Studying for an MBA can improve your business knowledge as well as increase your chance of a promotion

What does MBA stand for?

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a prestigious postgraduate qualification that provides an overview of key business practices and is highly valued by top employers.

If you're passionate about business and wish to learn more from experienced tutors then an MBA is a great next step. Successfully completing this qualification can lead to a better salary, an improved professional reputation and an expanded network of business contacts.

MBAs are a Masters-level qualification, but universities usually recommend three years of practical business experience before applying.

Search for MBA courses.

Types of MBA

When choosing your MBA you'll need to take into account your career goals and circumstances, but generally courses fall into these categories:

  • General MBA - takes one year to complete and is undertaken after gaining three years of business experience. You'll upgrade your knowledge and practical skills, becoming an integral employee to your company.
  • Executive MBA (EMBA) - for those more experienced in business and who want to progress further up the ladder. As a result, this often costs more and allows for part time/weekend study.
  • Specialist MBA - for a businessperson that wants to focus on a particular area of business in order to become world class in their specific field.
  • Distance learning/online MBA - if you choose to study online everything will be done virtually, whereas a distance learning MBA will involve some in-person contact.
  • MBA without work experience - learn the foundations of business communication and managerial skills without needing the mandatory three years' experience. This is a good way to get into an entry-level or middle management role.

Read individual university' course descriptions carefully, as they sometimes differ. Get more guidance on which MBA you should choose, and the best MBA programmes in the UK.

What does an MBA involve?

They vary greatly, but many full-time MBAs include all day classes with breaks. A part-time course will look more like a Bachelors degree, where you're in classes roughly three times a week, or just in the evenings and at weekends. Once you choose your elective subjects in the second half of your course, the need for attendance may increase or decrease, depending on your choices.

Outside of classes you'll often have group projects and assignments to work on, so free time can be scarce and you have to become skilled at managing it.

MBAs tend to assume your theoretical knowledge and instead provide practical and groupwork-oriented tasks. The core content is typically a mix of leadership, strategy and finance modules culminating in a simulated business scenario such as pitching to the board.

When should I take an MBA?

An MBA is not an entry-level business qualification. It is usually taken by professionals who have gained at least three years of business and management experience since graduating from undergraduate study. The average age of students on top-ranking MBA courses is typically between 27 and 30. This means you'll be studying alongside fellow business people who can share their insights.

Consider taking an MBA when you feel you're ready to take the next step in your career, whether that means progressing with your current employer or moving elsewhere.

Executive MBAs are generally studied by more senior managers and the minimum required level of experience can be up to ten years.

How much does it cost?

A full-time MBA can cost anywhere between £5,000 and £100,000 depending on the university. For example, the full-time MBA at the University of Worcester costs £7,290 while at the London Business School a full-time MBA costs £97,500. There are scholarships you can apply for to help with your fees. Discover other ways of funding an MBA.

Will an MBA help my career?

An MBA will certainly boost your career prospects, and for some it will be a requirement to achieve promotion. The rigorous academic tests you face during an MBA will also prove your resilience, competence and acumen in a business atmosphere. It may also help you change career or become an expert in a particular field.

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Survey 2022 found that 92% of corporate recruiters expect to hire MBA graduates, and 87% of them are either highly confident (36%) or confident (52%) that business schools are adequately preparing students for success in their organisations.

What are the entry requirements?

You will need three years' professional experience, plus a Bachelors degree at 2:1 or above for most MBAs. There will also be a test of your academic ability with a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). This will test your analytical writing, graphic analysis, problem solving and verbal skills.

Most courses in the UK are taught in English, so if it isn't your first language universities require a IELTS score of at least 6.0 to 6.5.

Evidence of particularly strong academia (through your CV and grades) may qualify you to be considered for scholarships, which can eliminate or reduce fees.

How do I apply for an MBA?

You need to apply online directly to the university.

You'll need proof of your grades and professional experience as well as an academic and professional reference. Apply early - the most sought after courses can fill up a year in advance, and it gives you time to apply for funding.

In your application, outline your reasons for choosing the course and university, include your plans and aspirations in the long term to showcase your commitment. Places are very competitive and the course is challenging, so your GMAT score could likely feature in your application criteria. Most involve the writing of an essay too.

If you're shortlisted for an interview, you may be spoken to individually or as part of a group. An interview at the University of Oxford: Saïd Business School lasts about 30 minutes and will involve a faculty member, a senior member of their administrative staff or an industry adviser. To stand out make sure you've done your research into the university, the course and the subject.

Where can I get more advice?

Consider those who have your best interests in mind, and those who have been through the experience:

  • Alumni - past students know what it takes to come out on top, and are usually happy to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.
  • Tutors - reaching out shows initiative, and tutors can give you genuine and helpful insight into whether the course is right for you, or discuss possible alternatives.
  • Careers service - they will be able to give you expert pointers and offer comprehensive knowledge of the processes and courses available to you.
  • Current students - their advice on applications and succeeding will be up to date, while they'll also be able to help you decide what is right for you based on their experiences.
  • Business fairs - open days and events are perfect to begin networking, talk about the course, and start looking for institutions that take your fancy.
  • Employers - if you know where or who you want to work for, then you'll benefit from finding out which skills and qualifications they expect.

Find out more

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