Studying for an MBA

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Discover how an MBA in the UK can increase your salary, reputation and networking opportunities

What is an MBA?

The Masters of Business Administration, more commonly known as the MBA, is globally recognised as a postgraduate qualification for ambitious graduates and business professionals. Considered by many to be the ultimate business qualification, courses are designed to provide an overview of business practices and management.

The majority of MBA courses take one year if studied full time and two years part time. Some distance learning courses may take longer.

Types of MBAs

You need to choose an MBA which best meets your working style and career goals. Courses are split into:

  • general MBA - suited to those who want to break into a general management role, the finance industry or corporate strategy;
  • executive MBA - good for those in senior corporate management positions who are seeking a route to the boardroom;
  • specialist MBA - these increasingly-popular courses are perfect if you've got some managerial experience and want to remain within, or enter, a particular sector.

What will I learn?

In addition to networking opportunities and an overview of the business world an MBA will teach you how to:

  • carry out operational management;
  • develop a marketing strategy;
  • do strategic planning;
  • lead a team;
  • read and assess financial reports.

What does an MBA involve?

Programmes vary but generally consist of core compulsory modules, electives and a dissertation or work-based project. Students are assessed through exams, essays and group projects.

An MBA differs from other postgraduate courses as it develops skills on a foundation of a candidate's life or professional experience, while the majority of Masters degrees build on the academic background of the student.

MBAs are also dominated by case studies and 'real-world' examples while non-MBA programmes are far more heavily dependent on classroom and/or laboratory-based activities such as lectures, tutorials or presentations.

How much does it cost?

On average, a part-time programme at an accredited UK school will cost around £21,000 and a full-time programme approximately £36,000.

The cheapest MBA from a UK AMBA-accredited school is The Open University costing £14,895 for a UK student and up to £22,000 for a non-EU student. While the most expensive course is the AMBA-accredited full-time programme at London Business School where the fee for all students is £67,750.

According to research from the Association of MBAs (AMBA) most people self-funded their course with company sponsorship the next on the list.


Will an MBA help my career?

With the high cost of courses it's important to see a return on investment. The 2014 Careers and Salary survey from AMBA found that 72% of graduates from AMBA-accredited schools earn in excess of £50,000 a year while almost half earn in excess of £80,000.

These figures are supported by the London Business School's MBA Employment Report 2014, which states that after graduating from one of its courses, students earn an average salary of £70,826 a year.

An MBA can also aid career progression as shown by the fact that more graduates were in management roles than any other type of postgraduate degree. More than 95% of UK graduates from an MBA were in professional and managerial work, with 43% working as managers six months after graduation.

What qualifications do I need?

Although entry requirements to institutions differ, nearly all will demand:

  • A 2:1 but some business schools also accept a 2:2 degree and some accept non-graduates with extensive work experience and other qualifications.
  • A minimum of three years' relevant work experience, although business schools can demand five years or more and evidence of managerial experience.

You may also be required to complete the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) - a challenging computerised exam which assesses numerical and grammatical skills.

If you're an international student you will need to prove your grasp of the English language. Usually an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score of 6.5 or more will be accepted

How do I find the right course?

You need to research all aspects of a business school and course before applying. Here are some factors to consider:

  • cost - MBAs have a reputation for being expensive and some business schools will charge substantially more than others. Find out more about funding your MBA;
  • accreditation - always check that the programme is accredited by AMBA before making a decision. Schools are assessed every five years to ensure quality standards are maintained;
  • course content - how many lectures and tutorials will there be? How many days a week do you need to attend?;
  • employment prospects - how many graduates have gone on to get jobs and what these jobs are;
  • institution's reputation - what impact will the university have on your employability, and what support will they give you following graduation?;
  • tutors - is your course taught by industry professionals? What will your relationship with tutors be like?


How do I apply for an MBA?

Once you have passed the GMAT and updated your CV, the next step is the application essay. Each business school will ask different questions such as what your career objectives are, how you’ve overcome problems and what you hope to gain from the MBA.

Your application will also need a minimum of two references - usually from one senior professional colleague and one academic or former tutor.

Always try to get your application in as early as possible. It will not only prove you are both organised and keen, but business schools typically make funding decisions early in the academic year.

Once your application has been received, nearly all institutions will require you to attend an interview. Business schools will each have their own way of conducting this, with some preferring a group interview to the traditional format.

Where can I get more advice?

  • Alumni - ask them what it was like to study at a particular school.
  • Careers service - advisers can explore your options, help you decide which course is best for you, and assist your application.
  • Current students - they'll tell you how much work is involved, and recommend books and other sources.
  • Business fairs - you can meet representatives from numerous universities.
  • Tutors - find out more about the course content and how your career goals match up.