The MBA is arguably the most transformational degree possible. The graduate business diploma is often used as a means of not only progressing immensely in a person’s career track but, quite often, as the tool necessary to completely redirect one’s professional life and change his or her career direction entirely.

MBA programmes are designed to give you the sense, skills, knowledge and confidence you need to enter senior management and executive positions. In fact, few leading corporations will consider you and give you a chance to approach these positions if you don’t hold the degree. For that – if you are looking for the fastest way to get into upper management positions in the organisation where you are currently working, or within your dream business area – you will need to get an MBA.

However, many people choose to pursue that particular degree not because they want to advance in their former careers but because the degree gives the greatest flexibility when it comes to future career prospects and is the best tool for completely changing a person’s career direction. Up to 90% of MBA candidates consider switching careers during their time on campus.

Within just one or two years you can learn the skills and gain the context you need to launch in a new direction. With so many using an MBA to switch to a new direction, the career management centre at your business school will understand what kind of support you’ll need in the process. To help you discover what you want to do, most business schools offer a variety of activities such as hosting panel discussions with representatives from various industries.

Read: The MBA as a Bridge to the Real Business World

There are student groups you can join such as the investment banking, new venture or property group and there are also networking opportunities with alumni who may be in a position that interests you. According to a survey by Access MBA in 2013 of its entire database of registered prospective and current MBA students, 12% of the European, 14% of the North American, 9% of the Asian and 8% of the Middle Eastern candidates pursue an MBA to change their career industry.

In addition, the versatility of the MBA and the diverse set of courses offered ensures that once they graduate, students have a global understanding and knowledge in a wide range of business areas, thus being suitable for a variety of prospective positions in different industries. That is why, not surprisingly, almost 50% of all surveyed candidates globally say that they decided to do an MBA in order to enrich their professional profiles or in other words, to acquire skills and knowledge that can make them successful across many fields and job functions after graduation.

From MBA to Corporate

Getting an MBA degree can be a part of one’s growth as a manager. For many business areas, the career acceleration and the progress from an average employee to a manager is made by proving a person’s value to the organisation. However, if you target not simply the mid-level management position but the C-post, you should do more.

The MBA degree can be the trigger for your career growth. Many think of the MBA as the key catalyst to their career advancement. The bulk of MBA degree holders decide to apply for the programme at a time in their professional development when they want to go into management. They have clear professional ambitions, being at a point when they know exactly what they want from their further career. And this is why the MBA comes in very handy here – it is the tool that can give you the cutting-edge profile needed for advancing up the corporate ladder.

A huge part of the MBA programme is based on the participants’ sharing and on their exchange of experience, success and failure stories, and their diverse encounters with various real business issues. That’s why many business schools have set work experience as a criterion for MBA aspirants. 

Admissions people are looking to see if you’ve had enough experience, and enough failures and managerial challenges to add to a class of very demanding MBA students. That is, they are demanding a lot from you. Can you contribute to their education?” says Betsy Massar, a B-school blogger and MBA admission consultant. “I’d say all top B-schools would consider students straight from undergraduate... But they’d need to show significant spikes in their profiles and impressive accomplishments that compensate for not having formal work experience in a regular corporate setting. For instance, the applicant may have launched an entrepreneurial venture as a student and had an unusual amount of success with it (maybe sold it off to a bigger player),” says MBA consultant Sameer Kamat Kamat. However, such scenarios are really a huge exception to the general rule.

All in all, the MBA is the most flexible degree in the world. Not only can you choose from a number of formats – you can do it part-time or full-time; you can select the general programme or a specialised one – but you can also use it as the tool to either advance in your former career and score upper-managerial positions or to take on a whole new career path.

Read: The Benefits of Volunteering on Your Own Career

From Corporate to MBA

Many MBA students see the degree as a seal of approval, a catalyst for getting better jobs, juicy salaries, and managerial positions. However, plenty of MBA students come from various corporate degrees and have chosen the degree because they are contemplating a change in their professional future. Having a background in a corporate environment is extremely useful while doing your MBA degree. A number of MBA students go on to pursue careers in various NGOs and other non-corporate institutions once they graduate.

The MBA diploma once again proves its flexibility – the set of practical skills and theoretical knowledge that you gain throughout the programme along with the diverse experience that all students share and the diverse real-life case studies and projects developed as assignments often inspire people to move on to something new upon graduation, instead of going back to their corporate jobs. That’s the case with Gil Rabbie, who has an LBS MBA diploma and a prior chemical engineering diploma from Imperial College (UK). “I had considered making a career switch to a commercial direction for some time and eventually decided that I wanted to achieve that by learning best practices, cross-functionally from all over the business world: understanding corporate strategy in addition to how to finance start-up ventures, appreciating macroeconomic growth trends as well as improving negotiating and other communication skills. I felt that an MBA would be the best way to combine what I had learnt ‘on the shop-floor’ and build a broader sense of perspective on those foundations,” says Mr Rabbie.

Learn more about MBA programmes at Imperial College Business School by taking a look at this handy school profile.

The MBA can change your horizons and it can be a positive transformation. “Like most of the students who choose to go to INSEAD and begin the fantastic MBA adventure, I started with an open mind and a set of clear ideas of what my future should look like. However, after just a few weeks and the first interactions with students, faculty members and guest speakers, I realised that lots of doors were open to me. Suddenly, I could even see myself as a creative entrepreneur when I initially came from a big corporation,” Anne Dumesges, INSEAD MBA 2007 class says.

The MBA is indeed a transformational degree that can open many doors. It can help you completely change your professional life, go from one continent to another, from one business sector to another, from the private sector to the public and vice versa or start your own entrepreneurial venture. It can be applied to various cases due to its rich content. It would be hard to find a degree richer in content than the MBA. That’s why the degree is very valuable and incomparable to any other business degree.

Its content provides broad knowledge and an arsenal of skills that are highly appreciated in a number of business sectors and areas. In general, MBA programmes are structured around core courses and elective courses. The core courses are aimed at providing students with the analytical tools necessary for academic training in the key management functions, as well as a working knowledge of these functions. The core courses are divided into three types of courses – analytical, including accounting, economics, operations research, organisational behaviour, and statistics; functional, which includes financial management, human resource management, marketing management, and operations management; and ethics, including corporate social responsibility and business ethics.

During the second year, when the electives are delivered, students pursue a specialised curriculum which could be specialisation in finance, international business, risk management, project management, marketing or entrepreneurship. Due to its rich content, the degree is so versatile that a person can decide to use it in a number of ways, and in every case its holder will be well prepared simply because the programme is extremely multidimensional.

Learn more about MBA programmes at INSEAD by taking a look at this handy school profile.