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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 29, 2009
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Ability Always in Demand
July 29, 2009 By Michal Jeziorski   
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Despite the economic crisis, the number of applicants for MBA courses is growing. When things get tough on the labor market, higher qualifications become more sought after. A decision to take an MBA course is seen as evidence of a professional maturity and the ability to careful plan a career.

When jobs are secure and salaries high, people turn their minds to vacations rather than to gaining extra qualifications. It takes great determination then to take a postgraduate course. A crisis, on the other hand, opens your eyes and makes you think. Employees deciding to take an MBA course today stand only to gain from their choice. This is a wise and positive reaction to the current crisis and is sure to be rewarded in future. In their search for qualified staff, employers are eager to hire MBA graduates.

MBA courses are not based on lectures. Students don't learn rules by rote, but learn using specific and often real-life examples how to solve a wide range of problems they might encounter in their work. Economic problems are translated into the language of practice, MBA students are taught how to find solutions to problems and not what theories have to say. Team work, case studies and data analysis and processing are the main fields of focus on an MBA course. Classes involve non-standard teaching methods, such as virtual discussion groups, management workshops and video-conference sessions. Strategic computer games are another unusual tool, allowing students to test their newly acquired skills under conditions that simulate a real business environment. MBA courses don't teach the basics, as students should already be familiar with those. A classic MBA course will cover managerial accounting, financial management in companies, statistics, logistical management, strategic management, marketing and economics. Popular supplementary classes include ethics, business psychology and labor resources management.

MBA studies are intended for professionally mature people with goals who have a clear vision of their professional development. Furthermore, they have to have a university education-a master's degree; high school graduates are not eligible. This is an important rule and a fundamental condition for maintaining the prestige and elite nature of this kind of course. Another prerequisite for taking an MBA course is at least two years of professional experience. This isn't just another school you go to after graduation, it's a course for people who have already started work. Working on case studies requires not just book learning but above all practical experience. Someone with professional experience who has to solve problems and make decisions on an everyday basis can be a partner in such a discussion. Course participants learn from the teachers but also from one another. You also need a certain predisposition to enroll on an MBA course. A candidate needs to have the qualities of a good manager, among them the ability to define goals and create new projects, together with the interpersonal skills which are essential in management. Some schools use psychological tests to check applicants' interpersonal and managerial skills.

Choose carefully
Another essential requirement when enrolling on an MBA program is knowledge of a foreign language. Most MBA courses in Poland are bilingual, taught in Polish and English. An MBA offered in Polish alone is suspect. A proper MBA is a sign for prospective employers that a candidate really knows a foreign language. Schools concerned about their reputation test candidates thoroughly. Language skills are checked during an interview or in a language test. For English, this is the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), required by most MBA programs around the world.

An MBA course may also be taught in a different foreign language. In the west of Poland, for example, courses taught in German are popular due to the proximity of the German labor market and the presence of German companies operating in Poland. MBA courses in Polish and German are offered by the Poznañ University of Economics, for example. Courses in French, on the other hand, are organized by the University of £ód¼ (Polish-French MBA Special Studies) in association with the University of Lyon Business & Management School, and also the French Institute of Management.

MBA courses taught exclusively in Polish are the least worthwhile. One drawback is the lack of contact with foreign lecturers, who are not able to impart their knowledge in Polish. In most cases, courses in Polish don't include any direct involvement by foreign partner schools, which means no opportunities for trips abroad.
What benefits can MBA graduates expect? The statistics speak for themselves. In Britain, within three years of completing an MBA course, graduates earn three times more on average than before they enrolled. Most MBA graduates receive immediate pay raises of about 40 percent. It's similar in Poland. According to an internet salary survey conducted by Sedlak & Sedlak, the average salary of an MBA graduate is about triple the salary earned by someone with an ordinary university degree.

There are about 50 MBA programs running in Poland today, over half of them in Warsaw. Almost all the programs are extramural, usually with classes on weekends. Eleven programs are provided by Polish universities working alone, 29 are run in association with foreign universities, chiefly U.S. and British. The standard is diverse and largely depends on the standard of the mother university, the reputation of the foreign partner university and the teachers' experience. Other important factors include the quality of case studies and simulations, the course's local or international language of study, and also the number of classes and the standard of the students- which depends on the enrollment requirements. Each year over 1,000 people complete an MBA course in Poland.

Prices vary-and so does quality
The prices for Polish MBA courses vary, ranging from several thousand to several tens of thousands of zlotys. The most expensive programs can cost almost zl.90,000, but courses for just over zl.3,000 are also available. In Mazovia province, where the greatest number of MBA courses are offered, the average price is zl.32,000 per course. The price reflects the quality. There are no special promotions or sales here. Lower prices mean a lower-standard course, fewer classes and fewer teachers per student. Good MBA programs should last about 600 hours and include frequent case studies. When they have to pay from their own pockets, candidates usually choose cheaper options. The most prestigious programs, which are obviously the most expensive, are usually financed by companies, which treat the outlay as a form of employee promotion and a gesture of appreciation for the employee's contribution to the company. It is also possible to obtain partial financing from the European Social Fund, but this is only available to those who are being sent on a course by their employer.

After completing an MBA course, participants receive a certificate. The most valuable kind are full certificates from a foreign university collaborating on the MBA program with the Polish college. A school offering MBA studies should have accreditation, for example from EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System), AACSB (International association for Management Education) or AMBA (Association of MBAs). MBA studies also yield many business contacts. Students work in groups, and the best way of getting to know one another is when you work on projects as a team and solve problems together. Such contacts can be useful in furthering a career.

More about MBAs
The first MBA program was launched about 100 years ago, at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. Many other universities across the United States followed this example. After World War II, MBA programs started appearing in Europe and other continents. Poland's first MBA program was launched in 1991. The Financial Times reports that among the top 100 MBA schools in the world, 57 are in the United States, 28 in Europe and just 15 in other countries and continents.
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