The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

There are a myriad reasons to pursue a Master of Business Administration, or MBA. Many decide later in their career that it’s time for a change, and that this certification will expand their prospects.

Some are looking for the expertise needed to start their own business or want to develop their business acumen, gain international experience, and expand their network. Choosing an MBA program is complex. There are multiple factors to consider, and determining which is most important can make the process long and arduous.

A school’s location is important. This can have a major impact on classroom culture, and may determine job opportunities once you finish—especially if you plan to stay in the area.

Ranking is also a key concern. Kaoru Iino, Japan representative for IE Business School in Madrid, explained, “The ranking is one of the quantitative and clear indicators to benchmark quality and estimated ROI of different MBA programs around the world.” She added that this is a part of the process for paring down the list of potential schools.

Iino warned that “candidates should not solely rely on rankings to choose their MBA program.” Rahul Bandyopadhyay, admissions advisor for the English MBA Program at Globis University, echoed this: “I believe that ranking is not so important.” What matters to him is that the “curriculum is practical and applicable to your daily job.” Since rankings are subject to constant change, it is important not to focus too much on them when making the final decision.

More crucial is the duration of the program. Generally, one- and two-year options are available.

A one-year course offers the benefit of speed, but is more suited to those who are further along in their careers. Bandyopadhyay described it as “intensive,” as well as an “accelerated program with a lasting impact on your career and life.” This makes it ideal for those who want to upgrade their business and leadership skills, thus—as Iino pointed out—these programs are aimed more at professionals with “longer work experience given that it offers shorter downtime in career.”

Two-year courses offer a more university-style culture, wider learning opportunities and, perhaps, a better overall experience. Bandyopadhyay explained that Globis University’s own two-year program is “designed for maximum flexibility, allowing students to upgrade their skills and build a powerful network without disruptions to work and other commitments.” Iino added that two-year programs are more for those “younger profiles” that are still looking to learn the fundamentals of business management.

“Choosing a program accredited by AACSB or another reputable accreditation body is a way to ensure that the program meets established standards,” Dr. Kenji Yokoyama, executive vice president of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University added. This, he says, will “give additional credibility to your degree.”

Iino explained that class size and intake size have to be considered separately. “To make discussion easier, and for shy students to be more comfortable to speak up during class, a smaller number would serve better,” she explained.

“On the other hand, one of the popular purposes of pursuing an MBA degree is networking. Hence, it would provide better networking opportunities when the number of students is bigger,” she said. “It’s about more than textbook learning—it is important to use your time to acquire practical experience,” Yokoyama advised. “Case studies can be an efficient way to gain experience dealing with real-world business problems.”

Bandyopadhyay highlighted three important factors when making the final decision: the quality and nature of the program; financial feasibility; and support from family and friends.

“The more important thing is that you choose your MBA program based on the potential fit with your career goals, learning objectives, lifestyle, and personality,” Iino concluded. She advises that prospective students “look at how business schools run their own business.”

Two-year courses offer a more university-style culture, wider learning opportunities and, perhaps, a better overall experience.