAs offer more advanced study in a particular area of business (such as finance) or a particular industry (such as hospital management).
Some of the core topics common to most MBA programs include:
The common MBA specialties that you could focus on are:
- Quantitative analysis
- Organizational behavior
- Supply Chain/Logistics
- General Management
- Information Systems
- International Business
Why get an MBA?
There are almost as many reasons for getting an MBA as there are MBA students, but we can broadly categorize some of the common reasons cited as follows:
- To gain financially (higher salary)
- To effect a career change
- To attain personal satisfaction
- To network with high-powered like-minded classmates
- To get out of the present “rut” (i.e., you hate your job, your line of work, etc.)
- To get out of a local/national market into the international market
- To achieve a specific career objective
- To develop specific professional managerial competencies
- To enhance your CV and advance your career
- To update your skills
- To improve your long-term career prospects
- To attain financial security
- To network with a powerful alumni base
- To get entrepreneurial skills
An MBA might be the right ticket if you are looking for the impetus that advances your career, or for the opportunity that allows you to change your career altogether. If you are a generalist seeking to be a specialist, an MBA might do the trick. Likewise, if you want a management education to complement and expand your skills to move into a managerial role within your current profession, an MBA can prove invaluable.
Getting an MBA from a “top-ranked” school has its advantages: the name recognition and the network of alumni, among other things. However, you should not discount the many MBA programs that are unranked but that offer you the degree and value you need.
Among the questions you need to answer when deciding whether you want to get an MBA are: whether are you qualified and prepared, and whether you know where you are headed. You will need to address many personal traits, experiences, and goals, for example:
- Your short- and long-term goals
- Past experience, including international exposure
- Your strengths and weaknesses
- How an MBA will help you, or how will an MBA fill the “gaps”
- What you will contribute to the MBA program (i.e., why is it a good match)
- Why now (why not earlier or later?)
Many aspiring MBAs consult third-party rankings, but relying on these rankings is fraught with danger – you should use these rankings as a guideline rather than as a mantra.
Quoting Gail Tyson, a frequent contributor to Selections and the Graduate Management Admission Council's Graduate Management News online, “All too often, rankings seem to drive the perceived value of the MBA….Criticism of principles and methodologies abound, but meanwhile, potential students, alumni, and employers pay attention to the rankings, and business schools often tailor their activities to influence their standings.”
In "What's Wrong with MBA Ranking Surveys", Martin Schatz summarizes the situation: "There are two problems associated with the popular rankings of MBA programs….The first problem is that people foolishly tend to believe that there is significance to the order in which the schools appear. The second problem is that the rankings have a tendency to become self-fulfilling prophecies."
Various rankings are provided by the following sources:
Meanwhile, we are providing you with some MBA rankings, with the usual disclaimers (Scroll to the top of the page to see the rankings). Do not use these rankings unless you understand the ranking methodology and agree that it meshes well with your goals, expectations, and aspirations.
- U.S. News & World Report
- Wall Street Journal
- The Economist
- Financial Times
- Business Week
We recommend the following readings on the topic of business school rankings:
- David L. Kirp, Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education ( Harvard University Press, 2003)
- Nancy Gibbs and Nathan Thornburg, Who needs Harvard
- Derek Bok, Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education ( Princeton University Press, 2003)
- Eric Gould, The University in a Corporate Culture ( Yale University Press, 2003)
- Christopher Newfield, Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the AmericanUniversity, 1880-1980 (Duke University Press, 2004)