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Greenville Business Magazine

Why an MBA is Relevant to You

By Dr. Ezaz Ahmed 

In the United States, MBA programs were first offered in 1908, and according to a U.K.-based accrediting organization Association of MBAs, the number of applicants for MBA programs has increased in recent years. Globally, it is estimated that approximately 1.2 million applications are received annually for MBA programs in over 20,000 business schools. 

Over the last hundred years, students from an increasingly broader range of professions have successfully embraced the MBA program. The MBA is the most industry-driven business and management degree among all business degrees. The scope of learning and teaching in MBA has evolved over the years, along with innovative methods of learning. Use of technology has helped MBA programs connect students with content. Because of the development of educational technology, MBA programs are now successfully offered through online, blended, intensive and of course in the brick-and-mortar format of face-to-face delivery. MBA's future is equally challenging and will adapt further in terms of duration of degree, new techniques in learning, and authentic learning experiences through augmented reality.

In the future, an MBA will also address the need to increase self-awareness among MBA graduates. Busy professionals can now accelerate their career by completing an MBA in one year. These professionals are not necessarily from traditional business environments, but fields from nursing to engineering. An MBA assists a new class of aspiring leaders and managers to expand their influence within their organizations and beyond. 

The reasons are pretty straightforward: in MBA programs, students are trained to be leaders and not managers, and are equipped with applications of theories with changing business and management scenarios, which make MBA graduates agile and responsive to change. Traditionally, a great MBA program encourages its graduates to develop a keen awareness of the business environment and wider society. The MBA also educates students to become skilled data crunchers, analysts and  business leaders.

The curriculum and content of the MBA needs to be industry-driven and supported by a number of industry-based activities. It is most important for any effective MBA program to have an active industry group that can provide feedback and advice about the program from a future-focused, industry perspective. MBA programs need to be supported by a very active industry advisory group. This advisory group should be led and managed by industry experts who provide input and guidance about the MBA program.  

In addition to this, MBA programs should be required to close gaps between students and industry by providing industry partnership and placement of students in real organizations. Many universities are incorporating industry incubation programs and innovation hubs. Commercial organizations and MBA programs can take advantage of such organizations to encourage students to start new businesses and promote entrepreneurship with innovative ideas.

Prospective students should consider answering why they want to pursue MBA, and in particular, which MBA will be suitable for them. There are currently over 1.2 million MBA applicants for 20,000 business schools worldwide - the volume of applicants attests to the increased interest in MBA programs. However, students should assess their current and future professional goals, their prospective industry in which they wish to work or initiate business, and how they would like to contribute towards business and society. The prospective student should speak to the MBA director or manager and expect to reconfirm their MBA aspirations. Doing so helps a prospective student get a feel for the conscientiousness of the staff, their enthusiasm, and their sense of accountability to students. In these ways, students can effectively evaluate the suitability of MBA programs.

The MBA has been one of the most successful business degrees of all time. Over the years it has met the challenges of change and has evolved to become one of the mainstream business degrees. The MBA's future is equally challenging and will adapt further in terms of duration of degree, new techniques in learning, and authentic learning experiences through augmented reality. It will also address the need to increase self-awareness among MBA graduates. 

The challenge for business schools will be to deliver an MBA that is of a high standard, is industry driven, and is seamlessly deliverable in face-to-face, online or in blended format. Use of research, data analytics and evidence-based decision-making processes will be key attributes for future MBA graduates, enabling them to explore and assess market trends, consumer behaviour, demographics, retail sales, competitor pricing and numerous other business activities. Finally, to remain competitive among business degrees, MBA students need to produce "next practice" rather than only delivering "best practice" in managing and leading businesses, organizations and industries.