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GIBS Business School

What's an MBA worth today?

By Sunday Times, Business Times

Posted on 20 June 2011

It's probably the biggest investment you can make in yourself ? so make it pay...

How can you tell if somebody has an MBA? They tell you, usually within 15 minutes. You can't really blame them; getting an MBA is no small feat — it's designed to be enormously challenging and the challenge needs to be sustained over a year or two. And it costs a huge chunk of cash. It's probably the biggest investment in terms of time and money that you can make in yourself. But the people doing it seem to love the challenge and have only good things to say about the experience. It's hard to find anyone who will tell you it is a waste of time while they're doing it and fewer who'll admit it after the fact. A 2002 report from MBA.co.za says people who stay within their industry after getting their degree — in other words, they are adding new skills to the experience they already have — can expect to increase their earning power by 20% to 100%. But if you change careers and go, say, from banking into business consulting, you can expect to start at an entry-level salary, although you are likely to add value to the company more quickly than your non-MBA colleagues and so rise . faster up the management ladder. Your MBA might not be a silver bullet for your career, but you will have better skills and therefore will be better positioned for success.

Julia Phipps, alumni and marketing manager at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, said the MBA makes you a specialist in general management, giving you skills in everything from team building to marketing. She said the private e-mail surveys Gibs does with its alumni showed that an increase in salary is the norm for people who get the degree — although this increase is less than it was before the 2008/9 downturn. There's no guarantee it will land you a plum job either, but it might swing the balance your way. Laverne Hyman, a finance consultant at recruitment agency Personnel Concept, said most of the chartered accountant positions she filled had no preference for MBAs. But, she said, where there were three CVs showing similar work experiences and undergraduate degrees, the one with the MBA would land the job. Maryanne Trollope, senior HR manager for Anglo American, said having an MBA can swing your chances of landing a job in some areas of management, but this really depends on the job's requirements. She said at Anglo they feel strongly about the school the MBA is from; she suggested that if you want to do one, you take a lot of care choosing the right place. It's going to be expensive and a lot of hard work, so you might as well get the Rolls-Royce. In addition to the standard modular MBA, Gibs offers a one-year, full-time MBA for entrepreneurs'. It is a logical fit when you consider that about 90% of start-up businesses fail and that South Africa is in dire need of entrepreneurs to generate employment and growth. But somehow, the idea of an entrepreneur — a restless soul with a big appetite for risk — doesn't fit the profile of a typical business school student. Phipps makes the point, though, that the course provides some of the basic principles that could make the difference between success and failure: it teaches critical skills such as how to manage cash flow, how to create an efficient value chain and how to successfully market the business. It gives the would-be entreprenedr the knowledge needed to sustain the business once it is off the ground...

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