As an entrepreneur and company founder, MBA applicant Misha Kaura views business school – particularly a strategy MBA – as a way to become a more effective and creative leader.
A strategy MBA specialization teaches students how to make big-picture management decisions that improve their company's performance. Unlike a technical MBA concentration that aims to develop expertise in a particular aspect of business, such as marketing or finance, a strategy MBA concentration requires a mastery of business theory about what factors influence a company's success or failure.
"If you know strategy inside and out, have studied the mistakes of businesspeople who have come before you, you're better able to be in a position to provide thought leadership inside and outside of your company," Kaura, the CEO of Darlinghurst Enterprises, a fashion company that specializes in environmentally friendly women's apparel, said via email.
Here are six things experts say you should keep in mind when considering a strategy MBA.
1. The specialization cultivates problem-solving skills. Strategy MBA courses generally include a variety of case studies, which discuss management decisions that executives at real companies made and that had a profound impact. Students are typically then challenged to use these case studies to devise their own business philosophies.
These courses give students conceptual frameworks they can use to analyze a company's viability and assess business competitors. Students also learn how to find the information they need to make prudent executive decisions.
Some courses likewise provide lessons in business analytics, which involves translating massive amounts of data into actionable intelligence to help determine which business ideas are most promising.
2. The degree is versatile. Experts say a strategy specialization makes MBA students marketable for multiple business jobs, not just consulting roles or positions with "strategy" in the title. Experts say the degree provides exceptional training for future C-Suite executives, whether they plan to lead established companies or startup ventures.
"Though some seem to see strategy as a major for aspiring management consultants, it is probably just as useful for entrepreneurs as well," Kaura said via email.
Kaura says one reason she is pursuing a strategy MBA is because she wants to learn how to expand her company beyond the U.S. and United Kingdom and transform it into a multinational corporation.
3. Attending a school with accomplished classmates is valuable. Experts say it's especially helpful if your classmates have leadership experience in diverse industries.
"While the school's reputation, ranking and accreditation are obviously extremely important, applicants frequently do not consider just about how vital their peers will be in preparing them for a career in corporate strategy," Bruce Bachenheimer, a clinical professor of management at Pace University's Lubin School of Business, where he teaches both undergraduate and MBA strategy courses, said via email.
Bachenheimer says discussing business strategy case studies with classmates who have a significant amount of work experience can yield insights beyond those given by a strategy professor in a lecture, so strategy MBA applicants should target schools with a seasoned student body, where the average student has several years of work experience.
4. MBA strategy competitions prepare students for strategy jobs. Michael Davis, a finance industry executive who received his MBA degree from INSEAD Business School in 2010, says strategy competitions where MBA students compete with each other to present the best solution to a difficult business problem are an accurate simulation of what it's like to do strategy work for a company.
He says a victory in these competitions is a compelling way for strategy MBA students to bolster their resumes and garner positive attention from hiring managers.
5. People with strategy MBAs are usually paid well. In addition to preparing you to lead a business strategically, this type of degree is a common gateway to lucrative and high-paying business careers. According to PayScale data as of December 2017, management consultants and senior strategy managers with a strategy MBA, for example, made on average six-figure salaries.
6. Understanding business strategy is key for business success. In any business job, you will be challenged to achieve ambitious goals, which is difficult to do without a strategic approach, experts say. They add that the need for careful planning in business is one reason a strategy MBA can come in handy.
Davis says what separates a good startup from a great startup is whether it has a compelling business strategy.
"The idea is such a small percentage of all the ingredients," says Davis, the chief financial officer and co-founder of MPOWER, a company that provides student loans. "It's really about the strategy and the execution on that strategy."