The benefits of business education

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businesseduWe inform you about everything you need to know about business education from MFins to MBAs and from distance learning to the DfES.

 Business education is extensive: available to those new to the sector, it is also of significant benefit to those already directly involved within business – from managers to senior executives. It enables you as an individual to have an impact on the majority within your business by using expertise in developing intelligent strategies that will have a direct influence on the structure of your organisation.  Business education is of advantage to an array of employees, current and future, and to employing organisations themselves through the implementation of competitive schemes that produce long-term performance and the transferable skills that – at a managerial level – enable more successful interaction between team members.

Available degree programmes
A Master’s in Management is a great opportunity for recent graduates with less than one year of work experience in business and who are seeking to further develop their education before progressing in a career.  It acts as a conversion course into business and management and therefore graduates need not have studied business at undergraduate level; they are simply required to demonstrate the will and capacity to succeed in a business career. The value of pre-experience degrees has begun to be internationally recognised over the past few years and these can form the ideal qualification for young managers seeking to harness their analytical skills in a short-time period.  Particularly at a time when gaining immediate employment is increasingly difficult, pre-experience qualifications expand career opportunities for recent graduates and can prove invaluable in entering such a competitive sector. The Master’s in Management degree educates its students in vital business skills such as decision-making, problem-solving and effective communication. As well as these transferable abilities, the qualification also covers business knowledge that will have a direct impact on practice in the workplace such as how to sustain growth and organise finances.

A Master’s in Finance (MFin) degree is a programme for finance professionals who have approximately three or more years’ experience in the finance sector. The qualification is appropriate for individuals working in a variety of careers; accountancy firms, investment banking and corporate finance are just a few examples. Although there are some crossover points between the MFin and the MBA – which will be detailed later – the former tends to focus more conclusively on the finance sector and less on general business management. Therefore the MFin is more appropriate for those definitively interested in finance as the qualification grows specialist finance knowledge and experience.

The MBA (Masters of Business Administration) is an internationally recognised postgraduate qualification for business professionals aiming to progress within their career or individuals taking a new route into the world of business. In order to apply for the MBA, it is generally expected that you will have a minimum of three years’ experience within business as the qualification builds on the working world as a platform for learning. Looking at the London Business School’s figures for their MBA Class of 2012, it is visible that there is a wide range of people who choose to study for the qualification with an age-range of 23 to 39 years old. Typically, the students at LBS have five years’ work experience, which proves you need not have been involved in business for decades in order to benefit from the qualification. You must not only be experienced but also ambitious and willing to hone your leadership potential during the duration of the course.  The reason that the MBA works so effectively for those who partake in the programme is due to the symbiotic relationship between the refined intelligence of the expertise that you learn and the practical business experience that you will already exhibit in your chosen field.

The Executive MBA (EMBA) is similar in curriculum to the MBA but directed at experienced managers who wish to study whilst working.  The two-year part-time programme is for those already in a challenging business environment hoping to excel their careers whilst continuing in their current position.  Similarly to the combination between theory and practice that many of the other business education avenues offer, the EMBA enables you to directly implement the knowledge you gain during the course into your work environment.

Managing the correct balance between education, home life, and in the case of part-time study, work, can often prove very challenging for individuals embarking upon business education.  However, the difficulty of the situation is being improved by the introduction of technology with distance learning, allowing academia and employers to work more efficiently together in order to achieve the best possible all-round results.  Many students have championed the fact that online content is available 24 hours a day, allowing for maximum flexibility for students, which is imperative whilst many attempt to hold down a job at the same time.  Advancements in education delivery allow institutions to cater to employees’ lack of time, with particularly part-time courses offering immediate benefits.  Ahn Hong-Seok, CEO of Envisioner – a career consulting company in South Korea – comments on MBAs and EMBAs: “Although juggling work and studies can be tough, the executive can apply what he or she learns from the programs right away at work”.  

businessedu2Financing your business education
Business education, as with all higher education, is not an inexpensive career venture; however there are a variety of structures and funding available to help with the payment of fees. The average fee price for a full-time MBA course is £8,000-£12,000, but some institutions charge several times this, with this amount not taking into account living costs. For this reason, 80 per cent of part-time/distance learning students receive funding from their employer, which makes the qualification a more reasonable option. You will find that many employers will sponsor employees during the degree, in the recognition that the qualification will be of benefit not only to the individual but to the company in turn.

However, if the choice to study an MBA is a decision made independently from an employer, many accredited business schools offer an array of scholarships for students and there are Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries that are open to all students beginning a postgraduate degree within the UK or Europe.  Although gaining loan support from banks in order to support business qualifications can prove difficult in the current climate, for example, with NatWest in 2011 withdrawing their Professional Trainee Loan Schemes from the UK market, a number of bank loan schemes are available through separate institutions. For example, London Business School has a scheme in association with HSBC that is open to all full-time MBA students which, if you are eligible, covers the cost of tuition fees up to £50,000. Another funding option can be found with The Department for Education and Skills (DfES), which involves High Street banks (The Co-operative Bank, Barclays and The Royal Bank of Scotland) offering loans for career development. The loan is available up to the sum of £8,000 that includes living expenses, course fees and materials to students on any course of two years or less.  The DfES then pays the interest on your loan whilst you are studying and for one month after you have finished your degree.

Choosing the right institution
Once you have arranged a way to finance your study, the most crucial step is selecting an institution to study at. When choosing the correct school with which to carry out your business education, particularly the MBA, it is important to use your career plans as a way of determining your choice. This becomes even more imperative when deciding on the format of the MBA you wish to study for: whether it takes a part-time form alongside a current position or is a full-time commitment if you are looking to change career path.  Once the structure of your qualification is chosen, there are then a variety of concerns that need to be considered before confirming your ideal institution. The faculty is high priority, for it is the faculty members that will be passing on their specialised business knowledge to you throughout the course of your degree, particularly as they will often be active leaders in the industry. You need to be sure that the institution offers a variety of business professionals that will cater to your interests. This, in turn, is connected to the network available at a business school, which marries those leaders with alumni and current MBA students in order to create an active business community, which will prove essential for employment opportunities following study.

If you are seeking to change career path, typically as a full-time MBA student, the organisation’s ability to offer useful career assistance that demonstrates a high placement rate in employment subsequent to study is vital.  Although essentially an MBA is part of education, it should further be looked upon as a business transaction to some extent, as a means of procuring skills and knowledge that will develop your career and should result in significant salary increase.  Thus, making a good investment return is a determining factor when considering the right institution for you. These categories are often effectively summarised through rankings – such as The Financial Times’ Global MBA Rankings – that may prove beneficial as overviews of business schools’ credentials.

Finally, although all the previously mentioned areas are of major concern when deciding on the right business school, location is inevitably the overriding issue.  An applicant’s choice is usually driven by overarching factors such as family and job commitments, so you must ultimately come to a decision that is viable in everyday life.

Embarking upon business education can be a valuable experience both personally and for your career opportunities. There are a range of qualifications to choose from, with the MBA the most common direction for those who have been involved with the working business world. There is an essential link between studying and work which can not only prove beneficial for the employee’s organisation but may also help with the expenses of the degree. The possibility of distance or online learning in the field of business education is highly valuable to part-time students. Ultimately commencing a business degree programme is an important decision that needs to be based on the option that will enable you to gain the best possible expertise in the industry.

This article was first published in Careers with Hayley Taylor in August 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

 Images: Getty

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