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Trying for a BBA? Beware!
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January 27, 2009
The glamour of a professional first degree -- unlike the basic BA or BSc -- holds plenty of appeal for the youth of today. Business courses like BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) and its cousins BBS (Bachelor of Business Studies) and BBM (Bachelor of Business Management) are hot picks. Youngsters are looking for courses that provide employer-ready options and yards ahead in the race for that enviable position in an MNC.

In answer to the skyrocketing demand, most universities and institutes are vying with each other to offer you the course 'tailor-made' to your requirements. Some even offer an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree for free when you do a BBA.

What exactly does the BBA offer? What do you get in return for the fees you pay? And do you end up spending much more than you would on a BA or BSc degree? In other words, you need to study the 'real' vs the commonly perceived market value of the degree you aspire for.

For example, when you study to be an engineer or a chartered accountant, the course enables you to emerge with a clear understanding of the fundamentals and a reasonable grounding on the specialisations of your choice. You are now empowered to and eligible for the profession.

Should you go for higher studies -- an MTech after a BTech or an MS or MD after an MBBS -- you add distinct value by increasing the depth of your knowledge in a well-defined and small area of the subject of your choice. For a common man, you are an engineer or doctor particularly qualified in computer-related engineering or treating ailments of the kidney respectively. This is the selling point of your career.

But in the case of a business degree, the courses differ very little between a bachelor's and master's programme. Both BBA and MBA teach from similar texts and teach very similar concepts. This, of course, does not hold true if you pursue sector-specific MBA programmes like tourism, investment or retail management.

A business education is a tool-box programme. It provides you with a tool-box of concepts, theories, skill sets and work ethics, so you are better suited to execute work delegated to you more efficiently.You have the tools to analyse data with. The analysis and its interpretations are up to you!

What stands out in an MBA is probably the diversity and depth of the course. The effective gain you derive out of this will largely depend on the institute and the faculty you learn from.

The job market, however, does not recognise that the worth of a BBA and an MBA are largely similar. A discussion on this is beyond the scope of this brief article. If you are a talented youngster from a reputed BBA school, then to a corporation you are a great asset.

I treat you like an under-grad kid and pay you peanuts, but over time get the same output from you for half the price or less. You get a great address, spend a few years with me, hit the glass ceiling and go on to pursue the next degree -- an MBA. You win, I win. But the operative phrases are a bright you and a great college.

The pain here is that if you did your BBA from a private university you would have paid a ransom for the privilege. For those of you who do it from a recognised second-tier college it is a tough grind and barring a slight ease in clearing the MBA (not the CAT, mind you!) the course is no great benefit. For those of you stuck in a diploma mill -- fair wind and good sails! It is a tough sea out there.

Complicating matters is the regulatory regime in our country. India permits business schools to offer MBA-level post-graduate programmes with no university affiliation. But the law does not allow that luxury for BBA programmes. So, institutes without affiliation to a university will offer you a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (GDBA), a Graduate Diploma in Business Studies (GDBS) or some other such qualification. The value of this in the market is equal to the value of the institute offering it.Add to it the fact that this diploma does not qualify you for a higher degree in the same area.

If you wish to pursue one, you need to do a correspondence BBA course through a university's distance learning wing. So in three years you will probably study 48 papers. God save you!

To sum up -- if you are a 90+ percentage student, have secured admission to a great school with verifiable placement, are on a 100 percent scholarship and in a hurry to work, go ahead -- do it. Otherwise secure a graduate degree, save some money and give your 100 percent to pursuing an MBA. Good luck!

Mahesh Sarma is the editor of a soon-to be-launched career magazine.

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