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[Archived] MBAs

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As we have a fair few business minds of different perspectives I was wondering if anyone had a moment to give a hand making a very important (and expensive!) decision.

I have worked for a small technology consultancy in a technical position for the last three years . I enjoy it to an extent but I have a bit of a glass ceiling as I do not have an engineering or computer science degree necessary to really advance. Plus computer systems leave me a little cold, while my primary interest is in business strategy, economics and business development.

I have a good degree, a first from Edinburgh in History and Literature, but while this shows I have a bit of a work ethic and can analyse information and create coherent arguments, it lacks hard business credibility. So as I'm nearing 30 I thought I need to do something to show that I can perform in a senior business role and change career direction.

The plan I have hatched is to do an MBA part time at the Open University over two years. While this doesn't have the cache of London Business School or Harvard etc, nor will build the sort of of network that comes with these high prestige courses, it does on the flip side (providing I do well) show that I am dedicated and focussed as I will be working full time and studying in parallel. Plus OU MBA is triple accredited and affordable (LBS is c. 30k for the course. OU is around 7k).

So I guess my questions are:-

*For Business Management/Strategy positions do those on here who have an influence on hiring, held those positions, or have/had experience of them (working for/managing these roles), think an OU MBA would boost my chances of landing a position?

*Those who have taken an MBA (OU or anywhere else) feel it has made a difference to their careers? How much and in what aspect? Was it worth the time and money?

*More and more people are doing MBAs - has this diluted the advantages? If so how much?

*Anyone want to chuck in a perspective from whatever angle?

*Are there better alternatives?

Cheers, really appreciate any help. I have been impressed how on here that others are so willing to give job advice and support!


ps. Also in terms of finding Business Strategy/Development roles what channels would people suggest? Headhunters? Particular job listing websites?

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To take you questions one by one Ian:

• An OU MBA may influence me in hiring someone, but, in general would be outweighed by an MBA from a more "established" Uni in my eyes if both candidates were otherwise equal. I really think it depends on the industry that you are looking to move into; the oil and gas industry tends to have preferred establishements that we look toward.

• Don’t have an MBA myself and never found it a hindrance to date but my wife is also in oil and gas with one of the super-majors and she has just finished her MBA and immediately got a promotion and a 15% salary increase, so yes it was worth it. That said, hers was all expense paid and as much time off as required as well which certainly reduced the hardship compared to trying to fund it yourself.

• Yes the increase in people taking them and the diversity of establishments offering them has certainly diluted the value. However, as with the case with BSc’s/MSc’s the established Uni’s rate higher when interviewing candidates (ie. someone with an BSc Geology from Durham Uni is always going to rate higher than someone with the same degree from Luton Uni).

• My advice, for what it’s worth, would be to look at the established Business Schools and see what you can afford. Warwick has a great reputation and Liverpool Uni is starting to attract attention amongst my peers. Your point about being able to demonstrate your commitment by studying part time and hold down a full time job is also very valid and always earns candidates kudos in my eyes.

Whatever you decide to do I wish you good luck in your endeavors!

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Joey, I got mine 10 years ago, all paid for. The cynic in me says it's done me no good whatsoever, but I don't work in an industry that really looks for people with them. It helped on my interview for my last job, but more for the talking points it raised.

I have worked with consultants doing stuff that sounds like what you do, and they were very interested in MBA holders.

If you're paying and are serious, I'd do the cheaper one, even though it may have less prestige. Your degree is from a red brick so that says you have something about you so it may offset some of the cache loss if you do the OU MBA.

However, with any course I think the networking opportunities will outweigh the MBA itself, especially if you get some good professors, and fellow class mates.

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I'm just on my last piece of Coursework for my Business Management degree with OU and I've found it brilliant. The MBA through them is tempting for me, although I've been told to get a couple of years under my belt before doing it.

As long as you can handle the extra workload I don't see it will do you any harm to have the extra qualification.

The main other alternative, which I have thought about, is doing a part time MBA through a uni. I've looked at Aston (which is where I first started my degree) although the classes tend to be midweek and run late.

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It comes down to your motivation and circumstances.

Aged 28 I left work, borrowed and went for an MBA at INSEAD and paid off my debts inside 18 months.

Having a First from Edinburgh suggests you would probably score pretty highly on GMAT- if you get 650+ I would say you owe it to yourself to aim for a world class institution.

On the otherhand, if your primary motivation is to skill up and educational then the OU MBA is excellent and you wont regret doing it and it should be some help job wise but not the door opener a top school can be.

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Thanks all - really really useful info.

Aberdeen Blue - thanks for the ideas, particularly the heads up to Warwick, and great to have the convo with you on PM

Speedie - Good perspective on it. Like you I am initially skeptical so really sounding things out before committing.

Modes - Brilliant to see support for the OU programme. Lots of people seem really pleased with the quality of all the courses on there which is massively encouraging

Phillip - I would kill to go to INSEAD and the like, but realistically I can't take on a 80,000 euro commitment (56,000 tuition fees, 24,000 expenses). It just is not reasonable when there are no guarantees in the economy at the moment and (although I may be wrong? Tell me what you think) the relative value of an MBA in the workplace has probably fallen since you took yours. On top of that I am coming back from sabbatical so I cannot leave the workplace again for another couple of years. Great that you have confidence in me scoring well on the SAT!

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To be honest I'd suggest that you take this problem the other way about ie find the job/profession you'd like then tailor the qualification around progressing within that role. Sounds to me that you may want to think about joining one of the big consultancy firms - so one of www.careers-in-business.com/consulting/topfirms.htm may provide pointers.

For me this thinking helped me to avoid the MBA as it is a generalist qualification, turns out my direction was best served by a more focussed masters ie an MSc. But then I knew the job direction I was heading in hence my opening statement. I went on from that to PhD research. I can honestly say that in my case non of the qualification 'badges' did me any good at all. The knowledge gained from the study on the other hand did. Doing it all again I'd find my career first the study from books to develop the knowledge required. Good firms will always train you in-house anyway.

You have a first from a good uni so I don't think you need anything else to get you to the starters gate for interview. MBAs are expensive and generalist and you can read all the course content online these days.

My advice would be to write to McKinsey etc and take it from there.

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