MSc or MBA: Choosing the More Appropriate Qualification for You
Career Management for Engineers
MSc or MBA: Which one?
MSc (Masters of Science) v MBA (Master of Business Administration) - Choosing the More Appropriate Qualification for You
Many engineers working in industry choose to undertake a
post graduate qualification, with the aim of career advancement. Many will have
already obtained an undergraduate degree in an engineering discipline and now
see the next big step as progression into more senior roles.
This section examines and compares the MSc and the MBA – the
commonest two postgraduate qualifications engineers typically undertaken to
assist career advancement. The review considers what both offer for individuals
aspiring to senior roles. The type of MSc referred to below is a postgraduate
degree with engineering, technical or scientific content, which may also
include some aspect of management.
MSc or MBA: Which one?
MSc and MBA
- An MSc
is best suited for those who wish to retain an essentially technical role in a more senior position. The MSc
may contain management elements, therefore enabling the engineer to better
understand commercial, project or business aspects of a more senior
position they may be aiming for. Often specialised technical roles appeal
to many engineers. Examples include Engineering Manager, Technical Manager
or Principle Engineer. MScs also appeal to engineers who wish to gain more
in-depth knowledge within a specialist field of engineering or
- An MBA
offers engineers the opportunity to progress into broader roles where commercial leadership and general
business acumen are central. The individual’s technical underpinning
(derived from past experiences and their undergraduate degree), keeps them
aware of technical issues. As such, they tend to aspire to positions in
senior management and directorships where sound business knowledge is
fundamental. Examples include Engineering Director, Operations Director or
Chief Technical Officer.
- Those with MScs often make career progression moves
within their own industry, where as those holding MBAs are possibly more
adaptable at switching to other industry sectors.
- Many engineering employers would rather recruit
someone with a good undergraduate degree, chartered status and sound
industrial experience, rather than someone who has the first two qualities,
but has an MBA at the expense of experience.
- For a number of prospective employers, the reputation of the university, academic institution or business school where the MBA came from is important. Organisations
like the Association of MBAs
accredit MBAs depending on whether the content meets certain standards.
Other business and management accreditation bodies include EQUIS and AACSB. The choice of MBA should be based on rigorous research. Try MBA fairs, as well as online research, to get face to face opinions about different courses. Consider Executive MBAs (studied whilst you work), as well as international MBAs in your research. MBA content does vary, so ultimately, select the MBA that best helps you achieve your career goals.
- Some MBA business schools insist on applicants sitting an entry assessment of a range of skills, prior to admission - GMAT (General Management Admission Test). Coaching and workshops exist to assist applicants, as does support to successfully navigate the MBA admission process.
- Those who hold an MSc demonstrate a willingness to
continue updating their skills, as well as specialist knowledge in a given
topic, over and above those who only possess an undergraduate degree.
- For recent graduates, whilst an MSc is regarded as
desirable, industrial experience is often what potential employees really value.
- An MBA compliments and balances an undergraduate
degree, especially if the first degree is in a particularly acute
specialism. The MBA provides more career options and demonstrates broader
non-technical knowledge, commercial awareness and adaptability, as well as a solid grounding in a range of business operations.
- MBA holders benefit significantly from alumni networks which are national and often global. Whilst undertaking the MBA, many business schools offer first class coaching, mentoring and fundraising.
- Many engineers consider undertaking MSc and MBA
courses when they have sound industrial experience under their belt. They
feel they can contribute more, draw more on experiences and examples, and
generally get more out of studying, having spent time in the workplace.
- MBAs can be very useful for those considering starting their own
business. The qualification often immerses the individual in the entrepreneurial mindset, working on new ideas and concepts with classmates thinking in a similar way.
- Similarly, the specialist knowledge provided by an
MSc is an excellent platform from which to undertake consultancy or contract work.
qualifications can be costly. However the MBA is comparatively more
expensive. MBAs from the best business schools are very expensive. However
they are commonly seen as an investment in your future. What’s more, the
opportunities, contacts and salaries that frequently result from the
course, often make the investment worthwhile.
- Tying the advantages of an MSc or MBA specifically
to a business objective or project, is a good means of justification and
hopefully getting company assistance with some or all of the finance. A
strong advocate, sponsor or supportive senior manager will also help you justify business backing.
- Undertaking an MBA is a useful means of obtaining
the crucial management, leadership and business skills small manufacturers
need to become more competitive and grow.
- Both MScs and MBAs can be studied flexibly to suit
your lifestyle and commitments. As well as full time study, part time,
online and distance learning programmes are available. These options are
widely available from numerous academic providers
- That said, many taught MBAs are said to provide the
greatest benefit through face to face communication, sharing of learning
experiences and crucially, networking
- MBAs are available that include specialist
- Engineering subjects are said to be the most common
first degree subjects studied for those who undertake MBAs.
- Both qualifications can potentially lead to increased salaries. A common
progression route is one where individuals use the qualifications to advance
to more senior roles where naturally salaries are higher.
MSc or MBA
Engineering skills and a top MBA could be your way into business leadership: Courtesy of Sainsbury Management Fellows
Careers - Academic and Vocational Routes
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