Dr Michael Shulver, director of online content, Online MBA and the Online MSc International Business at Birmingham Business School, has just got off the phone with a senior research scientist with a PhD in Epidemiology.
The scientist works at a UK Government Laboratory, leading teams conducting clinical research and testing. They are interested in pursuing an MBA but concerned about not having a strong enough business background.
Requirements for an MBA, Michael explains, usually dictate that a candidate has a minimum of three years’ managerial experience, but the candidate Michael spoke to clearly stands out with their vast experience in a non-traditional area for MBAs, and clear leadership experience and a proactive attitude in furthering their own knowledge base.
“It would be too easy to interpret that requirement narrowly”, he adds. “Frankly, if the candidate I talked [to] applied for a program I would bite their hand off!”
So, this person is the ideal candidate?
“They clearly have the intellectual ability, and have been involved in leadership roles,” Michael says. “Is this individual ideal? Who knows. A better question would be, what does the typical candidate look like?”
For the Online MBA at Birmingham Business School—the world’s first AMBA accredited 100%-online MBA—the candidate criteria are “pretty much” the same as the campus-based, or executive program.
Michael says they typically attract mid-to-senior managers looking to move into more general management, or perhaps to make a shift into a different sector, or role.
They often tell him they want to make themselves more “attractive” or “marketable” in the jobs market. Others explain that they have a craving for more knowledge and want to hone their understanding of business and management.
That’s the case with the candidate Michael spoke to. “The research scientist is moving into commercial domains as they get a promotion in their organization,” he explains.
Generally, he adds, an MBA does help with the sought-after career advancement. But, there are caveats.
“A lot of people think an MBA is a ticket into a new specialization or a job. It’s not—no one hires anyone just because they’ve got an MBA,” Michael says. “People are hired because they have relevant experience and have demonstrated capability and competence.”
That translates to being honest in the application process. Daniel Chicksand, program director of the Online MBA at Birmingham Business School, says candidates shouldn’t cover up gaps in their CVs with falsehoods.
“We are, as admissions tutors, very good at finding holes in a CV or a candidate’s career timeline,” he says. “If you have a gap, don’t worry about it. If you took six months to run a beach bar for self-development that is absolutely fine. Don’t try to make out that you were chief executive in charge of cocktail development, or surfing.”
Daniel confirms that the Online MBA accommodates candidates looking for strong networking opportunities and peer-to-peer interaction. “Our Online MBA has active students from -8 to +8 GMT. In practice, that means from Davis, California, all the way to Sydney.”
Students on the Online MBA work together in groups with peers from around the globe. Fortnightly live sessions connect tutors, lecturers, and groups of students in an interactive, online learning environment—the sessions are two-and-a-quarter-hour long. Students are also often placed into group work exercises which – intentionally – are culturally diverse.
“The fact is, on our Online MBA people are networking internationally all the time,” says Daniel.
So, should you study an online MBA?
As an applicant, it seems clear cut. An online MBA could be the catalyst you crave for career progression, or if you want to augment your understanding of the concepts of business and management.
If you can prove you have the leadership ability, and come from a non-traditional MBA background, the door just might be open for you.