THE MBA DECISION: 3 COMMON PITFALLS TO AVOID!

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CharterQuest
, 24 July 2018

The MBA Decision: 3 Common Pitfalls to Avoid!

A Master Degree in Business Administration (MBA) remains, arguably, South Africa’s (-and the World’s) most popular and expensive business qualification. Why? It is instantly recognised by the markets (employers); assuming obviously, that the conferring institution or university is fully accredited. 

The costs incurred to attain it, however, can be quite prohibitive! The direct cash costs (e.g. tuition fees, books) are fairly predictable, hence can be managed and controlled –yet, this is the smaller cost component. Intriguingly, the bigger cost component is the most unpredictable; it happens to be the indirect or opportunity costs on your career (e.g. competing career objectives, family or social time subordinated in order to make way for MBA time). 

With so much proliferation of MBAs and MBA holders, in making a decision on whether or not to pursue one - at any given point in your career, we strongly suggest you take prudent steps to manage the ‘unpredictable’ indirect career (opportunity) costs. This is even more important for entry to mid-level professionals, 24 to 34, seeking to embark on an MBA in order to fast track their career to senior executive level. 

1. DON’T PURSUE AN MBA IF YOU MUST DELAY OR FORGO A SPECIALIST PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATION IN ORDER TO DO SO

Professional Bodies that design and control various specialist qualifications, based on their industry research, presume that at the very senior level within the profession, a specialist professional will be more involved with management than doing technical or specialist work -so, they typically incorporate an appropriate degree of management training in their curriculum. As people generally build their career from a specialist (or technical) field into general (or more senior management roles) and not the other way around, it is only sensible that you should first build your specialist professional skills, by first obtaining the relevant professional qualification in your chosen field, before embarking on an MBA. This, as pointed out before, is especially so because the management skills necessary to first get to the top of your specialist area is typically already incorporated in the professional qualification you ideally, first need to obtain. Keep in mind that an MBA develops your general business acumen (Marketing, Human Resources, Finance, Operations, etc.) but hardly deepens your specialist or technical skills in any one specific discipline -so, first professionalise and get to the top of that profession before embarking on an MBA!

2. DON’T PURSUE AN MBA IF YOU WILL BE SPECIALISING 

This may sound contradictory to our first counsel, but it is not the case! The value proposition of an MBA in the first place is that your undergraduate training and work experience, hitherto, is in a specialist field, and you now seek to broaden your management skills outside of any single specialist area, to cover the business more broadly –hence an MBA can only make sense as a General Management qualification. No amount of electives or optional specialist modules, however narrowly-allowed by your university - and selected by you, in the final year of your MBA - will adequately make you a specialist in that area.,

"...be wary of degrees such as MBA in Finance or MBA in Project Management; these are mere adaptations by academics who seek to make the MBA more appealing to a wider market, and boost student enrolments..."

 So, If you want to specialise in say Finance or Project Management at the masters’ degree level, rather take up an MSc. or M.Com in Finance -or, in Project Management; or, you should pursue the appropriate professional designation in that specialist area, such as becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or a Project Management Professional (PMP). 

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