Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Master's degree in Management from a US Business School - without work-ex?

I am often asked what is the right amount of work-ex one must put in before taking up the MBA. Many, still in undergrad college, feel it is unfair for Busines Schools to give so much weightage to work-ex that they almost deny students who want to get in straight after their Bachelors degree.

Well, it is true that most Business Schools attach serious weightage to work-ex when evaluating candidates. And so, even though the stated position is that work-ex is only desirable, not compulsary, and even though a few candidates do make it to these schools without work-ex, the truth is that those who do are really a very small minority and most schools prefer candidates with varying lengths of work-ex.

But there is another interesting development lately. An increasing number of Business Schools are offering a Masters degree of Management , admission to which is open to candidates without work-ex. And I'm not talking about the "Deferred Admission" options like the 2+2 program at HBS, or the YLP or Early Entry options at ISB. Those are only different routes to their regular MBA program, wherein these schools pick out exceptional candidates while still at undergrad college and promise them deferred admission after they complete a prescribed duration of work-ex.

Rather I'm talking about the MIM (Masters in Management) program being offered by many universities in the US and which is available with little or no work-ex.

So does this represent a change in thinking on part of the B-schools? Are they now accepting that work-ex is not really important for graduate education in Management?

Actually, NO. These schools differentiate clearly between the MIM and MBA program. You can get a clue from the name of the program itself. While the MIM is a Masters in Management, the MBA is a Masters in Business Administration.

Very simply put, the MBA equips students to manage and run Business enterprises. The curriculum is much more practical. The cases discussed in the classrooms are all real life problems. The data students analyze while learning various techniques of analysis is real life data and so on. And admissions to these programs are still weighted heavily towards candidates with work-ex.

By contrast, the MIM student studies the science of Management. These programs may also use some real life data but the focus here is much more theoretical. Graduates from these programs often pursue further study of Management to a PhD level or go into academia. Those that do join the industry after the MIM program, do so at a level junior to their counterparts from MBA programs, who might join the same businesses.

So those of you wanting to pursue Management education but not keen to work before heading to a university in the US, have the option of the MIM program. But unless you are keen on studying Management as a science and continuing in research and academia, my personal advice would be to choose the regular MBA programs, though it means you will have to wait a few years while getting some good work-ex under your belt.

So let us examine why B-schools give importance to work-ex while admitting students to the MBA program. The obvious answer of course is that the various theories, analytical and decision making techniques that are learnt at a business school are more easily learned and absorbed by candidates who have faced typical work environments and who have had exposure to the workings of a Business Enterprise before coming to schools.

But there is another, and a more important reason. Students in a typical B-school classroom learn as much from their fellow students as they do from the teachers. Each class has students from different industries, geographical regions of the world, different cultures where business practices differ from eachother as does their language. And when the diverse group of students get together to discuss a Business case or a theoretical management idea, the wealth of real life experience that they bring to bear on the subject adds immensely to the quality of the discourse. Every student thus gets the benefit of the experience of every other student in the class.

So be clear what your objectives are from your Management education and choose the program that works best for you. The important thing is to know that both options are available.

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