“Doing an MBA will enhance your career prospects, but there are many factors to consider in making what could be a considerable investment.” Former Royal Engineer Doc McKerr and former Infantry Officer Tom Clark discuss their experiences of studying for full-time MBAs and the value they believe the qualification has given them.
Going back into any educational establishment after a break is a huge decision, not least when you factor in all the variables of geographical location and costs. With 25% of you considering an MBA to ‘boost your profile’ there are many points to consider before taking this step.
For Doc, he always knew he wanted to return to education one day. He’d spent seven years in the Services, gaining ‘great hard and soft skills’ but felt he was lacking an understanding of the commercial world and its terminology. He says: “I wanted to reduce that gap between me and my peeers who didn’t join the military.”
For Tom, he had an ‘educational itch’ he wanted to scratch and felt there were three things to consider – ‘what sort of industry do I want to end up in, what’s the core activity of the company, and what’s my speciality within it.’
It’s Not A Golden Ticket
Doc says going back to university doesn’t necessarily guarantee you better work prospects.
“MBAs are not a rank or a ‘a box to tick’ that will ensure doors are opened. If you think that’s the case, you’ll be found out quickly within an organisation.”
He says: “It allows you to be lifted up in work places though and get a better job in the long run – it will raise your profile and enable you to consider the wider impact of actions and decisions.”
Doc originally wanted to study international relations after working for a charity in Nepal after realising this was where his passion lay. After a great deal of reflection though, he decided that, as he wanted his time at university to seriously count, an MBA would open up more opportunities and have more value in the long term.
Doc says: “I knew it would be a far more versatile qualification. If I’d done the MA, I would have left with reasonable academic knowledge but lacked general management experience to progress. The benefit of the MBA was a different mindset that would set me apart from those who have followed the typical third sector route.”
He adds: “And in actual fact, many charities want business experience. To create a strategy in the third sector environment is harder than in a commercial one – there is less money to go round and many different things to consider.”
Tom says: “Not only do you have an educational stamp, with the opportunity to delve intellectually into a subject, you have the chance to bounce ideas off a wide mix of people you may not ordinarily meet. Depending on your university, you also have a host of networking opportunities open up for you.”
Doc agrees that the chance to experience different group dynamics is hugely beneficial.
“One of the most important learning points for me was working within a group of six, who had a variety of learning styles and approaches.”
Neither advise only doing one for the monetary rewards. Doc says: “An average MBA salary out of university is £60-65,000 but you get more than just the monetary rewards.”
He adds: “Many people with commercial experience do the MBA because they really want to understand the links between everything and get a wider perspective on the industry.”
Tom says: “I think differently now, interact differently and make better decisions.”
He adds: “If you want to work for a serious organisation that’s multi-national, it’s important to invest in a better quality course, as good as you can afford.”
Deciding on where you want to go is also paramount and a decision that’s as unique as the individual.
Tom says: “All factors need to be considered. I know of some people who were disappointed because they were in the middle of nowhere.”
They both also advise speaking and meeting with alumni, and attending cohort days, to ensure you gain a decent understanding and feel for the environment you’ll be studying in.
Doc McKerr is now working as an independent consultant at Cranfield University working for the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, supporting a change programme.
Tom Clark now works for technology startup Crossword Cybersecurity.