If an online MBA or a traditional, face-to-face MBA is an investment then return on investment should be measured. There are several ways to do so.
One is by looking at the income of the MBA student, comparing their salary when they were a prospective student to what they’re earning a few years after they graduate with an MBA or executive MBA (eMBA).
Another is around career progression. From the career opportunities faced by the prospective student to two or three years after graduation, has the MBA graduate’s career progression accelerated?
Then there’s the measure of skills and traits earned by completing an MBA program. These are the powerful pieces of knowledge introduced via coursework and given real-world meaning and perspective through assignments and projects during the MBA, whether online classes, face-to-face, full-time MBA, part-time MBA or own pace.
These, not coincidentally, are also the ingredients employers are looking for in MBA graduates. They are also the secrets to success for those walking the entrepreneurial path.
So, what exactly are these skills offered by an MBA, and why are they so valuable to the MBA graduate and to employers?
Here, we run through the major skills, characteristics and traits acquired through the MBA graduate degree, skills that make the success of an MBA program and the power of an MBA accreditation clearly measurable.
Whether working within a major corporate, launching a start-up or improving society in a not-for-profit, success is infinitely more difficult without powerful leadership skills.
When teams are engaged in a leader’s vision and motivated to make it a reality, the power of the individual leader is multiplied exponentially.
If there is one thing the COVID-19 crisis has taught us, it’s that the human resource is the most powerful resource. Whether together in an office, distributed across smaller hubs or working from home, a group of people sharing a common goal and motivated to meet that goal is one of the most important ingredients in the recipe for success.
MBA courses, whether traditional, on-campus MBA programs or online MBA programs, focus deeply on the various skills involved in effective leadership as well as the traits of great leaders.
During coursework and group assignments, students can utilise their knowledge and practice their personal leadership styles in a safe, supported environment.
All MBAs require self-discipline to complete, such is the breadth and challenge of the coursework. Online learning MBAs are particularly valuable for the development of lifelong self-discipline and time management skills.
An MBA, by its very nature, develops individuals who are better able to manage numerous demands, perform with consistency and purpose in uncertain environments and provide an excellent example to their teams in terms of self-discipline and time management.
In fact, in the endlessly and rapidly changing COVID-19 environment, one of the most valuable traits in leaders will be the energy and self-discipline required to push through change and never lose focus.
What is ‘strategic thinking’, and how does it apply to the outcome of an MBA? By definition, strategic thinking is a thought process that applies with a specific goal in mind. It’s about planning for the future but with a particular desired outcome, taking into account changes, challenges and opportunities that could arise along the way.
Strategic thinking is characterised by adaptation and creativity, by measured risk taking and contemplation, by working smart rather than hard and by constantly learning, changing and adapting.
In fact, strategic thinking is about planning constant change, then making it a reality, on the way to a goal or a set of goals.
Reputable schools put strategic thinking at the heart of everything they do, teaching their business degree students the skills and self-discipline needed to always think strategically. Once job opportunities present themselves to the MBA graduate, organisations are likely to be most comfortable with those that demonstrate great strategic thinking talent.
Without the ability to communicate ideas with absolute clarity, a leader simply cannot lead. All organisational processes rely on the communication of ideas and views, theories and statistics.
Complex business problems, whether faced by a small start-up, an organisational department or a multinational corporate, must be clearly expressed and understood by all before a solution can be engineered.
Perhaps most importantly, an organisation’s culture is developed through flawless communication of ethics, values and purpose.
Throughout an MBA degree, whether it’s an online MBA degree or a face-to-face degree program, communication is developed and practiced.
Communication skills are honed in the safe environment of the business school as collaborative networking opportunities merge with coursework. This coursework brings students, teachers, academics and thought leaders from different organisations and backgrounds together to share experience, offer advice, and help each other understand their own personal communication styles.
Importantly, this also boosts students’ interpersonal skills – another essential in the field of leadership. In fact, communication and interpersonal skills are often considered the most important skills required by an organisational leader.
