Following the 2008 worldwide economic meltdown, many executives who lost their jobs noticed that even though they had years of practical experience in management, some either had outdated qualifications or just a first degree, with which they had to compete with younger, more power hungry and computer literate fresh graduates.

Human resources departments were obviously investing in the younger professionals while the more experienced executives were unable to find new jobs. Therefore, executives had to resort to continue their professional development to be able to compete.

Although a Masters in Business Administration started being offered by universities as early as the 20th century in the US, when scientific management principles were being introduced to tackle inefficiency on production lines, the popularity of MBA programmes took off after the 2008 events.

An MBA programme typically covers subjects such as finance, accounting, marketing, operations and human resources from a management perspective. However MBA programmes vary significantly from one university to the other.

Some of the most important questions you have to ask before enrolling are about admission requirements. Do you have the necessary prerequisites to get in? Some universities require a higher diploma while others value experience as well.

Then there is the issue of affordability. If your employer is going to finance the entire course, or part of it, will they be expecting you to remain on board for a number of years? Also, can you expect a promotion once you have completed your MBA?

Most people who decide to enrol in an MBA programme are probably middle aged and have other commitments such as a family and children. Although most MBA programmes today cater for part-time studies as well, candidates still require a level of commitment and you can expect to make drastic changes to your lifestyle and forget about free time. However, keep in mind that this is an investment.

Other considerations might include the curriculum itself. Would a particular MBA align directly with your career goals? For instance, some MBA programmes focus on particular professions and industries such as technology, marketing or manufacturing. Do your research on which programme best fits your career path and aspirations.

Another important concern you have to address before pursuing an MBA programme is whether you are looking to change careers completely or whether are you eyeing a promotion you think you deserve in your own present organisation, but are unable to attain it due to invisible barriers, such as age and sex. This comes into play when choosing the education institution itself, as a particular university might be valued more in certain industries and this will help you overcome these barriers.

If we look at an MBA course as an investment in yourself, then we have to look at what return on this investment you can expect. A recent study carried out by the Financial Times found that on average, MBA students are expected to break even after six years from graduation. However, most managed to obtain a better job or a promotion in less than a year of finishing the course. Compared to other post-graduate degrees, an MBA provides one of the fastest returns on investment. Although no similar study is available for the local scene, we can safely assume that we are following similar international patterns as well.

Deciding on whether to pursue a part-time or full-time course will make a great difference, not just financially, but also because you will have to take some time off work and might lose touch with the daily running of a business. Moreover, once you return to your place of work you might even need retraining. On the plus side though, you will find that if you pursue a full-time course you will be completely focused on your course and studies.

On the other hand, a part-time option will mean that you will keep your daily routine - however it may take a toll on your personal life and might mean that you will have to find time for studying and following the course itself instead of spending time with your family and pursuing your leisure activities.

Local accreditation is extremely important, especially if you are planning to apply for work with a governmental organisation or public entity. In Malta, a national qualifications framework exists which deals with recognition and comparability of certificates issued by both national and international educational institutions. The competent authority is the National Commission for Further and Higher Education. A recognised MBA would typically score on level seven of the Malta Qualifications Framework. All local institutions need a licence issued by the NCFHE to provide such courses and ensure that comparability is maintained while the NCFHE also keeps a database of foreign recognisable qualifications and institutions online. It’s best to check with this database or contact this office before investing time and money in pursuing an MBA course.

Before enrolling in any course ensure that you shop around and get as much information by requesting brochures and handouts. Check class composition and tutors and if possible visit the campus to check facilities and get a better feel about the learning environment itself. If the course is carried out by local representatives, make sure you talk to them first to see what level of support they provide.

An MBA is a huge investment in both time and money and you should not take a decision to join a particular university or institution lightly. Most schools today focus on the post-graduation experience as well. Some universities will not only give you the theoretical skills you need but also help you in networking opportunities to find a well paid job, better suited to your capabilities and even provide support and references even after you finish the course itself.

• Ian Vella blogs on

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