How hard is an MBA? Debunking the myths
2 October 2019
The worst thing a prospective MBA student could do is head into their course assuming it’s going to be a walk in the park. The second worst thing they could do is think it’s going to be disastrously difficult.
An MBA is certainly a challenge, but it’s a challenge that many have accepted in order to supercharge their career prospects – whether they’re looking to shine in the corporate world, in the SME arena or as an entrepreneur.
As a degree, the value of an MBA is almost unmatched. Anything that powerful must be earned through dedication and hard work.
However, there are several misconceptions surrounding MBAs that deserve to be debunked. There are also some valuable tips from MBA course administrators and graduates that are worth knowing in order to make the challenge as enjoyable as possible.
Here we list five of each.
Debunking MBA myths
Myth 1: An MBA only benefits managers of people
More effective management of people is just one of the many outcomes of an MBA. Many students come into the course seeking a better understanding of the mechanics of business to make them more effective in their particular roles. Some are excited that an MBA will improve their skills in their chosen area of work, whether that be marketing, HR, finance or one of many other specialisations. Others are sole traders or entrepreneurs who simply want to boost their chances of success in the business world.
The simple truth is that the MBA has become one of the most popular and powerful postgraduate courses. It improves everything from critical thinking to communication, from people management to accounting knowledge, and from ethics to leadership.
Myth 2: Cheaper MBAs are not as good
The value of an MBA is determined by what the student wants to get out of it, so the key is research. Some courses might be better suited to those in technology fields. Some might offer a broader focus on international business. Others may look more deeply into entrepreneurial practices or specific markets such as China. They might also be known for feeding graduates into the finance field, etc.
Expensive MBAs may offer a level of prestige, but for a career outside particular types of corporations, this won’t likely matter at all.
Myth 3: You’re only welcome if you’ve got a business-related undergraduate degree
It’s been a long time since business schools realised that success is about a lot more than basic business knowledge. Most MBA courses accept graduates from other degrees, and those without the required technical knowledge in business-related areas can often take catch-up courses. More important is a passion for learning and some experience in business that can be shared with others in the course.
Myth 4: An MBA is unaffordable
As with Myth 2, this depends on your circumstances and what you’re looking to achieve. It’s true that some MBA courses, particularly in the US, now cost over US$200,000. Some courses in Australia now cost over AUD$100,000. There is also the possibility of lost income if a candidate chooses to study a full-time course.
It may seem like a costly pursuit, but an MBA is very much an investment in your future. Research shows that the value of an MBA is returned through higher salaries and promotions once completed. Some businesses also offer to sponsor their high-performing staff by covering or helping to pay the costs of an MBA.
The average cost of an MBA in Australia is around $50,000. An interest-free postgraduate study loan called FEE-HELP is available for Australian citizens who meet the criteria.
Myth 5: If you’ve got young children, forget it!
Many MBA students are parents with busy full-time jobs. It’s all about time management (see Top Tip #1). Similar to the workplace, flexible study options are usually available for students who are experiencing additional pressures. For part-time MBAs, there are often flexible options around how many units are taken per semester, meaning anybody can tailor their MBA course to suit their individual needs.
Top tips to complete an MBA
Tip 1: Time management is everything
Before beginning your MBA, it pays to organise your life to allow time for regular reading, study, assignments and projects. Many students find it useful to set aside a block of time each week or at the weekend for study. You could also cordon off a physical space, ensuring that everybody in your life is conscious of your study time and that you are not to be disturbed.
Tip 2: Get your priorities sorted
It can sometimes be difficult to say no. It’s important to be very clear about your purpose of study, and to use this purpose to drive decisions around what you’ll attend and, more importantly, what you will not. Burnout is as real in education as it is at work, so you must manage demands wisely.
Tip 3: Seek a mentor
A great mentor may be a manager at work, a friend who has deep business knowledge or a member of the MBA’s alumni group. But whoever it is, a mentor can be an extremely valuable sounding board throughout the MBA experience. Ask them about their struggles and feats and how they navigate through stress – they’re likely to give you some great advice.
Tip 4: Near enough is good enough
This isn’t high school, and your parents won’t yell at you if you don’t get an ‘A’ on your report card (hopefully!). This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your hardest, but remember that it’s not necessary to excel in every single aspect of the degree. Some will have a flair for creative marketing and others will ace the financial analysis angle. As in business, it’s all about the quality of the effort and the lessons learned from the course and those around you.
Tip 5: Make the most of the network
One of the most powerful offerings of an MBA course is the network of talent that you immediately become a part of. Develop and nurture those relationships, particularly once you’ve graduated – they only become more powerful as time goes on.