Since its inception in the years after World War II, the MBA has been a recognised qualification, and the individuals who have earned it have achieved a broad understanding of management skills.
It appeals most to those who wish to fast-track their careers, as well as to professionals who need to broaden their understanding of business and acquire a “tool kit” that can be used to solve business problems. The MBA became internationally recognised as “proof” that an individual had mastered a range of skills and techniques.
During the 1990s global demand led to an explosion of MBA variants — such as “international” and “executive” MBAs — but the broad thrust was that an MBA gave a rounded and interdisciplinary overview of business management.
So, when making the decision to take on an MBA, and with an MSc behind him, 29-year-old Tony Savides, who is a key account manager (associate) for a business advisory and IT company in Johannesburg, considered his career path and the intellectual investment he had already made in past studies and experience.
“The engineering discipline [which is his background] teaches an individual how to solve problems using mathematics, science and practical logic. But academically I still lacked business knowledge,” said Savides.
With the shortage of engineers in South Africa, his career path would have inevitably culminated in a senior position. And then, only much later, would he have had the opportunity to follow a managerial path.
The choice was ultimately to study an MBA to bridge the gap in his education and guide his career down a more business and managerial orientated route. Savides began the Edinburgh Business School (EBS) MBA in 2006.
Like most busy, ambitious individuals he did not have the time to accommodate the schedule of a standard business school programme.
So in his research to find the right MBA Savides was keen on a flexible programme that suited his lifestyle and his pocket. Therefore distance learning and online delivery were preferable, as they allow students to study at their own pace.
“Although rigorous and intellectually demanding, the flexible EBS distance learning programme allowed me to focus on modular study that I could fit around my work pressures,” he said.
Each module, which is entirely self-contained, provides the skills and knowledge to suit specific workplace challenges or individual career goals. While studying the MBA modules Savides found that he could apply the theory to practice, which facilitated better performance in the workplace and career enhancement.
Savides said although the EBS MBA is a distance learning programme, lectures are just a click of a message away, and the online multiple choice questions and case studies help with exam preparation. There is also an online forum in which students can interact and discuss the course or general subjects.
According to him the relevance of an international MBA in South Africa is enormous.
“There is an ever-increasing demand for students and professionals to gain experience of globally accepted business practices. Having an international degree is definitely a plus,” he said.
When investigating the cost perspective, Savides discovered that most of the international (and even some local) MBA options were costly. Because his studies were self-funded, Savides favoured the option of purchasing only relevant modules when needed instead of purchasing a whole programme, which constitutes a much more “financially friendly” option.
Savides’s advice to those considering an MBA is that they should not commence it if they are half-hearted about it.
“An MBA is not difficult — it just requires long hours, hard work and intense commitment. However, like most things in life, the hard work pays off,” he said.