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stephanie-wei

Demystifying the MBA hype

Student

Many people play with the idea of pursuing an MBA (Masters in Business Administration). With dollar signs in their eyes, they weigh the heavy financial and time commitments against the return on investment. Are these initials after your name really the key to putting your career into overdrive?

Many people play with the idea of pursuing an MBA (Masters in Business Administration). With dollar signs in their eyes, they weigh the heavy financial and time commitments against the return on investment. Are these initials after your name really the key to putting your career into overdrive?

Absolutely, believes Richard C. Powers, assistant dean and executive director of the MBA programs at the University of Toronto’s Joseph L. Rotman School of Management.

“It’s a big investment, but the payoff is there. In any business, it will set you apart, and in some industries, it’s almost required.”

MBA programs are generally open to applicants with an undergraduate degree from any field of study. Most programs will require you to write the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test, a standardized test that evaluates basic math, analytical and English skills). Foreign students may be required to take an English proficiency test. Admission requirements vary from school to school, so make sure you find out what you need to have.

While many Rotman students have engineering or finance backgrounds, an MBA can be applied to almost any industry or business. According to Ryerson University’s Wendy Cukier, “Anyone with an undergraduate degree and work experience should consider taking an MBA.”

“Whether a person is employed by a large firm, a small company, self-employed or considering a career change, the skills and network gained from an MBA is transferable to all facets of a person’s career,” Cukier says. “Many MBA programs are specialized: no matter what sector you are working in, there is probably an MBA to match your field.”

In addition, many schools offer part-time study, evening courses, executive MBA programs (condensed programs completed over evenings/ weekends), distance learning, joint degrees (with law, engineering, arts or other disciplines) and international programs. Do your research to decide which option fits best with your goals.

Lisa Korec, a communications specialist with GS1 Canada, decided to pursue her MBA after recruiters repeatedly told her that they prefer to hire MBAs over equally or more qualified non-MBAs. Korec found her MBA degree from York University’s Schulich School of Management helped her to develop high-level decision making skills and quickly led her to greater responsibility and a higher salary.

The Big Picture
Powers believes that the content of MBA programs is more or less the same: they provide students with a grounding in all functional areas of business (accounting, finance, operations, marketing), while emphasizing group work and developing management/leadership skills.

According to Powers, what differentiates the Rotman MBA program is its emphasis on integrative thinking.

This focus teaches students to think of “the big picture” and see relationships between business functions in a way that goes beyond what is taught in traditional business schools.

Says Powers: “We’re looking to train the leaders of tomorrow.” He adds that with more than 1,000 applicants applying for 260 spots at Rotman, the value of an MBA is clearer than ever.

Korec advises potential students to take a prep course and to consider honestly whether they have the drive and finances to return to lectures, homework and exams. “If you love to learn, you’ll enjoy the experience and get the most out of your degree.”

While soaring tuition fees are a consideration, most schools have scholarships and awards for top applicants and also work with banks to offer low interest or interest-free loans to students. “Finances should never be a barrier,” Powers says.

He emphasizes the importance of visiting the schools before making a decision, “The worst thing is to get to the school and realize you don’t like it.”

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