How to choose an MBA

So you are thinking about doing an MBA?

Instead of diving in not knowing what to expect, you decide to do some research. Good plan right? (Ummm….)

You jump online and type in those 3 little letters and BAMB! You are overloaded with pages and pages of search results.

The search results are overwhelming.  There is too much!

Rather then continue your search you contemplate giving up. You don’t have the time to go trawling 1000’s of pages of information…

How do we turn this overwhelming ocean of information into a more manageable pond?

I very recently went through this process.  It did take time, about 3 months to be exact, for me to find the right MBA for me. My hope is by sharing the process with you below, you can leap frog over the 3 months that I spent and find your answer in a few short weeks or even days.

So let’s start!

What are the KEY elements or criteria you are looking for in your MBA? 

1. Flexibility – whether part or full time, do you need/want flexibility in how you study? Does the institute offer simply one option for part time study, or 3? Eg: Can you study half days, or nights or do block study (intensive weekends)?

2. Location – do you find you learn and engage more in a classroom environment, or would you prefer to learn through distance education? For those who think distance education sounds nice (it did to me anyway), bare in mind that often our biggest learnings come from conversations with peers and from being able to ask questions as they arise. I have undertaken distance education before and found the learning for me was not as comprehensive.

3. Institutes reputation and recognition
Are you doing the MBA to further your career? Then you should opt for an MBA at an institute that is widely recognised and has a good standing reputation or rank. Alternatively…
Are you doing an MBA because it is a job requirement? If this question is more you, then perhaps a shorter more intensive course (such as those who offer a 12 month MBA so you can get in and our quickly) would be more appropriate.

4. Course Fee’s – are you being sponsored to do the MBA or are you paying for the course yourself? I’m not suggesting you rule out the more expensive institutes purely because of price and whether you have sponsorship, however investigate to see what kind of finance support programs they offer. Do they have scholarships? MBA’s are notoriously expensive however the range in price does vary across the board. In Australia expect to pay anything from 18k right through to over 60k.

5. The Lecturers – would you prefer to learn from academics or would you prefer your lecturers and facilitators to have real world experience? Do your research into the teaching staff at the institute you are applying too. You have a right to know their background. When it comes to MBA’s, the institutes are quiet comfortable (in Australia anyway) with you asking about their facilitators experience and background. Quiet often it is offered without asking.

Answering the above 5 key areas will help narrow your list substantially. For myself, flexibility was important although not a deal breaker. I did like knowing that I had the option of studying evenings, day or blocks in the MBA I have gone with. This allows me to not entirely rule out holidays or important events providing I know about them at the start of each term. For example, if I plan on going overseas I can choose to do my unit/subject as a block which would be 2 intensive weekends so I don’t miss any lectures.

Geographic location was also important to me. I had completed diploma’s via distance education before and I really did not enjoy the experience. I felt like the information was not retained as well as it was when I had access to a classroom. After attending a simulated lecture at one of the MBA institutes I was interested in, I knew class room based learning was how I wanted to go. PLUS I find my current position, which is within a small company, fairly insular. I am really looking forward to meeting new people in similar roles.

For items 4 and 5, I was fortunate enough to negotiate a partial sponsorship for my MBA and the institute I choose to apply too has a team of trainers all made up of ex-managers and directors from varying business sectors.

Once you are able to narrow it down to 3 possible MBA offerings I strongly advise you take the time to go and meet them. In Australia a number of the high ranking institutes offer information evenings and emersive simulated lecture experiences at no charge. For the institute I have applied too, I attended both. The info evening was a general sales pitch type event. Non-aggressive but consisted of slide shows, background about the trainers, outline of the course options, their fee structure and the timetable options. I then attended a simulated lecture about a month later. This was a 1 hour lecture (happened to be on business strategy) and then group work for 20mins. This demonstrated how they run their classes when you undertake  an MBA with this particular graduate school. It was great. I loved it and THAT was the night I decided to go with that particular school. The next day I started my application process.

Now before I leave you to dive into the world of MBA’s there is one last thing that is really really important….


Yes I’m serious.

Do your research. There are a number of books available now, great books, that outline from a high level, the content of an MBA. Read them! Read as many business books as you can find. When you have finished reading, investigate other training options. Maybe you can complete a post-graduate degree, or a single course unit if that is all you need? Maybe the local college offers management training? Look at ALL the avenues.

Yes MBA’s have a reputation. That reputation comes from a world wide knowledge that they are hard work, time intense and expensive. But there are always other options. Countless people around the world have MBA’s and never use them. Don’t invest your time and money unless you are 100% sure this is right for you.

For me, I looked high and low at alternatives.  I read the books (highly recommend “My Personal MBA” by Josh Kaufman) and yet the MBA was still the only offering that could give me what I needed and what I hungered for. I needed the practical, I wanted the teachings and I looked forward to connecting with my peers.

And if you find an institute that addresses all your criteria and you are still unsure, ask to speak to a current or ex-student of the MBA program. This is  a fairly ‘normal’ request. The organisations understand the commitment to an MBA is a big decision. I spoke with a current student, a lecturer and a admin all before making my final decision.

And remember, to enrol is an application process most of the time so be prepare and have a fall back option if your application is not successful.

Other helpful bits and pieces I came across are listed below. If you have any questions let me know, otherwise good luck and I’ll see you on the other side!

Additional Resources (Aus based):

Economist magazine – reviews and ranks MBA’s around the world. Now I’ve been told a good MBA student will read this magazine at least an hour a day. I tried… I can’t do it. The information covered is a bit too far from my day to day to connect with. I instead explores the next magazine I listed BRW and can easily read that one daily. What can I say… what people say I should do and what I actually do are usually different.

BRW magazine (AUS) – reviews and advertises MBA’s, also a great business resource for Australia.

My Personal MBA by Josh Kraufman – great book! Although it has MBA in the title, Josh is quiet vocal about his dislike for traditional MBA programs. Great read to give you some perspective.

Twitter – #MBA – search for the MBA hash-tag on twitter and you will find all kinds of cool stuff. There are several MBA threads running about lessons, etc, but also reviews, offers, opportunities. It’s very interesting.

MBA rankings for Australia MBA Guide website – I went with number 3. The highest ranking MBA may not be the best option for you. Number 2 in Australia I ruled out due location.

Why get an MBA? Wiki answers website

YouTube –  search for MBA and you’ll find some very helpful information on Youtube. A combination of lectures, info pannels, discussions, some are useless but give yourself a few hours to have a look and see what you find.

If you founds this helpful or have any questions please contact me in the comments panel below. Thank you!

3 thoughts on “How to choose an MBA

  1. I LOVE this post. So helpful. I have been researching lately about a Master’s degree and this is a great guide 🙂

    • SonyaMadden says:

      Thanks Monica – that is really valuable feedback and I appreciate it. I’m glad it was helpful for you 🙂 the process is so time consuming… hopefully this will make it a little easier for you to decide 🙂

  2. […] is very exciting. This particular graduate school is ranked #1 in NSW and #3 in Australia. I did lots of ground work before finalising my decision, then did lots of paperwork to apply. I was very happy to be accepted and start in […]

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