Which MBA should I choose?

March, 2016

The vast choice of different MBAs can initially seem overwhelming, but research your options fully and you'll be sure to find a course to suit your needs

Which MBA is right for you will depend on factors such as your interests, your ambitions, your personal circumstances and how much experience you have.

General MBAs

If you're looking to accelerate your career but have limited managerial experience, a general MBA is likely to be your best option. You'll usually need to have spent three years in a relevant job before applying, although this varies between universities.

These courses teach broad business skills that are applicable across numerous job sectors, with core modules covering topics such as marketing, organisational behaviour and financial management.

General MBAs can be studied full or part time, and additional elective modules typically allow you to tailor the programme to your interests. A full-time course will take one or two years to complete.

To find courses, search for general MBAs.

Executive MBAs

If you're already in a senior management position and seeking rapid career progression, an executive MBA may suit you better. These focus primarily on developing the leadership skills required for a move into the boardroom.

Students tend to be older than on general MBAs, with substantial experience already under their belt - usually ten or more years in a relevant role. For example, students on Cambridge Judge Business School's Executive MBA in 2015 were on average 37 years old with 12 years of experience, compared with six years' experience for the general course.

Programmes are most often studied part time during evenings and weekends, as you fit your course around your regular day job.

Discover what courses are available by searching for executive MBAs.

Specialist MBAs

If you have some experience within a particular industry or are clear about the sector you want to move into, then a specialist MBA could be the perfect choice. You'll learn business and management skills, but apply them to a certain area of work.

These courses attract students who feel that a general programme does not meet their specific needs. In the UK, specialist MBAs are available covering a diverse range of sectors such as oil and gas, football, biotechnology, aviation, music and the creative industries.

Taking one of these courses - usually taught by experts with significant experience of the relevant sector - will enable to you gain a deep understanding of your field and help you to progress your career in an area of business that excites you.

Distance learning MBAs

An increasing number of MBAs are available as distance learning courses, meaning you don't have to commit to attending university. These allow you to study in your own time so that you can organise your learning around your career and family life.

You'll usually need to dedicate at least 20 hours each week to a distance learning course. A tutor will be available to support you and you'll be supplied with all the materials that you need to undertake your studies.

If this mode of study interests you, search for a distance learning MBA.

How do I choose the right course?

Once you've decided which type of MBA you want to take, you may want to consider a number of other issues before settling on a course. These include:

  • The cost of the course - find out more about funding an MBA.
  • Whether a course is accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA), a recognised mark of quality.
  • The course schedule: how many lectures and tutorials are there each week? Will you be able to work alongside your studies?
  • Whether an MBA is necessary for your career progression. Will the qualification be valued by employers in your sector?
  • The reputation of the institution - try to find out about the quality of teaching and resources, student satisfaction and support after graduation. Looking at league tables is one way of doing this.
  • Who are the tutors? Are they industry professionals? This is especially important for specialist MBAs.
  • Find out about the course content and modules to ensure they match your interests and expectations.
  • Make sure you meet the entry requirements.

The essential guide to studying an MBA


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