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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » January 26, 2012
Special Section: Education
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MBA: Is It Worth It?
January 26, 2012   
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Competition on the labor market means that candidates for managerial jobs face growing requirements. Choosing and graduating from a prestigious MBA course can be a major asset in career development.

The first Master of Business Administration (MBA) courses were set up in the United States in the early 20th century and are still considered the international standard for management education. Their popularity can pose the greatest threat, because as the number of MBA holders grows, the value of the degree goes down. MBA courses are the right choice for people with professional experience who are aware of their goals. First and foremost, these courses should focus on practical knowledge, which is especially important during an economic crisis. Business consultant Sławomir Duran, an MBA graduate, writes on the Golden Line forum that “the average age of a candidate at renowned business schools that are global leaders is about 30-35 years. The reason is very simple: MBA courses are largely based on working in groups on case studies. Professional experience is very helpful, so recent university graduates will contribute very little to such a group, since the program’s main idea assumes an exchange of experience among the course participants. This is a measurable benefit of MBA courses.”

MBAs in Poland
More than 1,000 people earn an MBA degree in Poland each year; the figure for Britain is 40,000 and 100,000 for the United States. The first MBA program in Poland was launched in the early 1990s. Today there are about 60 MBA programs in the country (more than 3,000 worldwide), differing in price and quality. Polish universities mainly offer standard MBA courses: EMBA (Executive MBA) and IMBA (International MBA). The rapidly developing labor market has led to increased interest in specialist MBA courses targeted at specific industries such as finance and IT or sectors such as the public sector. Standard MBA courses most often last four semesters, though two-semester ones can also be found. The front-running courses are those run in association with well-known international partners, thanks to which graduates receive degrees signed by both the Polish and the foreign business school. This is extremely important because the legal status of MBA courses in Poland is unregulated; Poland’s law on higher education makes no mention of this form of education.

Is it worth investing in an MBA?
Employers, HR experts and MBA graduates themselves agree that doing an MBA course does not automatically translate into a higher salary or a sudden about-turn in your career, but it can be an added asset. For example, if employers have to choose between two candidates with similar skills and work experience, they are more likely to select the person with an MBA.

According to Przemysław Gacek, president of Grupa Pracuj, which runs the www.pracuj.pl website, “Many employers take note not only that someone has done an MBA course but which school granted the degree. Also important is a candidate’s consistent education and career path, as it testifies to a well thought-out plan of individual professional development, and the MBA course’s compatibility with the responsibilities of the job being offered. The most important thing for an employer is a guarantee that the new employee will be able to use the skills obtained during the MBA course to effectively improve the company’s performance.”

MBA course organizers insist that the quality of these studies is no worse in Poland than in Western Europe and the United States. However, one degree is not the same as another. If we consider the prestige of the schools offering MBAs, the reputation of the foreign schools involved in these courses, the number of teaching hours and especially case studies, international traineeship opportunities, the teachers’ experience and their links to business, and the requirements candidates have to meet to enroll, it will turn out that Poland has no more than a dozen or so really good MBA programs.

FACTFILE
- The quality of the degree: The best kind are full degrees from a renowned foreign school running MBA courses together with an established Polish university
- Value for money: Whether the price truly reflects the quality a given course offers
- Whether the university offering the MBA course holds a recognized accreditation: AACSB International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), AMBA (Association of MBAs), EFMD (European Foundation for Management Development), IES (International Educational Sciences), EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System), EQL (European Quality Link), FORUM (Association of Management Education)
- What part of the course is taught in a foreign language; the extent of foreign teachers’ involvement in the course; whether the teachers have business experience
- The extent to which case studies are used; whether consultancy projects at companies are carried out as part of the course; whether visits to the foreign partner school are planned
- How long the course has been running; how the course is ranked in league tables; the enrollment criteria: schools concerned about their reputation require candidates to take tough exams. For example, in the case of English, the schools should run the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), required by most MBA courses in the world, as well as the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) that tests verbal, mathematical and analytical skills.
- The number of hours: good courses should take about 600 hours
- Whether there is an alumni association and whether you can contact its members

Krzysztof Jendrzejczak
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