Choosing an MBA Program in Canada

As today’s business world becomes increasingly complex, skilled professionals with advanced degrees will continue to be in high demand. Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs in Canada are designed to equip students with the skills that are necessary to meet the sophisticated needs of contemporary businesses. Denise Baker, assistant dean of the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, remarks “While you can learn these skills on the job, pursuing an MBA degree can accelerate your skills development and career progression.”

Once you have made the decision to pursue your MBA degree, you must decide which program to attend. Take the time to research your options thoroughly and pick the program that is right for you.

Benefits of an MBA

You may be thinking that in today’s tough economic times, financing your degree will be a challenge in itself. No doubt this is a valid concern. According to Statistics Canada, average graduate-level tuition and fees for the 2009/2010  term were around $ 20,564 (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/091020/t091020b4-eng.htm). Rather than focusing on the short-term costs, however, think of earning an MBA degree as an investment that has the potential to deliver long-term value. In the meantime, there are several forms of financial aid including scholarships, loans and fellowships that are available to help finance your degree.

According to Statistics Canada, median annual earnings for master’s degree recipients employed full-time in 2007 were around $60,000. Master’s degree recipients earned, on average, 33% more than individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree alone. The agency also reports that business, management and public administration are among the nation’s top three fields of study. If you are seeking to advance your career, change careers, increase your earning potential or even start a business, an MBA degree can take you where you want to go.

Kathy Murphy, president of the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Education and Development (CEED) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, received her MBA degree from St. Mary’s University. Murphy reveals that, when deciding upon an MBA program, she sought “to be in a program which had a strong focus on leadership development.” She credits much of her career success to the skills she acquired during her MBA studies. “The MBA program allows you to explore many areas of business that equate to a value-based client focus, and an ability to identify opportunities and utilize the skills of the team to affect positive outcomes,” says Murphy. “Since graduating in 2006, my degree has led me to more challenging executive level positions. [In] my current position as president and CEO of the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Education and Development, I have the confidence and skills to lead an organization with 30 employees and a significant operating budget.”

Assess Your Circumstances

MBA programs are available in several different forms. Although the MBA is a versatile degree that allows for great career flexibility, establishing goals in advance will enable you to select the type of MBA degree that effectively aligns with your long-term career plans. “Matching your goals with what the school offers is really important,” says Heather Christensen, executive director for the MBA Programs Office at the Alberta School of Business. General MBA programs provide comprehensive instruction on a broad range of business-related subjects. In contrast, specialized MBA programs are much more focused and allow students to develop a specific area of expertise. Advanced MBA programs give students the opportunity to earn an advanced degree in business and a secondary degree in another area such as management or finance.

In addition to career objectives, personal circumstances will also influence your decision. If work or family obligations bind you to a certain geographic area, your program selection pool will automatically shrink. Fortunately, several schools in Canada offer online MBA degree programs for students who need more flexibility. Pursuing an MBA degree is a challenging endeavour which requires dedication and commitment. Whether you attend classes online or on campus, determine whether or not you can realistically handle the workload of a full-time MBA degree program. If not, a part-time MBA program may be a more practical choice. Keep in mind however, that part-time programs usually take longer to complete. If you prefer the fast track, accelerated-one year MBA programs are also an option.

Before you can begin your MBA studies, however, you must first get accepted by the program of your choice. It is important to be aware of and ensure that you meet a program’s minimum admission requirements before applying. Although exact requirements vary by institution, all MBA degree programs in Canada require applicants to hold an undergraduate degree. Some programs will only admit applicants who meet their minimum score requirement for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT); others do not require applicants to submit GMAT scores. Certain programs may also require applicants to possess between one and three years of prior work experience.

Evaluate Your Options

Canada is home to some of the world’s top MBA degree programs. However, no two programs are exactly the same. Determine what type of educational environment best suits your individual style of learning. Some programs will emphasize a certain teaching approach such as group work, lectures or research projects, while others utilize a combination of approaches. Class sizes may also have an impact on your overall learning experience. Large classes can provide greater opportunities for networking. On the other hand, small classes offer closer settings with more instructor access. Your classmates will be both your colleagues and your competition, so you may want to obtain student demographic information including age range, gender ratio, ethnic diversity, and years of work experience.

A carefully constructed exit strategy is essential for a productive post-graduation employment search. Find out the average employment prospects for graduates of the MBA programs you are considering. Learn the extent to which each program will assist you in finding a job after you graduate. Consider programs that have solid connections within the business community and a good reputation with employers. Earning a degree from an MBA program with a good reputation and high recruitment potential will make you more attractive to employers. Since accreditation status can potentially affect a program’s reputation with employers, consider choosing a program that is accredited by one of Canada’s leading accrediting institutions such as the Association of MBAs (AMBA), the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). As Christensen points out, “Not all employers look at this but certainly the larger employers would recruit from schools that are accredited.”

 

Resources

With so much information to consider, researching potential MBA degree programs might seem a bit overwhelming. There are many resources, however, that can help you with your search. The international rankings provide information about the quality of different MBA degree programs around the world. Each year, several prominent business publications including The Financial Times, Canadian Business, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Business Week publish lists of MBA programs which they have determined to be the among world’s best. According to Baker, “At least five Canadian MBA programs are ranked in the top 100 worldwide by The Financial Times.” These publications base their conclusions on data that they collect from the programs’ faculty, current students and alumni. They gauge overall program quality, entry-level graduate salaries and post-graduation employment rates and career advancement. While rankings can be a useful resource, remember to use them sparingly. Since each publication establishes its own set of criteria, the results are not uniform. As a result, a program that ranks high on the list in one publication may rank significantly lower in another.

For more factual information about an MBA program, examine the program itself. Look at their website or speak with a representative to learn about program requirements, class sizes, student demographics and primary instruction methods. Career Centres can give you information regarding job search assistance and industry connections. Financial Aid Offices can help educate you on the different forms of financial assistance available and how to apply. Admissions representatives and faculty members can inform you about admission requirements and help you determine what type of MBA degree is right for you.

Make it a point to speak with students who are currently enrolled in the MBA programs which you are considering. This will give you an idea of what the program is like from a student’s perspective. Remember to speak with individuals outside of the institution as well. Alumni have already completed the journey that you are about to begin. Contact several members of the programs’ alumni and inquire about their experiences both in the program and after graduation. Among the most important resources at your disposal are employers. Contact companies that you are interested in working for and find out which schools they recruit from and hold in high regard.

Finding the right MBA program requires time and diligence. However, with careful planning and a little legwork, the result will make it well worth the effort.

Editors Note: For help with financing your MBA Degree visit BQ Scholarship Consultants. Another great resource to help with choosing a university either in Canada or the USA is The Easy Way to American and Canadian Universities

Tamara Moffet

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