Almost every MBA program, whether full-time or online courses, on-campus or distance learning, covers the major business bases. The coursework in these elite business degrees include units such as finance and accounting, human resources, marketing, IT, ethics, entrepreneurship, business management, operations management, customer relationship management, and more.
Some MBA programs focus more heavily on some of these topics, and offer specialisations that introduce a deep understanding of specific areas.
This means the MBA graduate becomes a well-rounded business manager as well as a sharp leader, one with the mental and practical tools required to manage a business through any type of change or environment.
MBA graduates are well equipped to make reasoned judgement using relevant facts and statistics, taking the needs of all business units and stakeholders into consideration, to chart a safe path around or through complex challenges.
Best of all, some MBA programs, particularly online MBA programs, offer all of the above in industry-themed packages. James Cook University, for example, shapes an exceptional level of business knowledge into a package that focusses on global business. So, whether they’re trading in Australia, the United States, Asia, Europe or elsewhere, graduates of this master of business administration degree have the skills and knowledge to operate across borders.
And Southern Cross University gives online MBA students the opportunity to specialise in one of four areas – Accounting, Managing & Leading People, Tourism & Hospitality Management, and Research. All prospective students require is a computer, an internet connection, and a good supply of self-discipline.
In the business environment of recent years, one that has been shaken to its core and forever changed, the ability to identify, quantify and mitigate risk, and to utilise relevant information without being distracted by the noise, is vital.
Business has always had a strong connection to risk. In many industries, without risk there is no reward. Risk creates an environment in which profit can be made. It is ever-present, even for a not-for-profit that has the simple intention of doing social good.
An MBA student is taught to recognise and test the opportunity in risk, then to develop a strategy to safely deliver on that opportunity.
MBA degree programs are shaped to develop graduates that are experts at not only identifying and managing risk, but also at seeing in the dark.
How does this work? It’s all about understanding the power of data.
Where once the idea of ‘big data’ created a sense of overwhelm, numerous tools exist today that allow real-time analysis of various relevant and inter-related sets of data. This means that rather than flying by the seat of their pants – particularly during a storm when there is little visibility – business leaders can still clearly see what’s going on.
This includes how customer needs and preferences are changing, how markets are evolving, how staff engagement levels are changing, how cost of production in various regions compare, how the work experience in one organisation compares to another, and much more.
Previously, such real-time insights were impossible. Market research was always backwards looking. Financial reporting was always historical. Today, however, data makes it possible to see in the dark. Predictive analytics also offer a powerful view into the future.
MBA students are taught the value of data in online education classes and on-campus programs. They become familiar with tools that make real-time data analysis simple.
And so, in a fast-changing, increasingly competitive and constantly disrupted business environment, data and people who know how to read it could well be the edge an organisation needs to survive and thrive.
Where does a leader go when they’re not sure of the way forward? Who do they contact to bounce around ideas?
Who might they reach out to when they need a new staff member or consultant with very specific knowledge and talents?
One of the most powerful tools in the MBA graduate’s toolkit is their network. This is equally true for online college MBA programs as it is for on-campus MBA degrees.
Having come together, online or face-to-face, with current and future leaders from various industries, the MBA graduate has an entirely new network of experts cross industries and sectors. These MBA alumni typically become lifelong friends, staying in contact to share thoughts, discuss and analyse strategic plans, and celebrate each other’s successes.
The MBA graduate network not only adds to each individual’s capability and adaptability, but also adds to their value when it comes to job opportunities.
Employers are typically more than aware of the value of that network, and are keen to bring it on board with the individual.
And so, from broad capabilities such as leadership, communication and people management, to knowledge around particular business units like human resources, finance, accounting and marketing, and finally to skills around specific business aspects such as data analysis and risk management and so much more, MBA programs offer a host of new skills, traits and knowledge.
It’s little wonder that MBA graduates are in such demand. They truly are a higher education.