Considering an MBA? Wondering which program is best for you? Thanks for joining today's education Q&A with our panel of MBA experts. We're no longer taking your questions, but please send us your comments.
David M. Saunders, dean of Queen's University’s School of Business
Since joining Queen’s in 2003, Saunders has led the development of a new strategic plan for the school, launched two MBA programs and signed up top business school partners for Queen’s in Europe, Asia and South America. Saunders is chair of the Canadian Federation of Business School Deans, and a board member of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the European Foundation for Management Development.
Lisa Wiens, recent graduate of the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business
Wiens, 28, grew up in Vancouver, graduated from Carleton University and spent four years with Pollara, a marketing research firm, where she was associate vice-president. She was Ivey’s class valedictorian in April. While at Ivey, Lisa was involved in the leader project, teaching entrepreneurship to students in Eastern Europe, women’s rugby, the wine tasting club, the consulting club and the buddy program. In October 2006, she will begin working for the Boston Consulting Group in Toronto.
Matt Wallace, student, York University’s Schulich School of Business
Wallace is a second-year MBA student, specializing in finance. He has an honours bachelor of science degree in molecular biology and worked as a business development specialist in the mutual fund-hedge fund industry before he started at Schulich, where he received several scholarships. He is co-captain of the Schulich MBA hockey team and vice-president of the Schulich Finance Association.
Our moderator is Sharda Prashad, a reporter for the Star's Business section and a graduate of the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA program, and a chartered accountant.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: The discussion topic of today’s forum on choosing an MBA program has drawn a great response from prospective MBA students. We have received an overwhelming response and unfortunately will not be able to answer all of your questions. But we will try to answer as many as possible.
Let's get started.
The first question comes from a reader who wonders whether it is necessary to have a bachelor’s degree in order to apply for an MBA program. The reader wonders, "I currently have almost seven years of university education in the Philippines but I was not able to finish my course due to my family migrating here in Canada. Back home I have three years of liberal arts education and the remaining three years in computer engineering. I was on my last year of studies for my engineering course when my family migrated here. I tried entering an undergraduate program at some Canadian university but they told me I need to start all over again. Is there a program that I can bypass this recommendation and go straight to my MBA? I recently got certification like the "personal financial planner" from the Institute of Canadian Bankers, an Associate Institute of Canadian Bankers Certification and am taking the CFA LEVEL 1 exam this June 2007, plus I have two years of related work experience in a Canadian bank. Please enlighten me on my admission requirements. Thanks!!"
Dean Saunders: Generally most schools require a bachelor’s degree for entrance to an MBA program but there are some exceptions. You will have to contact each school individually to find out what their requirements are.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: Thanks David. Another reader asks whether it’s best to jump straight into an MBA program after completing an undergraduate degree, or whether it makes sense to wait a few years?
Matt Wallace, MBA student: The MBA experience is more rewarding with a couple of years of experience behind you. You’ll be able to contribute in class discussions more meaningfully, have a better grasp of general and/or specific business concepts, and have a better frame of reference for the material. Also, you wouldn’t be able to get into Schulich without at least two years’ work experience. Most of the MBAs in my class at Schulich have around four to seven years of experience on average.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: I agree Matt. I think having a practical understanding of how corporations work can only help. MBA programs use many real world examples. If you’ve already experienced the business world, you’ll be better able to relate to class content. Class assignments often require you to discuss and analyze your business experience. Many MBA programs require at least a few years of work experience.
Dean Saunders: This is a source of continued debate. Most faculty members would argue that you would gain more from your MBA if you had previous work experience. At Queen’s School of Business, we require a minimum of two years experience for our full-time MBA program. There are some schools, however, that offer a work placement as part of their program, which you may want to consider.
Lisa Wiens, recent graduate: First, it will provide you with direction in terms of your career goals and what you want to get out of your MBA, thereby maximizing your return on investment. Because of my work experience, for example, I knew that I wanted to hone a strong understanding of a business’s financial architecture, and that post-MBA I would excel in a position that was client-facing, deadline driven, and analytical. I did not know these things about myself when I finished my undergraduate degree.
