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Why an MBA is important
Karan Gupta
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May 15, 2007

Joseph Wharton founded America's first business school at the University of Pennsylvania  in 1881. Realising the need for specialised business courses, the UK government set up the London Business School and Manchester Business School in 1964.

Since then, the MBA degree has become the most sought after degree worldwide.

Is an MBA right for you?

The US, Canadian and Australian MBAs are traditionally a two-year curriculum (although you can find one year options as well), with an optional internship position in summer.

European and UK MBA schools, on the other hand, usually follow a one-year curriculum (although you can find two year options as well) and require candidates to have many years of work experience before they can be admitted.

The MBA Center defines the MBA as 'an education based on insight into the fundamental concepts of management and the know-how to relate them to the broader, international picture.'

Most Indian students want to pursue an MBA straight after graduation. The Indian system of education encourages students to complete their bachelor's and master's degrees before starting to work somewhere. However, the rest of the world does not agree with this straightforward policy.

The US, UK, Canadian, Australian and European business schools insist on significant work experience after graduation. Global business schools require a minimum of three years of work experience.

Some students view the MBA degree as a way to switch their career paths. Students who have worked in health care, computer firms, engineering firms and so on opt for an MBA degree so that they can achieve a managerial position in their field.

For instance, if you are a software developer and have worked for years developing software and now want a managerial position, then an MBA would be ideal for you.

Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth College in the US told the Financial Times (US), 'The MBA is the most remarkable step-up mechanism ever invented. Business schools take people of infinite variety and give them a tremendous platform for opportunity. If you do well, the opportunities are fabulous. For a 25- or a 30-year-old, it's a great way to change your life. There aren't too many mechanisms around which allow that.'

Possession of an MBA degree would indicate to your prospective employer that you have the skills required to be successful in any business -- you would be able to manage and lead teams, have time management skills and so on.

An MBA would challenge you and at the same time it would be an enjoyable learning process for you.

But, before deciding to pursue an MBA, ask yourself if you really need this degree. Make sure you know what your career goals are and examine if this degree will really help you achieve what you want. Once you have your career goals outlined, deciding on the country where you want to pursue your degree will become easier.

Says Harshad Gupta, an alumnus of Baruch College, City University of New York, "I decided on the US for an MBA because I wanted to work for a few years and gain international work experience before I come back to my home country. Initially, I was not sure if I wanted to give up my existing job and bang my head over tons of books. But, over the past years, I have grown as a person and have learnt valuable business concepts."

If you want to work in the country where you have pursued your MBA, then the US would be the best option for you. Your F-1 visa allows you to work for one year after graduation after which you can switch to a work permit (H-1) valid for three years. This work permit can be renewed once, which makes the total validity six years. No other country has such flexible work regulations.

The UK has programmes such as the Training and Work Experience Scheme (TWES) and the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). These programmes may allow international students to work in the UK after they complete their MBA degree.

Canada allows students to work for one year after they complete their MBA. If you have a job offer after graduation, the Canadian government will have no problem giving you a work permit and eventually permanent residency.

Is it cheaper to study in Australia?

Australia has the most rigid work permit regulations as compared to the US, UK and Canada. However, the Australian government now issues work permits for MBA graduates who have job offers and who manage to earn enough 'points' on the point system for work permits.

The point system in Australia is calculated for non-Australian individuals who are planning on applying for residency in the country by taking into consideration certain factors such as skill level, age, English language ability, specific work experience, Australian qualifications, and so on. It is necessary to have sufficient points to reach the 'pass mark' at the time your application is evaluated. The pass mark and its qualifiers vary according to the requirements of the Australian job market.

These nations have relative strengths and weaknesses as destinations for international study. The only way to navigate this decision, therefore, is to consider your individual circumstances and aspirations.

Tomorrow, in part two of this article, we look in-depth at four individual stories of Indians earning MBAs abroad. Hopefully, this exercise will shed light on your own situation and help you make an informed decision.

Part II -- How to choose a good MBA programme

Karan Gupta is an international education consultant and can be contacted at
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