As the recession continues, 2009 is becoming the year to study for a Masters in Management degree, as unemployed students upgrade their qualifications.
On Wednesday October 7 between 14.00 and 15.00 BST, a panel of experts answered your questions about studying for a masters in management degree on http://www.ft.com/businesseducation/q&a/masters2009
On the panel were:
Della Bradshaw, Business Education editor, Financial Times
Edward Marsh, Head of Talent and Organisation Development, Nestlé
Susan Roth, Programme Director, Specialist Masters Programme, Cass Business School
Joachim Hansen, Master of Science in Management student, HEC Paris and intern at Ernst & Young in Luxembourg
In some emerging markets, like Moscow, Russia, it is not necessary to have a European Masters in Management to get a decent job with a multinational company. The primary reason for one to apply for such a Masters outside the country is to pursue an international career. When considering this objective, what are the guidelines for choosing a school?
How will the school’s resources (career service, alumni network etc) help with achieving this goal, especially in these complicated times, post-recession?
Anton Khabursky, Moscow, Russia
Ed Marsh: While it may not be necessary in high growth markets with a shortage of younger talent, in general it is now more and more normal across most parts of the world to study for a Masters degree; so be careful to assume that multinationals in Russia would not prefer a MIM to someone with no Masters. Certainly for an international career, it will give you more options. My advice is to choose a school which has a course which covers the subjects you want, and is well-known internationally. Schools which are members of CEMS (www.cems.org) are a good starting point.
In general the more international the school’s perspective, the more visible and connected it will be with career opportunities in international organisations.
Susan Roth: Students should consider several factors when choosing a business school. High on the list should be location. Going to business school in a global business centre such as London, New York or Hong Kong will always be considered a credential in itself. Schools in these cities more readily tap into the international business community in which they operate for speakers, visiting practitioners and have highly diverse student populations. These factors are a great training ground for a future career with an international company.
However, if you know you want to work in a particular city, then you should seek out a business school in that city. The careers service will always be the strongest in the local area, and usually the alumni group is largest in the city of the School.
At the end of the day, you have to be happy with the actual programme as well. Programmes across the world have similar aspects but usually there are some key differentiating factors: how many electives will you be able to take, are there any international residency opportunities, etc. And of course, cost of both the course and of living expenses will always be a major consideration.
Joachim Hansen: I would argue that in most countries it is not necessary to have a Masters in Management degree from abroad. So from that point of view, I think that you are right about the degree from abroad being a means to pursue an international career.
Building on this, two guidelines I used when choosing schools were:
1) Did the programme offer something you cannot obtain at home (e.g. content, structure and/or reputation)?
2) Would you like to work in that particular country/region in the future (the home turf advantage may be decisive)? Effectively, you have to define what is important and interesting to you.
Career services and alumni networks facilitate the process. They open doors, so to say, by having direct access to companies and job/internship offers. Many schools/programmes have corporate partnerships or a foundation backing them, which creates additional connections. Most schools also give information about their alumni networks online - this is a good indicator of the ”spread” of the options for graduates later on. And regarding the complicated times, well...there might be fewer open doors and more crowded.
Della Bradshaw: I think the obvious answer is that all business schools are better equipped at finding jobs for their graduates in the local market rather than overseas, even in Europe. So, if you want to work in France, you would do best to study there; if you want to work in Germany, a German programme would probably work best. That said, many of the top-ranked schools have a reputation outside their domestic environment; many of the lower-ranked schools do not.
I think you are right to look at the job options before applying - after all, these programmes are a massive investment of your time and money. As you also point out, the alumni from the school can play an important role in helping in the job search and those programmes that are well-established and have large numbers of students will have an advantage here. But the career services department needs to be very strong too. It is traditional practice when choosing a university to investigate the professor/student ratio, but these days it is well worth asking for the careers staff/ student ratio too. Find out which companies recruit from the school, what the placement statistics look like and ask to talk to recent graduates.
These days it may well be worth looking at the visa issues, both study visas and work visas. This would apply to non-Europeans wanting to study in Europe and Europeans wanting to study in the US, Canada or Asia.
I did a degree in Commerce and specialised in Management Science. I graduated in December 2008 and would like to enrol for a Masters in Management in 2010. I am currently the Head of Administration and Projects for a local NGO in Kenya. Please advise the best schools I should consider applying to as I have booked my GMAT exams next month.
Agnetta, Nairobi, Kenya
Joachim Hansen: Choosing schools is a tough process - there are a lot of criteria that you have to consider - hence, I don't think there is a universal answer. Of course, the Financial Times ranking provides a basis for your search, but besides focusing on which school to join, you could also consider looking at the different programmes they offer. Masters in Management differ from place to place, so try to investigate what the various schools offer.