As well, a class of MBA students with work experience fosters deeper learning. At the Richard Ivey School of Business, which I attended, much of the learning comes from fellow students. My class included an investment banker, a pharmacist, and a lawyer, to name a few, and the tapestry of experience and industry expertise they brought to the table enhanced my learning and the depth of our discussions. MBA students with work experience bring more practical solutions to business problems, because they’ve seen first hand what works and what doesn’t. These are the lessons that even the best textbook can’t teach.
Finally, much of the value that an MBA provides is the network you develop, and the richer the combined experience of your class, the more valuable it is as a resource. When I first considered a career in management consulting, for example, I was able to chat with classmates of mine who had worked in the industry and had a web of contacts to share. This insight was invaluable as I forged a new career path.
This is, of course, not to say that there are no merits to a program that accepts students without work experience. However, I would encourage you to think carefully about what you’re looking for in an MBA program, and make sure that the program you choose will deliver.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: The next question comes from a reader who asks a question many prospective MBA students have: Is an MBA worth the cost?
Matt Wallace, current student: As a rule of thumb, students completing the MBA at Schulich on average double their entering salary after graduation. That’s a pretty great return on investment. I believe Forbes ranked Schulich number one in the world among two-year MBA programs for return on investment. But you have to remember these are averages – some people make a lot more, others less, depending on the industry they go into, and the experience and skill set they bring to the job.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: There are rankings that show average salaries of MBA graduates from different schools. Matt makes a great point about emphasising these are averages only. In my case, I probably brought my school’s average salary down because I became a journalist rather than continuing to pursue a business career.
Lisa Wiens, recent graduate: There are two ways to think about the financial return an MBA will yield you – short-term and long-term. However, not all MBAs will earn you the same return, so it’s important to evaluate each school individually.
As a graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business, I have absolute confidence in the school’s ability to generate a sizable financial return to its graduates. In the short-term, Ivey graduates continue to earn the highest salaries among Canadian business schools and Ivey is the only school whose graduates earn more than US $100,000 three years after graduation. Personally, my salary tripled from the time I left my job to pursue my MBA at Ivey and my first year post-graduation. Longer-term, one-in-four Ivey alumni hold a position of director/vice-president and above, and Ivey has more graduates in executive positions in Canada’s top financial institutions than any other business school.
There are many factors which I believe contribute to a school’s ability to generate financial returns for its students. In making your decision, I would encourage you to critically consider each school’s alumni network, career management department, and curriculum.
Finally, I would encourage you to think beyond the financial returns. In the short-term, an MBA will allow you to advance within your current industry or make a career transition that would be near impossible without an MBA. In the longer-term, an MBA will provide you with flexibility to adapt to changes in your own interests and lifestyle, and to the general business environment. You’ll also develop friendships that will last a lifetime.
Dean Saunders: How much MBA graduates can earn varies greatly based on industry and individual experience. Our full-time MBA graduates typically see a complete return on their investment in the degree within two years.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: This reader has an interesting question, he or she wants to complete a second MBA degree. The specific question is: "I am a recent MBA graduate from Athabasca University with an GPA of 3.75. If I want to pursue another Executive MBA program in another university, will I receive exemption on courses?"
Dean Saunders: Many executive MBA programs operate on a cohort basis (everyone goes through the program at the same pace, frequently in teams) and, typically, would not provide you with any exemptions. Team-based learning is an important part of the MBA experience – something you should consider strongly when evaluating potential programs.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: When I completed my EMBA program, there was at least one student who already had an MBA. This student did not receive any exemptions.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: Dean Saunders, this reader has a very specific question: "I am a permanent resident of Canada (landed here on June 2005 on PR-Visa). I have done two years of full-time MBA from India which is called Post Graduation Diploma in Business Management PGDBM) in India in the session 1996-98, majoring in marketing. After that I was in a managerial post for four years, in India.
My query is: Am I eligible to enrol in an MBA course in any of the college or universities here without going through any pre-MBA course or some apprentice course? Secondly, even if I have to go through the same, can you throw some light on the job prospects please? I am a male of 33 years and I am more or less good in English (may not be having the Canadian or European accent but grammatically I am much better than many!).
