First introduced in the United States during the 20th century, the MBA is today an indispensable step for business professionals wanting to enhance their careers and move ahead in the international community.

An MBA serves as a career booster in the corporate hierarchy and consequently for salaries (through an average 30% increase). Graduates have the greatest chance of obtaining executive positions. Indeed one of the key advantages of the degree is access to the school’s powerful alumni network. An MBA also offers a rare opportunity, that of opening up international career opportunities. MBA holders have generally mastered English along with two other foreign languages, and the American-style management techniques taught at these schools, are recognized internationally.

How to choose an MBA ?

There are more than 3,000 programs in existence worldwide. Different types of programs are tailored to meet a diverse range of student needs: full-time, part-time (with classes in evenings or on week-ends), the Executive MBA (for managers with over six years of experience, the On-line MBA, the Specialized MBA, etc. Students must have decided definitively on a five-to-six year career path before committing to an MBA program. It is imperative that candidates know exactly what they wish to get out of a program in order to define their professional goals and target future employers.

Candidates should evaluate a program by three different criteria: the quality of its academic specialization, its educational environment, and its career placement program. A school’s alumni network is another important factor, not only because it gives an idea of the level of the program, but it is also a vital source of contacts for future employment.

One can also judge a program by the looking at its requirements in terms of GMAT and TOEFL scores. For the higher quality programs, candidates should have a minimum of 250 points on the TOEFL and 600 on the GMAT. However, this is a general rule to which there are always exceptions. Some of the finest MBA programs place more emphasis on the individual and his or her personality and experience (particularly in the case of Executive MBAs).

Lastly, press surveys can also be useful when evaluating a school. The most well known rankings are those of the Financial Times, Business Week, and the Economist. But one must be very cautious when using these surveys, which are often hastily and inadequately researched. These rankings are also very subjective: schools may gain or loose as many as seven places depending on the survey.

The most reliable method to evaluate an MBA is to look at its accreditation of which Equis, Amba and AACSB have the best reputation internationally.  These groups actually send representatives to schools to assess the establishment and interview a wide range of individuals. These findings are then submitted to a committee for final evaluation. Only thirty schools worldwide can claim to meet the standards of these three organizations. The system of accreditation is vastly superior to press surveys and is the classification, which most impress company recruiters.

The MBA teaching method is based on a series of case studies, which are examined by small groups of student. That is why it is necessary to also have professional experience in order to fully benefit from the coursework. Therefore, a minimum of experience is required, as well as a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. International work experience and a fluency in English are also highly recommended. Lastly, candidates must achieve high scores on tests such as the GMAT and TOEFL to verify their potential in this rigorous academic environment. Many backgrounds are compatible to the pursuit of an MBA (engineering, commerce, finance, law, etc.), but students must have achieved a certain grade level during their undergraduate studies. The quality of their extra-curricular and professional experiences gained during their academic careers, along with coherent reasons for seeking an MBA, also play an important role in a candidate’s admittance into a program.

MBAs are designed largely for managers who have already specialized and to want to build upon their skills. In many sectors (finance, auditing, consultancy, marketing, etc.), having an MBA is the norm. Entrepreneurs also have much to gain in pursuing these studies that focus on global management, long-term planning, and essential financial strategy.  Above all, an MBA curriculum teaches students how to create and implement a sound business plan.