How do MBA Programs Prepare Students for the Business World? |

How do MBA Programs Prepare Students for the Business World?

By QS Contributor

Updated August 27, 2014 Updated August 27, 2014

Integration with businesses has become even more essential as business schools prepare MBA students for an ever-evolving economic climate. Thom Atkinson finds out why.

A high priority for most, if not all business schools is to make sure MBA students get hands-on experience within a working environment.

In North America in particular, this means a great deal of emphasis is placed on internships. Amy Wittmayer, director of the MBA career management center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, explains:

Internships are a critical factor in MBA students ultimately landing their desired post-graduate position,” she states.

“About 99% of our students receive internship offers, with many of these internship offers 'converting' into an offer of full-time employment with the same employer in the fall of their second year.”

With schools noticing a spike in demand for internships over the past few years the trend signals how students increasingly value internships as a segue into full-time positions or a stepping stone to explore career changes.

But with internships lasting only 7 – 13 weeks outside a program, modules within the course are equally as important in the preparation of students.

Both theory and case-based learning

Sridhar Balasubramanian, associate dean for the MBA program and professor of marketing at Kenan-Flagler expands on how theoretical case studies of businesses allow students to get an insight into their preferred sector.

“We rely on cases to enhance student skills at delineating the core problems faced by business, applying concepts, principles and analytical skills to solve the delineated problems, and developing effective templates for business problem-solving that students can apply at their jobs,” he states.

“At the same time, we also believe that theoretical instruction is the best way to get some fundamental concepts and frameworks across. Therefore, our curriculum comprises a robust balance of theory and case-based learning.”

Dr Ian Dougal, dean of Masters programs at Hult International Business School, concurs: “Case studies are without doubt an effective way to bring to life business fundamentals.”

“Models and theories are important, but it is setting them in the context of relevant case studies that generates the most enduring learning outcomes.

“The most successful professors of business are those who are able to harness the case method as a critical learning tool. In doing so, they are helping students to grasp the practical realities of the international business environment.”

Beyond the MBA classroom

Many institutes thinking outside of the box to instill a marketable skill set in their graduates.

Bernard Garrette, MBA associate dean at French business school HEC Paris, explains how the school thinks outside of the classroom to allow graduates to obtain a unique set of qualities transferable to the working business environment.

“We believe that leadership can be taught and developed, but the best way to do this is not necessarily classroom based learning,” he states. “One way that we reinforce this is through our participants spending two days at the Saint Cyr French military academy.

“Participants are given specific tasks to perform with objectives to achieve within a time limit, including building a raft to cross a lake, and bridge to cross a stream.”

With innovation also comes forethought on how schools prepare their students to integrate with different industry sectors, as well as honing their entrepreneurial skills.

Julia Sanchez, executive director of the International MBA Program at IE Business School in Madrid, explains: “Students learn to foster an entrepreneurial mindset and embrace change. Entrepreneurship and change management form an integral part of the curriculum and equip our students with the capabilities they need to succeed as professionals in any business environment.”

“Beyond the classroom, the faculty at IE encourages its students to carry over these skills into their professional lives; as an intrapreneur at a corporation or as an entrepreneur. Moreover, students learn to welcome change and use it to their advantage through several practical modules that focus on personal, global and organizational change.”

Re-entering the job market

The extensive range of business competitions, case studies and internships all help graduates garner sound business acumen.

However, to integrate fully with the international business sector one skill remains essential: networking.

Sarah Juillet, director of postgraduate careers at Cass Business School in London states: “In the wake of the global financial crisis, networking is the number one way our MBA students secure their next role post-MBA.”

“Across both our full-time and executive programs we have increased our careers induction to get this message across early on so that students take advantage of the many opportunities for networking that Cass affords them and to ensure they start building their network for future success from day one.”

“In addition there is a compulsory emerging markets consultancy week each year which is a fundamental part of the MBA itself. During this the candidates provide consultancy services to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in a developing market such as Brazil or Vietnam.”

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in August 2014

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