Also, does the MBA hold as much value in Canada as it does in the US?"
Dean Saunders: PGDBM is generally recognized as an equivalent MBA in North America and, typically, people with this designation do not have to take pre-MBA courses. Given a good class standing, you should be able to enrol in a Canadian program. Speak to the MBA program directors at the schools you are interested in and find out what their graduate placement rate is and what kind of support their career services centre can provide you.
According to a recent survey that Queen’s School of Business commissioned through Environics Research Group, eight in 10 (78 per cent) executives say they would choose a candidate with an MBA over one without an MBA, if all other factors were equal. Given this response, I would say that an MBA is highly valued by Canadian business leaders.
Matt Wallace, student: There are many students in my classes from India with work experience there. You would have to check with the admissions office to see about credit transfers or exemptions, but I don’t foresee any obvious obstacles if your English language abilities are good.
(As for your question) Does the MBA hold as much value in Canada as it does in the U.S.?The MBA degree is increasingly considered the "price of admission" for anyone considering a management-level position at most companies and in most industries in Canada.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: Our next reader wonders what factors should be considered when choosing a program. The question is: "When choosing an MBA program, I am more interested in the content offered in the program at each of the universities I am comparing. Although, I would like to know, when choosing a school, is it important to also consider the reputation of the school? Or the length of time the program has been running? Newer programs, like the Ryerson MBA program, look interesting and I was wondering if prospective employers would give them any less value on my resume. Or are they are as good as the longer running MBA programs?"
Dean Saunders: The reputation of a business school should be critical factor in your decision. Schools with strong reputations will open more doors for job prospects and offer you a stronger network worldwide. In addition to curriculum, be sure to consider who else will be in the room studying with you. Ultimately, they will be members if your business network.
Lisa Wiens, recent graduate: Certainly, the content and design of an MBA program should be one of the most important factors that you consider. However, I believe that the other elements you mention, such as reputation and tenure, are also critical.
The reputation of a school is essentially its brand, and as a graduate of a school, you will carry its brand for life. Therefore, it’s important to choose a school with a reputation you identify with. I knew I wanted to attend a school that valued collaboration and had a strong reputation internationally so that I could pursue opportunities abroad … A school’s reputation will also impact your career opportunities in terms of which firms recruit at the school, and how it’s perceived by employers.
In my case, my new employer only actively recruits at select Canadian schools, so had I chosen another school, I may not have had the same opportunity. To determine a school’s reputation, it’s important to talk to as many people as possible. A good school will be able to put you in touch with current students, alumni, and employers so that you get a holistic picture of a school.
There are undeniably benefits to attending a school with a strong, extended history. The first advantage is experience. A school with longevity knows what works and what doesn’t in an MBA program. As well, an established school will have a larger alumni network for you to draw on. At Ivey, where the alumni base is over 18,000 strong, both recent and older alumni frequently return to the school to speak, to recruit, and to help current students in their career decisions. Alumni are also an invaluable resource post-graduation, as you navigate new business problems and consider new opportunities.
Matt Wallace, current student: I would carefully research the annual student calendar and course handbooks of all candidate schools to identify which programs interest you. Schools often have widely varying course offerings, particularly in specific industry segments.
Schulich offers unique programs such as the real property specialization, courses in business sustainability, and a financial service industry specialization. Most schools have a different philosophical outlook as well (Schulich’s being "global, diverse, and innovative"), and you will want to align it with yours. Handbooks can be downloaded from school websites.
As for reputation, I think its human nature that employers will have a different opinion of some schools versus others. Reputation was certainly one of the key reasons why I chose Schulich. There’s no denying that both employers and students all look at the rankings … The reputable global rankings such as FT, The Economist, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and several others give you an objective and independent opinion. As a prospective student, I would certainly take a look at the rankings when making my decision.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A reader who will enter university next year wonders if it is better to complete an undergraduate degree at a university that offers an MBA program than one that does not?
Dean Saunders: It does not matter where you do your undergraduate degree, so choose a school that offers the program that best matches your interests. Most MBA programs will accept you regardless of your undergraduate background.
Matt Wallace, student: I believe any undergraduate degree from an accredited university is accepted. Whether your undergrad school offers an MBA or not is not relevant.