Then consider not only which programmes you find interesting, but also which region you would potentially like to work in. Even though a lot of schools are known internationally, many have a home turf advantage, which may be useful in finding your first job after graduation, especially in uncertain economic times.
Finally, good luck. The process may be hard, but it is also rewarding.
Ed Marsh: I suggest you consult the FT league tables; what is best for you will depend on many factors including language and your budget. The FT tables are a reliable guide to market perception of schools according to certain critieria. Having already studied Management Science at first degree, you should also consider a more specialised Masters in a functional area of interest such as Marketing, HR etc
Della Bradshaw: You seem very well-prepared - and good luck with the GMAT. The good news is that there are lots of great choices for you, but the choice is yours. The questions I would ask are:
1) Do you want a one-year or two-year programme?
2) Which country do you want to study in?
3) Where do you want to work on graduation?
4) What kind of company do you want to work for on graduation?
5) How important are the fees and do you need a loan or scholarship?
6) Do you want to study in English or another language?
In choosing a location you might want to use the FT Masters in Management 2009 map: - http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/map - which enables you to select business schools by programme type and location.
What should business schools be teaching Management students in these difficult times? What skills and knowledge will become valuable for them in the next 10 years?
Della Bradshaw: I often think we ask too much of business schools. After all, students are only there for one or two years, in the case of Masters in Management students at the very beginning of their careers. When I talk to Masters in Management or MBA students, they often say the thing that is most valuable is to be given a roadmap of how businesses work: how they raise capital; how marketing works; how to read accounts; and so on.
I suspect when many people read your question they would immediately think of two things - ethics and financial instruments. I think what the past year has shown us has been the real interdependence of economies. So top of my list would be how to manage across boundaries.
Ed Marsh: I dont believe they should change anything in response to ’difficult times’. There have been recessions and booms before (big and small) and there will be again; the economic cycle. I think the lesson for Management is not to panic, focus on what you do well and execute efficiently.
For the next 10 years, business schools should increase focus on 2 elements in particular:
- the business opportunty of sustainability ie: relative to finite resources, climate change etc
- people leadership vs management: how to lead and manage generation Y and their successors, management alone is not enough!
Susan Roth: Business Schools should ensure that they are current with the latest business practices, particularly in the areas of organisational behaviour, internal audit and finance. Business schools should also be adding a focus on ethics, which they may do already but perhaps need to update given recent events. There should also be an emphasis on the foundation business tools of management of organisations, finance, operations and marketing so that students graduating and 10 years on, understand how anyone does business and what the fundamental key components that go into making businesses successful.
Joachim Hansen: Taking a step back, I think that one of the big inherent strengths of the current and coming generations of management students is and will be a very profound ability to handle other cultures - be it through the increased freedom to travel, through exchange opportunities with other schools, or through increasingly international student bodies at the home institutions.
As a current student, one of the things I can see as a big challenge is how to channel this strength into something productive, creative or entrepreneurial in an organization, which is where education may come into play, creating perspectives through e.g. courses in corporate entrepreneurship.
Additionally, I think that teaching needs to focus on the ability to see the greater picture in business, both from the perspectives of geopolitical influences and business risks, but also from the perspective of having an ever more flexible and geographically widespread workspace. This could for instance be done through virtual projects across countries/regions, using existing university partnerships to create truly global project work.
I have 8 years IT experience and I am thinking about studying for a post-graduate Management/Business degree with a Marketing specialisation. Do you recommend any other areas of study? Should I go for a vocational qualification instead such as The Chartered Institute of Marketing?
Della Bradshaw: I think if you have 8 years of management experience you are probably looking at an MBA degree, with a specialisation in marketing, or a specialised masters degree in marketing. I think the most important point is to ensure that your class peers have the same level of experience as you do and are not straight out of undergraduate programmes. The other issue would be whether you are qualified to study for your chosen qualification with your current knowledge in marketing - and it is unclear what level that is from your question. Many masters generally require previous qualifications or experience.
The big question for you is whether to study full-time or part-time and how much you are prepared to spend. That will really narrow down your choices between a degree and other options.
Susan Roth: I would recommend looking into an MBA or Executive MBA programme which would round out your technical experience and give you marketing skills as well. Most likely you would be able to take additional marketing electives which would add to your desired concentration. A programme that allowed you to study alongside other students with an average of 7-10 years of work experience would enhance your learning experience as you would also learn business from the different industry perspectives of your classmates. In addition an MBA/EMBA is a versatile degree and serve you well for years to come.
