Anyone toying with the idea of a Masters in Business Administration to brace up their management skills should plan ahead, advises Dr Carol Vielba, director of City University's MBA programme. Undertaking an MBA - particularly through the part-time route which involves combining study with a job - is not for the faint-hearted. It means attending classes in the evening or at weekends, when you may be feeling worn-out from your employment. On top of that you have to spend at least as much time reading and preparing papers. There is not much space for a social life. Many MBA participants find they have to put their friends on hold.
But the long-term benefits of an MBA are there for all to see - a better job and more money. The most recent survey by the Association of MBAs calculates the average salary of members at more than pounds 65,000. A manager who does an MBA can expect an average salary increase on graduation of 42 per cent.
Some schools do better than others at boosting your earning power. One of the best is City University Business School, situated in the Barbican Centre in the City of London. Graduates of its evening MBA see a 118 per cent increase in salary four to five years after graduation, according to a recent survey. Before embarking on the course in 1991/92 they are earning an average pounds 36,993 a year. That rises to pounds 49,331 after the MBA two years later, and pounds 80,621 today.
One reason they do so well is that many are stepping into City jobs with plum salaries. But that isn't the only reason. "We're choosing to take people on who have the potential to make these sort of leaps," says Dr Vielba.
Another school that does well for its students is Bath University School of Management. It is acquiring a reputation for research, and for drumming up money from the private sector.
Most people on part-time MBAs are sponsored by their employers: 85 per cent of those signing up for Cranfield's two-year executive MBA are sponsored, which is just as well, because the fees are pounds 10,000 a year. Its director, Sean Rickard, says that firms making such an investment take a much keener interest in students while they are on the MBA and in their subsequent careers.
The Halifax has been sending employees on Cranfield MBAs for the past nine years. It only sponsors people who have been hand-picked for senior positions and it works closely with the school while staff are on the programme. When they graduate, staff are rewarded with promotion.
That way, the company has been able to keep the people they have sponsored through the MBA. "It's a recognition on the part of the company that, if they put someone through the MBA, they're a different person, their expectations have been raised, and they're more confident," says Mr Rickard. Firms which don't understand the investment they're making, lose their employees.
Not all MBA graduates increase their earnings fast. Carol Ward, 43, who graduated last year from Warwick University Business School - another place with a good record for boosting earnings - has spent the last two years setting up a public sector consultancy with another MBA graduate, Dianne Whitfield. When she embarked on her MBA, she was an NHS manager earning pounds 32,000 a year. Today she charges pounds 500 to pounds 700 a day, but puts the money in the bank to build up the business. One day they believe they'll be earning megabucks.
People do MBAs to change job or career tack, according to a survey of alumni undertaken by Inger Pedersen, director of London Business School's MBA programme. "Very often it's people with a technical background who want to go into managerial roles," she says. And they all say the MBA is worth it in salary terms. She found an average salary increase for LBS part-time alumni of 120 per cent within five years of graduation. "If you look at it long-term, it's a very good investment."
Association of MBAs (0171-837 3375) is holding its Accredited MBA Fair on Monday 26 October, at Westminster Central Hall, Storey's Gate, London
WHEN SUE Hill embarked on her MBA at Bath at the age of 29, she was earning pounds 20,000 a year working in the business consultancy department at South Western Electricity.
During her two-year part-time MBA, the privatised utility company was taken over by an American firm. Her department disappeared and she was moved to another job. "I thought it was time to make the most of the opportunity," she says.
So, after graduating from Bath, she joined CMG, a firm of management and IT consultants. Immediately her salary rose from pounds 23,000 to pounds 38,000. "Getting the MBA increased my earning capacity," she says. "It gives you self-confidence that you can do a managerial job."
Today, aged 32, she is earning pounds 48,000 and about to take six months off to have a baby. She likes working at CMG because it's honest and open and a meritocracy. She says there's no way she could have got where she has now if she had stayed at SWEB.
Her advice to anyone considering an MBA is that you need commitment as well as an interest in the academic side of the course.
"My increase in salary is wonderful," she says. "But it's a bonus. I didn't anticipate this. It's not why I did it."Reuse content