Lisa Wiens, recent graduate: As you consider various undergraduate programs, I would not put too much weight on your future MBA plans. I believe your undergraduate years are a time to find new passions, meet new people, and explore opportunities across multiple disciplines. Diverse backgrounds can actually add to the MBA experience. My undergraduate degree in political science taught me strong writing and analytical skills, and gave me an understanding of geo-political factors which influence business decisions, that I was able to share with my MBA classmates.
The school you chose will not have a significant impact on your application to an MBA program. Most Canadian MBA programs consider applicants with an undergraduate degree from a reputable institution, including all Canadian universities. A business undergraduate degree is not required. However, if you do decide to do an undergraduate degree in business, I would encourage you to explore relationships the school may have with its MBA counterpart. Students with an undergraduate business degree from Ivey, for example, are able to complete an MBA at an accelerated pace.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A finance professional asks, "I am finance professional with a BBA and two years of experience. I want to further my studies in finance; what is better, an MBA or a Masters in Finance? Why would I pick one over the other?"
Matt Wallace, student: I’ve not looked at the Master of Finance program specifically, but I would speculate that it’s much more research-oriented and designed for students intent on continuing in academia, perhaps pursuing their PhD. The MBA is a more well-rounded business degree that covers the entire range of business concepts, including functional areas (finance, marketing, etc.) strategic planning, corporate sustainability, leadership and governance, etc. If you’re really strong on the quantitative side, Schulich has an MBA specialization in financial engineering that you may wish to consider.
Dean Saunders: The answer depends on what you eventually want to do. An MBA in finance will allow you to be a manager and a leader with a broader sense of an organization as a whole. On the other hand, if you want to be the content expert in finance, a Masters in Finance will help you drill down and hone your skills in that area.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: This reader asks a question virtually all prospective MBA students, including me, have: "What factors would you consider for comparing various MBA Schools? "
Matt Wallace, student: I would consider my philosophical "fit" with the school’s mandate. Identifying the school’s position on Canadian business issues and Canada’s role in the global economy starts with talking to representatives and students from the school, examining marketing materials, and reading business school ranking and reviewing publications.
Next, I would consider which areas of business I’m interested in. For example, someone interested in working in the public sector would quickly learn that some schools have stronger, more focused public administration departments than others. Then, I would talk to as many people as I could from each school about their experiences to fine-tune the decision. Lastly, you want to consider location, cost, and other practical aspects.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: You also need to consider what you want out of your MBA. Are you interested in networking with students who have extensive work experience? Do you want both Canadian and American professors? Is balancing course-load and workload important to you? Do you want to change fields? These types of questions may help you fine-tune your search.
Lisa Wiens, recent graduate: In making your decision regarding an MBA program, I would encourage you to focus more on finding a program that meets your needs, rather than one where you did your undergrad. While I did my undergraduate degree at a different university (Carleton), some of my MBA classmates at Ivey did their undergraduate degree at Western, and I don’t think it had a significant impact either way.
Factors which I believe are more important include the school’s learning format (for example, is it lecture or case-based), the quality and size of the career management department, the school’s culture (for example, is it known for being collaborative or competitive), the number and quality of firms which regularly recruit at the school, the school’s reputation, and the size and quality of the school’s alumni base. Most of this information will be available online.
However, to really get a first-hand perspective on a school, one of the best things you can do is visit the school, sit in on some classes and have lunch with current students. Ivey, for example, has a formal program which allows students to visit for a day, and get a true sense of a "day in the life of an Ivey student."
Sharda Prashad, moderator: An entrepreneur asks, "After completing my undergraduate degree I would like to become an entrepreneur and try my hand at a venture. Am I at a disadvantage if I start a business after graduating? Business schools like U of T require that you have reference letters from organizations that you have worked with. Are there any schools that have MBA programs for entrepreneurial-minded folks like myself?"
Matt Wallace, student: Absolutely. Schulich maintains an entire department of entrepreneurial studies. I’ve taken several courses in this area and it’s a very eye-opening and exciting facet of business. Taking the step of launching a venture out of undergrad would be looked upon very favorably by admissions.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: I agree. You don’t necessarily need a letter from an employer since the MBA admission process considers both entrepreneurs and those who have have followed a more traditional career path. MBA programs often require a letter of intent and an interview. There were several entrepreneurs in my EMBA program.
