Submitted by Kath Attree, a Course Director within the Faculty of Business, Justice & Behavioural Sciences at Charles Sturt University.
Teachers, nurses, police officers, public servants, and other non-business professionals recognize that the MBA, unlike any other graduate degree, complements their skills and aligns with their goals. The question is really: What skills does a police inspector, a principal of a school, a nursing unit manager, or a senior public servant really need to be effective in their role?
Generally, when looking at postgraduate studies most professionals will look at advancing their study in their own specialty area. Doctors and nurses will opt for a Master’s in Health Services Management, teachers and principals will choose a Master’s in Education, and police officers will pursue a Master’s in Law Enforcement. But why keep improving the skills you already have? That's like a tree always growing along the same branch. Shouldn't you consider "branching" out into other areas?
Funny enough, the original MBA programs developed back in the 1960s were designed for engineers (and other non-business graduates) who over time had risen through the management ranks to lead the organization. Recently, I spoke to both a principal of a multi-campus high school and an inspector of police. Both chose to pursue MBA rather than studies in their professional discipline areas, and both stated how amazed they were by the relevance of their studies to their everyday management and leadership situations.
The police inspector mentioned that his perception of an MBA had been that they were primarily aimed at stockbrokers and bankers. Studying the program had made him realise how closely aligned the public sector is nowadays with the private sector model and how critically important skills in staff management and motivation, leadership, change management and project management are across many organizations.
My own situation also mirrors their experiences. My first degree was in Arts. I followed my passion for literature. However, after about 12 years in employment (and a few promotions) I found that I was managing people, budgets, marketing campaigns, developing strategy and I really felt the need for business training, which is why I enrolled in and completed an MBA.
These days, student can be broadly strategic in their choice of post-graduate business study. Courses on leadership, dispute resolution, marketing, HR, finance, and organizational change offer flexibility and allow you to plug your own gaps and choose exactly the study areas that you need. There are short programs that allow you to dip your toe in the water or gain skills in a new discipline area.