There are certain skills that anyone graduating from an MBA program ought to possess. Here’s a quick breakdown.
I am less than halfway through my MBA program. However, graduate school is not like undergrad; you have very little time from your admission into your program until you have that diploma in hand, trying to make waves with new (or maybe your current) employers. Even as a part-time student, I should be finished in the spring or summer of 2012, which will be here before I know it. Only two short years to meld myself from the earner of a BA to someone who is a “Master of ____.” Yeah.
It is also a bit unsettling to me to see the wide range of quality and content of the huge variety of MBA programs out there. The traditional MBA degree was a program geared towards the creme de la creme of the corporate world to equip them with advanced methods to take their respective businesses to the next level. While I am open to updating this classic model, I don’t think that we should throw the baby out with the bath water. The MBA should always be a professional, practical degree that progresses beyond the scope of business courses taught at the undergraduate level.
However, this easier said than done when it comes to an MBA. MBA students do not all come from similar backgrounds, nor should they. Truth be told, the admissions staff of an MBA program should assess the candidate’s leadership ability, quantitative skills and work experience/goals before admitting them into the program. Sadly, though, it is too difficult to turn a blind eye away from the tuition dollars that can come from a less-than-qualified candidate. To the chagrin of all business professionals, there is an MBA degree program out there for just about anyone, regardless of your background or your abilities. (And believe me, as someone who works about 20-30 hours per week on MBA studies and projects, this does not make me smile!)
So I am far from an expert, and maybe even a bit premature with this. But in my opinion, if you are an “MBA,” then you should have skills/abilities with the following (at the very least):
- Know how to produce and interpret a company’s annual report.
- Understand how the stock market works.
- Know how to use a financial calculator.
- Be able to produce a SWOT analysis of a business without breaking a sweat. (God help you if you don’t even know what a SWOT analysis is!)
- Be an intermediate to advanced user of MS Excel, AND know how to incorporate Excel-generated graphics into external reports.
- Communicate effectively in spoken, written and non-verbal mediums on a consistent basis.
- Be able to thoroughly evaluate marketing strategies and identify pitfalls and returns on investment.
- Understand and be able to evaluate and/or help implement a company’s IT strategy.
- Be able to create, identify and modify work-flow processes and create proposals to maximize efficiency.
- Know the basics of business and tax laws.
- Possess a leadership toolkit.
- Be proficient with technology tools and applications, especially those tools which have the ability to maximize efficiency and communication.
For sure, there are MBA programs that do not teach courses that address these areas. But that should be fine, if you properly identify the right candidates for your program. Take myself, for example. I would not have been accepted into the classical model of an MBA program because I lack the right work experience. (I have never held the job title of “manager,” ever.) However, I am the executive head of a non-profit and I do have extensive experience with technology and working for small businesses. Also, my liberal arts BA equipped me with above-average communication skills. Shame on the MBA program that gives courses on how to use MS Powerpoint and MS Word. You should discern that applicants have these skills before you admit them into the program. That way, this short time (one to two years) can be maximized as a way to produce professional business leaders, as opposed to just-competent office workers.