Dean Saunders: At Queen’s School of Business, we have a whole stream of our MBA program dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship and welcome applicants with an entrepreneurial background. You can get reference letters from suppliers, customers or a member of your board of directors – not just an employer.
Lisa Wiens, recent grad: I do not believe that you will be at a disadvantage applying to an MBA program as an experienced entrepreneur. My MBA class at Ivey had a number of entrepreneurs, including Ryan Little, founder of Canada Helps and Hudson Nuptials. Ryan, as well as other entrepreneurs in my class, unquestionably benefitted from the program, and significantly enhanced my learning. In putting together MBA applications, entrepreneurs often get letters of recommendation from their mentors, partners, or customers. If you plan on continuing to pursue entrepreneurial ventures following your MBA, then certainly it is important to find a program which will hone these skills
… In making your decision, I would encourage you to talk to each school about the support it provides for budding entrepreneurs. The school should also be able to connect you with alumni who have pursued entrepreneurial ventures with whom you can discuss the merits of the school.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A reader asks, "I have heard some people mention that it is in the students' best interest to take their MBA at a different school than the one they did their undergrad at. How much of an impact do you feel that has? What if I have many very positive relationships with the professors and administration already developed?"
Matt Wallace, student: I’ve heard people mention the same thing. However, I think it’s completely a matter of personal preference – are you the type that embraces change, or more comfortable with the familiar? If you really enjoy the school you completed your undergrad at, forged many strong contacts, and would like to be a contributor to it as a grad student, then go for it.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: My own opinion is the more perspectives you can get the better. I completed my undergrad and both of my master's degrees at different schools.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A reader asks our panel to discuss the pros and cons of attending a part-time program rather than a full-time program.
Lisa Wiens, recent grad: If you are in the financial and personal position to be able to attend a full-time MBA program, there are certainly many advantages. Not only can you complete a full-time program more quickly than a part-time program, but you are able to dedicate yourself fully to the education.
In a part-time program, students are often torn between work obligations and school, and it’s often school that gets sacrificed. As well, full-time MBA students develop extremely strong bonds with their classmates because of the amount and intensity of time they spend together. A full-time MBA program provides more than just a business education; it fosters social relationships and experiences that are irreplaceable. Some of my closest friendships were developed during my MBA, and I am skeptical that we would be as close had we only seen each other a few times a month as is the case with many part-time programs.
However, part-time MBA programs are terrific for people unwilling or unable to sacrifice an income for a period of time, or those hesitant to leave their current job. As a result, part-time programs are often attractive to older students looking to advance within their current company or industry.
Dean Saunders: With a part-time MBA you continue working so you have the benefit of a steady income. Part-time programs do take two to three times longer than full-time programs, so this may put additional pressure on work and family commitments. While full-time programs take less time, you do give up your salary while in the program.
Matt Wallace, current student: Part time allows you to continue working and earning, while the workload in a full-time precludes any sort of employment! Schulich offers a very flexible program in this regard – there are classes entering three times during the year - classes start in January, May, and September - and you can tailor your own program to you needs or preference. You could go straight through the program in 4 consecutive semesters as I did (16 months total.) Or, you could take a four-month break to work, do an internship, or enjoy life after the first two semesters and then return for the final two (20 months total). Basically, at Schulich, you can switch between part-time and full-time based on your lifestyle or career demands. And you have the same MBA content, and the same MBA teachers in the part-time program that you have in the full-time program – which is a real bonus that you don’t often get at most schools.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A reader has a specific question about completing a Canadian MBA after completing a management diploma abroad: “I have just finished a Post Graduate Diploma in Business (basically 2/3 of an MBA) from a school in the U.K. I did it via distance learning but it is a fully accredited school. I was thinking of finishing my MBA on campus in Canada to get my MBA degree. I have three questions: Will I likely have problems transferring my credits? Is there any advice about how to proceed? If I do finish via the distance route, are those degrees looked down upon?"