I have read a lot recently about how US business schools are taking in students straight from undergraduate programmes for their MBA courses. What would be the difference between a European Masters in Management degree and a US MBA and which would you recommend for someone with no work experience?
Susan Roth: As an American and someone who previously worked for a business school in New York and now based in London, I would say that you get the most out of an MBA degree when you have some work experience first. If you don’t have work experience, a European MSc in Management is a great idea, as it is a “junior MBA” but better geared towards helping people to get their first job, while complimenting many undergraduate backgrounds.
MBA degrees tend to teach business concepts on a slightly higher level so, as I stated, best done with some experience in the business world to relate to. In addition, after an MSc in Management, and at least 7 years of work experience, you can always do an Executive MBA programme which would be a great fit at that point in your established career.
Della Bradshaw: It’s a really interesting question, this one. I think most US business schools have always admitted a few MBA students who have no previous work experience but over recent years the percentage has increased. Given that the average age of an MBA student is 27, this means that the class will contain students of very different ages and with mixed experiences. Will this add to the learning experience? I don’t know.
Those US schools who eschew younger students say that they do so because the older students would not tolerate students with no experience as they can learn nothing from them - MBA students often say that they learn as much from other students as they do from professors.
On an MSc programme there will be an homogeneity in age and experience, but often also in nationality.
The teaching methods will also differ. In an MSc programme there are more likely to be traditional lectures than case study discussions. Both the two-year US MBA and the two-year European masters will ensure that you get corporate work experience through internships.
Joachim Hansen: I can only speak to you from the perspective of a current student. I had similar considerations before applying, but decided against the MBA, because I felt odd about potentially having an “experience” degree, without the experience to back it. Instead, I decided on a programme that combines theory and academic rigour with practical experience through internships - something that I would highly recommend.
I am currently working, albeit on a short-term basis, for a small asset management firm in London with a view to a permanent career whilst taking the Investment Management Certificate (IMC). Having graduated from Durham University in June 2009 (BA Philosophy and Politics) I am looking into masters programmes as a serious alternative to full time employment given the current competitive job market. Can you advise me on the particular merits of a specialised Investment Management MBA as opposed to a more generalised accountancy approach? Or would I be better off tackling the professional qualifications (CFA UK, SSI, ACCA etc.)? And if so, which would you recommend for a career in asset management and investment?
Susan Roth: Why not have your cake and eat it too? You can choose a course such as an MSc in Investment Management which at some schools, has links and offers exemptions from professional qualifications such as the CFA, SII and ICAEW. However, with the job market as tight as it is at the moment, I would advise you to stay in employment if that is an option. Business Schools are not going anywhere and if you are lucky enough to be working in your chosen field, I would put off going back to school in order to gain valuable work experience which will help your application in the long run.
Della Bradshaw: I am afraid to say I don’t feel qualified to answer this. The only thing I would say is that if you go down the business school route, then a specialised masters degree, such as a Masters in Finance degree, would probably be your best option. MBAs on the whole tend to be much more general and address a broader field of management.
I realise some Masters in Management degrees require students to study management or economics for their undergraduate degree and others do not. According to the FT rankings, none of the top group of schools require previous knowledge of these subjects. Would someone with a business or economics degree be better to study at one of the lower-ranked schools as they will presumably know many of the topics covered on the programmes run by the top schools?
Della Bradshaw: I think this is the kind of question you would need to discuss with the different course directors. Another thing to look at would be the length of the course. As a rule of thumb, courses directed at those with no economics or business experience would tend to be shorter, probably about a year in length. Another deciding factor would be whether you would want to complete an internship as part of the programme.
Susan Roth: Rankings should be one consideration when making your decision about business school, but you should also look carefully at other aspects such as the curriculum, alumni network and student satisfaction rates. In addition, while there may be some overlap in topics, courses taught on a masters level should be taught at a higher level than undergraduate courses and may offer additional learning in the same subject area .
Joachim Hansen: I have an undergraduate degree in business myself, and decided to follow one of the graduate degrees that does not require a business background.
Admittedly, there is a period of overlap. But this is largely outweighed by the fact, that the top programmes that do not require students to have a business background , provide you with very different perspectives compared to what you would find in the ones that do, simply due to the breadth of the students’ experience. Another factor is, that the “catch-up” from my experience was very short due to the skill level of the students in my programme.
Personally, I have found the experience during my first year of graduate studies enriching. However, it comes down to personal preference, as you might get to the more specialised theory faster in programmes that do require a business background, whilst, as an addition, you learn to handle diversity in a different sense in programmes that don’t.
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