Archive for November, 2008

Ask the expert: is a one- or two-year MBA best?

November 25, 2008

Dear George,

I am 32 years old and am inclined towards a one-year programme because I don’t want to spend too long out of the workplace. However, I have heard that two-year programmes are better for people who plan on career path changes and are not entirely sure of what they will do next. Do you tend to agree?

Dear Prospective MBA

An interesting question and one that has been a dilemma for many would-be MBA students.

Both parts of your question are correctand therein lies the dilemma. Yes, a shorter, one-year programme does (obviously) keep you out of the job market for less time and, yes, a two-year programme may be more suitable for people who want to change their career path.

One of the reasons two-year MBAs are better in this respect is down to the, sometimes mandatory, summer internship in a company in the middle of the programme. This helps students to assess the suitability of a career change. Not only that, but also an internship is often a prerequisite for being offered a job at the end of your degree.

However, there are some caveats here, most concerned with the current global financial and economic situation.

Spending less time out of the job market will not be important if there is, in effect, no job market. This is the reason that applications to MBA programmes are traditionally counter-cyclicalwhen the economy is down they go up.

Many applicants believe that a business school is a good place to shelter from economic storms. The idea is that you will emerge later with a shiny new MBA just as, you hope, the job market picks up.

That’s why a recession is also a good time to put into effect that dream of changing careers. Maybe your new career path will be the one most in demand in an economic upturn.

Of course, both one-year and two-year programmes have advantages and disadvantages and both are quite suitable whether or not you are planning a change of career.

But, in very general terms, if you want stay in the same career area and are pretty confidant of finding another job after graduation then a one-year programme may be best for you.

If you are thinking of changing career then two years, allowing you time to assess your new career path, may offer more advantages.

George Bickerstaffe.

If you have any advice for our prospective student feel free to post it below. If you have a question for George Bickerstaffe please email it to: AskTheExpert@economist.com

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