Dean Saunders: Each university has different rules that govern the number of credits you must earn at their institution to get a degree. If your school in the U.K. is fully accredited, it is likely that most universities will honour some of your credits. You’ll need to check with each school you are considering.
When distance degrees first came on the scene, they were treated with suspicion. As they have grown, some have developed strong reputations, while others have not. I recommend thoroughly researching the reputation and quality of each program you are interested in before applying.
Sharda Prashad, Moderator: A reader wants to know whether to attend an executive MBA program or a conventional full-time MBA program?
Dean Saunders: The three critical factors to consider when comparing business schools are: reputation, network and program curriculum.
With an executive MBA program, you retain your job while you study, which means an intensive course load while balancing your duties at work and at home. Conversely, full-time MBA students leave their jobs and focus solely on their studies, but they give up their income.
Executive MBA students tend to be older than full-time MBA students and they have more work experience. At Queen’s, our Executive MBA students have an average of 13 years experience and their average age is 35.
Another major difference in the two types of programs is cost: executive programs are more expensive than full-time programs.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: I decided to complete my EMBA because I wanted to work alongside students who like myself had extensive management experience. Professors for EMBA programs recognize students are already leaders in their organizations and accordingly gear course content, discussion and assignments to take advantage of that.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A reader askes what impact technology has had on MBA programs?
Matt Wallace, student: Technology has greatly enhanced the MBA experience in many ways, especially in terms of resource access while conducting research and communication among students, student groups, and faculty. For example, wireless Internet on campus and the ubiquity of laptop computers has created a nearly paperless classroom, with students able to download lecture slides, write notes directly on the presentation, and take part in online discussion forums centering on class material.
The web-based research resources which students have access to are phenomenal, and the task more often than not ends up being deciding upon the best resource or paper rather than hunting one down in the first place.
Lastly, e-mail and course material databases form an integral part of the program. I can't imagine going through it without them.
Lisa Wiens, recent grad: I believe the most significant impact of IT on MBA programs is that it is expanding the scope of business problems that MBA students have to tackle.
As a business leaders, we need to understand the signicance of IT on our businesses. Within the classroom, technology is enhancing students' learning in many ways. To name one, traditionally, guest speakers would have to travel to the school, making it extremely time intensive. Now, speakers can talk to a class of students via teleconference, making it a much more attractive engagement for a broad range of speakers worldwide.
Dean Saunders: The Internet and other technologies have made MBA education available on a much broader basis than ever before. Students can access material 24/7, and stay connected to their team and professors throughout their studies like never before.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A reader worries she doen’t have the right type of experience to apply for an MBA program. She asks, "I have a BA in English cultural studies and philosophy and have been working in the cultural industry for a year at a sponsorship consulting agency. I am now considering doing an MBA. In terms of acceptance to an MBA program, is work in a corporate landscape necessary?"
Lisa Wiens, recent grad: Business experience is not a requirement, nor is an undergraduate degree in business. However, your learning curve will be a lot steeper than that of someone with a background in finance, for example. But that's not to say it's an impossible feat. I had no business background, and adjusted just fine to the MBA program.
In selecting an MBA program, I would encourage you to find one which caters to students from a variety of backgrounds. Ivey, of which I am a graduate, accepts students from all different walks of life. My class included a kindergarten teacher, a pharmacist, and a former politican, as well as investment bankers and consultants. As well, the school offers a pre-MBA skill development program, which will provide you with some of the business fundamentals to ease the transition.
Dean Saunders: Work in a corporate setting is typically not required for entrance to an MBA program. Most MBA programs are interested in the quality of your managerial and other work experience - not which sector you have worked in.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A reader wonders if age should be considered before you apply for an MBA program: "How old is too old to pursue an MBA and if you are in your 40s, do you still have the opportunity to increase your salary?"
Dean Saunders: From a learning perspective, you are never too old. I have seen students in top MBA programs who are well into their 40s. A salary increase would be related to your previous work experience and the type of positions you are considering upon completion of the program.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: If you have management experience, an executive MBA program could be an option. Students tend to be older as several years of business experience is needed to apply. In my program, there were many students in their 40s.
