Why do engineers run after the MBA

MBA for engineers put to the test

Business and management skills are necessary if engineers want to take on management responsibility in companies. But the very different, because individual, requirements make it very difficult to decide which specific additional qualifications are useful. The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is also controversial. Training institutions and many graduates swear by the broad, application-oriented knowledge that these programs impart, but there are also critical voices who say that the MBA degree is usually too expensive, often superfluous and overrated.

An MBA from a poorly recognized business school is of little value.

Photo: panthermedia.net/gjp1991

The MBA comes from the USA and the European providers of course modify curricula, processes and procedures, but the origin remains important, as cultural traditions still clash today. The MBA course is different from regular studies at a German university. At the prestigious so-called business schools in the USA and also in Europe a maximum of a quarter of the applicants are accepted for the full-time programs. Obviously, graduating from such a renowned training institution is something special. An MBA from a poorly recognized business school that is also listed in the rankings is of little value.


In Germany, a university of applied sciences degree or a university bachelor's degree are basic requirements for an MBA. English language skills, usually proven by the paid TOEFL test, and work experience (with a few exceptions) are also required. The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT for short), with which the suitability for a further business administration study program is to be determined, is often a further admission requirement. The personal impression of the applicants during the selection interview is also decisive.


The classic MBA program in the USA runs for two years and can be started immediately after graduating from college. In Germany, the full-time programs usually run for 18 months, but there are also shorter (9 months) and longer (24 months) periods. Across Europe, 70 percent of schools offer one-year full-time programs. The trend is towards part-time offers with ever shorter courses, but over half of the part-time programs still have the classic duration of two years. The so-called Executive MBAs or EMBAS are designed in such a way that they can be completed on a part-time basis. The idea is to view these mostly expensive programs as a special form of professional development that is wholly or partly financed by employers. Perhaps, based on the American model, a fundamentally new training path will gradually develop when bachelors acquire theoretical and practical knowledge in compact form at a business school or university after their first few years of work.

Why MBA?

Knowledge of methods, interdisciplinarity, leadership skills and practical applications: this is what most engineers who are aiming for the MBA are looking for. Some are looking for these skills in a targeted manner in order to strategically advance their careers, but often a kind of practical shock is more likely to boost motivation. Basically, the intensive focus of the programs on the communicative side of management - such as linguistic ability, social behavior appropriate to the environment, making and maintaining contacts - is perhaps an important argument for the MBA. Business economists and, above all, financial market experts speak a language that is not only foreign to engineers per se. In order to be able to keep up with increasing management responsibility, a structured acquisition of knowledge makes sense in many cases. Above all, really demanding MBA programs are very international in all respects, the different cultural as well as professional origins of the participants can also be to the advantage of everyone involved. But there are also (part-time) programs that are specifically aimed at engineers with their specific needs in terms of practical business and management knowledge. Critics complain that many advanced training courses differentiate the MBA to such an extent that it is no longer clear what is actually meant by it.

Accreditation and ranking

In Germany, a good 90 percent of the MBA programs are now mostly accredited by FIBAA or AQUIN, and around a quarter of the programs can boast international accreditation by AMBA, for example. In the United States, the Association to Advanced Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is the main agency for accreditation, which is also increasingly operating worldwide.

The rankings in the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal or Business Week are a science in themselves and highly controversial. The German programs are not so easy to judge according to the American criteria. Accordingly, the selection of the course provider unfortunately requires your own time-consuming research, because the rankings cannot be the sole selection criterion.

Costs and Financing

The MBA is an expensive investment in your own future. According to the Staufenbiel MBATrends study 2013/14 - which is based on information from 156 schools with 259 programs in the USA and Europe - full-time programs in Germany usually cost between 20,000 and 50,000 euros. A European full-time program cost an average of EUR 37,500. 73 percent of the business schools charged between 20,000 and 50,000 euros and 17 percent were even more expensive. In the US, an MBA cost an average of 82,900, but the programs in Europe usually run for 16 months and in the US for up to 24 months. The 2013/14 part-time programs cost an average of 33,400 euros in Europe and an average of 21,900 euros in Germany.

If you want to complete your MBA abroad, you can apply for a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), for example. Scholarships from the Haniel program of a maximum of 1,500 euros per month and an annual tuition fee subsidy of a maximum of 14,000 euros can be applied for from the German National Academic Foundation. Fulbright scholarships are also an option for MBA programs in the United States. Some business schools in Germany also offer scholarships themselves.

It is clear who gets the MBA financed by their employer, according to the Staufenbiel MBA Trends Study 2013/14 around half of the MBA candidates are supported by their companies, but 90 percent have to fall back on their own savings, 80 percent even earn Loan on.

Career with the MBA - or not

There is no guarantee that the MBA will significantly advance your career; and there is no automatic mechanism that the MBA always ensures a higher salary and thus pays off financially. But both are possible and in many cases likely. An unsatisfactory statement, perhaps, but on closer inspection it goes without saying. Just as a very good master’s degree does not allow the following professional life to proceed successfully on its own, neither does an additional qualification such as the MBA offer any guarantee of (particular) success. Professional practice is of course always the decisive criterion for assessing employees. Experts argue about whether the MBA is a compelling argument for higher salaries when hiring a new employee.


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