Top 5 MBA myths debunked

In recent years, many Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs have undergone fundamental changes to address reservations expressed by potential students.

Despite research showing graduates remain in high demand among rapid industry changes, some prospective MBA students still have concerns about embarking on the world’s most renowned management qualification. 

The University of Queensland (UQ) MBA Director, Associate Professor Nicole Hartley, debunks the 5 most common myths that stop people from starting their MBA journey.



Myth 1 – MBA programs are too expensive 

The 2022 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Prospective Students Survey found that the cost of the program was the top factor preventing candidates from starting and completing an MBA.

But Dr Nicole Hartley believes it’s important to look beyond the financial investment you’re making by furthering your education to the return on that investment.

“A lot of MBA graduates will make back the cost of their MBA within a few years via a higher salary as a result of a promotion or career transition,” she said.

“But beyond the purely financial aspect, you need to think about the investment in yourself both personally and emotionally. It is not often that we get the opportunity to undertake a venture that has the goal of broadening our view of the world, growing as individuals and leaders, and becoming more rounded individuals.”

Man holding money icon “You can’t measure these things, but they are all well-documented outcomes of completing an MBA.”

Dr Hartley said while the cost may feel like a hurdle for some, there are plenty of ways to meet the cost including scholarships, payment plans, getting your employer to contribute or using the government’s FEE-HELP loan.

“Our MBA team are experts in working through the options to ease the financial pressure while getting you learning as quickly as possible,” she said.




Myth 2 – Balancing an MBA with work is too hard 

By the time prospective MBA students gain enough experience to do an MBA, they also reach the period of life when daily schedules are centred around work, family and social commitments.

Business schools need to respond to these challenges and develop highly flexible MBAs so students can complete the program at a pace that suits life events and other priorities.

According to Dr Hartley, the UQ MBA has transformed over recent years to be more flexible and adaptable to each student’s needs.

“Students now have a broad range of choices for how they learn, from traditional face-to-face in-class learning to remote learning, across semester-long evening classes, through to short and sharp weekend courses or week-long courses,” Dr Hartley said.

Lady on laptop with email and comment bubble icon UQ MBA students can opt to accelerate the program and finish in a year by studying full-time, streamline the program over 24 months in part-time mode or adjust their study pathway as their priorities change.




Myth 3 – A recession is a bad time to start an MBA 

Far from it. A recession is the best time to do an MBA so you can add value to your existing job, gain expertise for a new position or transition into a different industry altogether. In a tight job market, employers will increasingly look to those with more rounded skillsets and capabilities. In particular, those willing and able to embrace disruption and change.

Trends like quiet quitting and the Great Resignation began to rise in response to the pandemic, with more employees re-evaluating their value in the workforce, while recent research by GMAC found that 92 per cent of firms expressed intent to hire MBA graduates in 2022.

“Through the current anomalies in our workforce, resultant from the pandemic, we’re seeing tighter labour markets across sectors, which have spawned both challenges and opportunities,” Dr Hartley said.

Dr Hartley said an MBA was an “extra tick” for potential employers and a clear sign that an applicant has invested in their professional and personal development.two figures talking in speech bubble icon

“Whether you want to transition to a new career, take on additional responsibility in your existing job or even embark on an entrepreneurial exercise, an MBA is the best tool to do that,” she said.



Myth 4 – An MBA involves primarily academic research 

The MBA was specifically created because businesses realised that not all leadership skills or functions can be learned on the job. People aspiring to leadership roles also needed exposure to the cutting-edge thinking and research that happens in universities. This innovative thinking can benefit all sorts of organisations, including big businesses, small startups or not for profits.

While completing an MBA does require some academic research and traditional assessment, much of the learning is undertaken through debate and discussion with those in the classroom with you.

Dr Hartley said many prospective MBA students, particularly those who have not been near a university classroom for many years, often express concern over the academic components of the program.

“We understand it may have been a while since people have had to dive into an academic journal, and we have a range of tools to bring people up to scratch,” she said.male figure looking at paper with percentage on it icon

“Ultimately, we are focused on our students’ ability to analyse, interpret and apply, not recite, academic theories. This is the backbone of transformational leadership, learning through action.”

This ability to apply learning begins well before the program is finished and is exemplified in the capstone courses that complete the UQ MBA. This capstone course is designed to enable students to integrate all the capabilities they have built in the MBA program to execute an entrepreneurship project or industry engagement project.



Myth 5 – MBAs are strictly for top management and CEOs 

When is the right time to do an MBA? It is the question asked by nearly everyone who has ever considered undertaking an MBA.

Unlike other master’s programs that are best undertaken immediately after an undergraduate degree, to reap the full benefit of an MBA, it's best to have a few years of experience in a leadership or management role under your belt.

Most research shows the average MBA student will commence their studies in their late 20s or early 30s and have had at least a couple of years of management experience. The average age of a UQ MBA student is 36.

UQ Business School requires MBA applicants to have:

  • a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) with a GPA of at least 4.50 on a 7-point scale.
  • 4 years full time work experience post-graduation.
  • at least 2 of those 4 years in a dedicated management role.

Dr Hartley said the structure and learning environment of the MBA encouraged students to learn from each other’s experience and knowledge.

Two figures talking with purple speech bubbles “This doesn’t mean you need to be the CEO of a company,” she said. “We have people from non-business backgrounds, from the arts, the non-profit sector and small business all being accepted into the UQ MBA program.”

“If you have some experience in thinking strategically about an organisation, overseeing some staff or coordinating resources… you’re ready for an MBA!”

See where Australia's #1 MBA could take you.

Originally published in MBA News.