Matt Wallace, student: I don't think there is an age which is considered "too old" for the program. Most MBA classes involve group work. I've worked with many "older" students (40+ for sure!) and it's great because they have a lot to offer the group in terms of experience, and often have novel insight on topics. There are also excellent executive MBA programs offered by many schools, including Schulich, for experienced managers. It's never too late to further develop your business skills (and salary!).
Lisa Wiens, recent grad: I don't think you're ever too old to do an MBA and I do think that in most cases it will have a positive impact on your salary.
However, it's important to have realistic expectations. Many of the firms that recruit a large number of MBAs are looking for people who are adaptable, mouldable, can be trained, and will demonstrate a healthy respect for their superiors. Older candidates are sometimes perceived to be more "set in their ways," and therefore may be less attractive to large employers.
That being said, it will be important to consider how you're perceived by potential employers, and market yourself accordingly. As well, you may also want to be more selective in terms of the employers you target post-graduation.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A reader asks, "Who would be 'true' target students of executive MBA programs such as the Queen's-Cornell or the Kellog Schulich? I realize both programs posted the average or 'typical' profiles of their students such as years of experience, etc. Would someone who is younger than the average age and has fewer years of average experience relative to the typical numbers posted have a lesser chance of admitted to the program? Thanks."
Dean Saunders: The ideal student for Queen's-Cornell and the Kellog-Schulich programs is someone with an international focus who wants to broaden their opportunities and fast-track their career.
The average age of a student in the Queen's-Cornell program is 34 and the range is from 28 to 50. We assess applications as a whole - the quality and extensiveness of an applicant's work experience is a key factor in our decision.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: The program I attended did have people who were younger and with a few years less experience than others. If you are interested in pursuing an EMBA, it doesn’t hurt to attend the information sessions and ask course directors about your specific situations. You may find you need to wait a few years, but at least you asked!
Sharda Prashad, moderator: A reader asks what the impact is of enrolling in a shorter MBA program. "A number of high-powered Canadian business schools, including Western and Queen's, have focused on intensive 12-month MBA programs in contrast to the more traditional two-year, eight-month segments, program format.
What implications, if any, do you folks feel this will have for new MBA graduates when compared against graduating candidates from schools where the two-year program structure is still in place? What feedback has "corporate Canada" provided about the apparent growth in and student preference of the 1 year educational format?"
Lisa Wiens, recent grad: First and foremost, corporate Canada is looking for intelligent, strategic, well-trained graduates. If schools can develop such individuals in 12 months rather than 16, then I believe graduates will find jobs.
There are a number of factors to consider in determining what program is right for you. In a 12-month program, recruiting season comes sooner, so there is not a lot of time for "soul searching." Therefore, it is important to enter such a program with a high level of self awareness. That is not to say that you have to know exactly what job you want, but I would encourage you to think about what type of job you think you'd enjoy and why.
Additionally, a 12-month program is extremely demanding. It requires students to jump in head first and commit their full selves to the experience. If you're not someone who works well under pressure, this may not be the program for you.
Finally, a 12-month program minimizes the time you're without an income, thereby reducing the cost of the program.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: Also, a longer program allows you more time to network with your peers. Your fellow students will be future business contacts. A shorter program could mean you’ll have less time to establish this network.
Matt Wallace, student: The MBA program is a high-pressure experience to begin with. It would become even more so when you compress such a volume of material into 12 months. But once again, I think it's a matter of preference. If you'd like to approach your education as a "sprint" and that works for you and fits with your career situation, then go for it!
Schulich is quite flexible with regard to program structuring as it allows for continuous enrolment (ie. you don't have to take a semester off, you can go "straight through"), switching between part- and full-time depending on what's happening in the rest of your life, and fast-tracking with the appropriate prerequisite courses from undergrad.
With respect to corporate Canada's perception, I would say the amount of work you put into your MBA will be recognized as such, whether it took you two years or 12 months.
Sharda Prashad, moderator: I'd like to thank all three of our panelists for participating in today's roundtable discussion on choosing an MBA. Also, thanks to readers for sending in so many great questions. An MBA is a lot of work but it can also be a very rewarding experience. I hope today's roundtable helped.