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May 11 ,2015 | by Prof Maurits Van Rooijen

The pros of an MBA – Prof Maurits responds to Observer article

The pros of an MBA

Ryan Holmes makes a couple of fair comments when he questions the value of the MBA.

It is true that anyone can get rich without an MBA. Buying a lottery ticket does not require an MBA and since the lottery makes someone very rich, some might take that as proof that no MBA is required. And, of course, there are several genius artists who made it rich without an MBA (some even without any arts education).

When checking the statistics the alternative view is that MBAs do still give a real career – and salary – boost. But, as always with statistics, these numbers do not give any guarantee to an individual. So does it or does it not make sense to invest in an MBA?

First of all, the title covers a huge spectrum of programmes. You need to pick your MBA with care; it’s important to assess value for money, as a cheap MBA is not necessarily a good investment (nor, indeed, is a very expensive one.)

Ryan Holmes is entirely right to warn that some MBA lecturers rely too much on theory. A good MBA lecturer will have extensive hands-on experience. The best MBAs (AMBA accredited) also insist that applicants have graduate level experience, and put emphasis on international diversity in the classroom. The MBA learning experience is greatly enhanced by peer-to-peer interaction.

Secondly, an MBA is not for everyone. Some do much better to opt for a specialist master degree, perhaps with a focus on marketing, finance, or human resources. The MBA is a generic degree directed at those who have not studied management, who nonetheless understand that basic knowledge of management is needed in order gain the benefits of a career boost.

Thirdly, an MBA helps when transitioning to senior management level. It gives you confidence in dealing with complex business situations, delivering a skillset which allows you to be more effective in completing challenging tasks.

Ultimately, an MBA does not offer guarantees; success still comes down to hard work and a bit of luck. It is true that the MBA does not offer an exclusive path to riches. In that sense, Ryan Holmes is right. But, in other respects, his reflection can easily lead to a mistaken conclusion.

For many an MBA is still a very smart investment.

Prof Maurits Van Rooijen

With a career spanning 25 years as an international educator and pioneer in the globalisation of education, Professor Maurits Van Rooijen is an economic historian and the CEO and Rector of LSBF.

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