It may seem puzzling to choose a business school from among over 13,000, but it gets easier when you know what features to look at and how to make your pros and cons list to assess the quality of the different schools and find the one that fits your personal needs and goals.
So, you have already decided to broaden your knowledge, earn precious experience and improve your career development chances through pursuing a master’s degree. Now you face the difficult task of choosing the perfect school that will best serve your needs and meet your ambitions. What should your pros and cons list include?
A decision to pursue a master’s degree is usually related to an ambition to find a fascinating job with development opportunities and make a difference. So, in the process of choosing the right school, you should look at the career options that schools offer. You can ask business schools’ career centres for information about the professional development of recent graduates. Schools’ job services usually provide statistics about alumni’s career development, such as how long does it take to get a job, in what fields graduates work, salary levels. You can also easily get information about the number and the type of companies that offer internships and recruit on campus in order to see if they match your needs.
Programme content and quality
The costs for a master’s degree can vary significantly, as annual tuition can run from about USD 5,000 to as much as USD 40,000, and you should add also costs for books and accommodation. To be sure that your investment will be rewarded, you should carefully study the content of the different programmes and evaluate their quality. Choosing a course should not be based on the lowest costs model or on the hypothesis that more expensive means higher quality. Financing your studies is important, but you should pay more attention to the specific features of the programme, to the reputation of the school and faculty staff, to the experience you could gain and to networking and career possibilities. Reputable master’s programmes combine theoretical coursework, case studies, group work and in-company placements and you should check whether the particular elements of a certain programme meet your needs and objectives.
Amidst increasing globalisation, the need for professionals with multicultural knowledge and international practice is growing and business schools are meeting this demand by offering multi-campus education with an international perspective. Multi-campus programmes are typically taught in English at facilities in two or three countries on different continents, most often in Europe, Asia and North America. These courses expand learning opportunities and provide an invaluable chance to visit various places and learn how businesses are run in different regions of the world, to meet people from diverse cultures and lifestyles, and to build valuable connections. The international learning environment, the visiting of different campuses and the daily communication with students with varied backgrounds will dramatically broaden your view and experience in a multicultural atmosphere, enrich you both socially and culturally and make the education process dynamic with a wide diversity of learning approaches. This kind of global exposure is a very important benefit of choosing a multi-campus taught master’s programme.
If you hesitate between several schools offering similar master’s courses, you should consider visiting the schools and taking a short tour to examine the facilities and equipment, meet students and teachers and experience the atmosphere. All of this is an important element of choice for students, as a master’s degree course is not only pure studying, but also an enriching social experience. Considering that you will spend about two years on-campus, it is important that you like the facilities and the ambiance. And some are really amazing! On-campus students have easy access to various facilities, including the library, labs, athletic facilities, stores and eating establishments, which are a perfect place for socialising and enhancing the overall college experience. Moreover, in the on-campus social life, you may choose to get involved in activities, clubs and events, which makes the overall student experience much more satisfying, and participation can lead to a greater number of connections. Networking is an important part of higher education and many university relationships continue for the rest of people's lives.
The network matters
The extensive network that you build during a master’s course is one of the most valuable features of the education. Upon entering a business school, you gain access to a wide network of classmates, faculty staff and alumni. Networking is invaluable when it comes to job searching and also in your career development further down the road. Alumni networks are very helpful, especially for master’s graduates, who are generally looking for entry level jobs, and that should be a strong consideration when applying to schools. However, you must judge your personal needs when you evaluate a business school network. The size of the alumni network is an important advantage, as the larger the network, the better the chance that an alumnus works at your target company. Nevertheless, it is also important to take into account how active the network is, which can be discovered through finding information about how many events there are per year, how many of them are organised by the school and how many are informal meetings. The big schools have large networks, but some of them may be less connected than smaller schools’ alumni who may be more responsive and willing to help you get a job. It depends also on what kind of career you are pursuing. If you are looking to develop in popular fields, like banking or consulting, you can use the school’s career centre to find a job, in addition to the alumni network. If you are aiming at more specific or niche sectors like biotech or hedge fund management, however, the network will be much more helpful.
Accreditation is an objective way of assessing a business school’s quality. To be accredited, a school must adhere to high quality standards based on the latest research and professional practice. An accredited institution must continue to demonstrate during regular review cycles that it is developing and growing, not just maintaining existing standards. There are three business school accreditation associations which are the biggest and most influential – AACSB, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, based in Florida, with an Asia office in Singapore; AMBA, the Association of MBAs, based in London; and EQUIS, European Quality Improvement System, based in Brussels. A total of 57 business schools worldwide have the so called ‘Triple Crown’, meaning they are accredited by all three agencies. A much greater number of schools are accredited by only one of the three majors, which does not lower their quality. In addition, there are many regional and national agencies that supervise standards for business schools within their region or country.
Rankings provide useful information for master’s candidates as a general indication of quality. It does not make a big difference whether a school is ranked number 5 or number 10, it is more important whether it is in the top 20, top 50, etc. It is also essential that an institution remains stable in the listings over the years. "Rankings are very important when it comes to choosing a business school. But I think that considering the investment in time and money, it's a wise decision to instead opt for a programme that actually fits with who you are and what you want,” says Pablo Esteves in The Economist’s forum.