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Time to take refuge in an MBA?

Shaky markets, uncertain hiring, possible bonus deterioration – is now the time to go back to school?

MBA schools would undoubtedly say yes, particularly as 2008 applications at the likes of London Business School – where 42% of 2006 MBAs went into finance and 21% into investment banking – open in September.

But is now really such a good time to go back? It all depends upon your prognosis for the markets, say recruiters. “If you take the pessimistic view that everything that’s happening at the moment is more than a temporary correction and there will be a long-term downturn, you might want to enrol on an MBA for two years,” says Vivienne Dykstra, ex-head of campus recruiting at Deutsche Bank and head of independent hiring firm Graduate Solutions.

On the other hand, if things really do deteriorate, doing an MBA now could leave you in a bad position down the line. “In 2003 MBA hiring targets were slashed and a lot of MBA hires were let go,” says another recruiter.

Dykstra says there’s no sign of any let up in hiring so far.

So is it best to sit this out, or bulk up your CV with a big name business school?

Comments (20)

  1. Hmm. Guess it depends on where you do it – I mean, there are MBAs and MBAs…

    Anon Associate Reply
  2. I don’t think it’s worth spending thousands of pounds and two years out of the industry to get an MBA. You’d be better off sitting tight and gaining two years’ proper banking experience – as long as that’s an option for you of course.

  3. Talk to recruiters who have worked through tougher times and they will tell you that there were plenty of candidates coming off of MBA courses in 2001, 2002 & 2003 who got their fingers very badly burnt.

    The MBA can be a real asset to your cv if you already have a revenue earning or marketing tilt to your skill set. However it can also be a handicap if you are applying to roles in a downturn – you could be percived as being “over” qualified.

    Now could be a good time to do it if you are sitting in the wrong asset class, but be aware that you are taking a gamble – be prepared to have a flexible message to give to the job market when you return. Don’t do an MBA if your sole expectation is to use it to get a toehold in the Front Office.

  4. Not everyone is good enough to go to a top MBA school either. can you get a 750+ score on your gmat?

  5. If you’re looking to do an MBA, then I think yes, this could potentially be a good time to do it. No point doing an MBA just because the markets are taking a downtourn though. Most hotshots in the city don’t have MBA’s, although I agree it’s useful if you’re looking to get into Consulting or company management. Really depends on long-term goals.

  6. Value of an MBA will depend on your first degree and range of experience. The last thing you want to do is simply repeat subjects you have already mastered through study or work.

    Treat your career like you would a portfolio or a business. Good strategic moves always pay off rather than knee jerk reactions to the market.

    The problem in finance and it’s a necessary evil is that it’s full of specialists who have difficulty in transferring their skills to a different branch of the industry.
    If you decide that an MBS is the right strategy then make sure you choose the right institution to undertake it.

  7. When I went to graduate school in 1998, a colleague said to me that it isn’t a guarantee that life would be better on the other end. He had UPenn undergrad degree and Columbia MBA and confided in me that times were tough when he got his MBA and he was out of work for a year. Although I found a job before graduating from NYU with an MBA, in June 2000, 40% of my class were struggling to find jobs.

    I say, if you can get someone to pay for your MBA, and are willing to do it nights/weekends, you are much better off.

  8. Experience is the better route- hold tight. Do the CFA and forget an MBA.

  9. Which is better? Doing and MBA and holding tight or being out of a job come December? Or worse yet, not getting a bonus that matched 2006?

  10. I did it p/t, no regrets as I graduated in 2003 and still had a decent job while others were struggling.

  11. It depends on person, What he want to achive.MBA help him to shine in the market.
    Huge opportunity in INDIA.

    sachin paliwal Reply
  12. Experience on the job is a better MBA. If you can do at weekends, better, but stick to the job and look for opportinuties. Nothing is better than experience.


  13. Do it part time, it will definitely complement existing experience.

  14. As many have pointed out, it depends on what you want to do and what your background is. I have a technical background, and the MBA was an enormous help in finding a new career in finance.

    If the MBA would only be a title for you (if you have a similar education/work experience), it would be risky. However, if your background is such that the MBA would very much diversify your skills portfolio, I’d say go for it. The market outlook may be slightly down now, but there will always be a need for people who are skilled in more than one area.

  15. I have an MBA from a top US school but as others have pointed out that was no guarantee of employment in tough times (2000-02). It’s useful if you want to break into a front office role (not a guarantee and you need to go to a top 10 school). However, if you already work in i-banking/sales & trading, I wouldn’t bother – save your money and stick to your career (especially in London where there is much less of a premium placed on MBAs than in the US).

    Class of ’99 MBA Reply
  16. Then probably NYU made poor admissions decisions letting those 40% enter. I believe finding a job for someone with strong leadership skills wouldn’t be a problem even at recession times. an MBA is just a means and not a guarantee. It won’t make you a leader over 2 years, rather will teach “technical” skills be it HBS or Korean national simply because they want to see their graduates occupying top jobs worldwide.

  17. I’ve never been a fan of “story-book” courses. Invest in a real hard science.

  18. Am currently pursuing my PT MBA in one of top 10 recognized PT programs in US. I believe it will be worth the experience. Apart from networking and gaining useful management skills, it’s a value addition to get into management consulting. Then again have ur priorities right.
    I know I want to get out of the technical work grind, but I need the skills to make a decent jump. Hence the MBA.

  19. What about an MFinance VS MBA? MFin is cheaper and more focus?

  20. Hi all

    An MBA can be useful place to meet like-minded people, gain confidence and learn a few theories but c’mon is it really worth shelling out 40,000+ to climb the career ladder. I don’t think so. But just to illustrate my point with some evidence I’ve done a little experiment.

    I’ve just been examining the heads of the FTSE 100 companies – and I must say this has been quite revealing. Contrarily to popular dogma, an MBA is NOT a prerequisite to securing a senior management position – if you don’t believe me take a look at this:

    Philip Yea, CEO of 3i – no MBA
    David Bennett, CEO of Alliance & Leicester – no MBA
    Michael Turner, CEO of BAE Systems – no MBA
    Tony Howard, CEO of BP – no MBA
    Ben Verwayaan, CEO of BT – no MBA
    John Silvester Varlay, CEO of Barclays – no MBA
    Willy Walsh, CEO of British Airways – no MBA

    And I’ve only got up to letter B!

    I don’t believe you should believe all the hype these business schools are telling you. If you don’t have the patience to work your way up like these guys did then I guess an MBA MIGHT push you up a few rungs – but is it really worth investing 40,000+ of your hard earned money?

    Just something to think about

    common sense girl Reply

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