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Will an MBA speed up promotion?

Posted: 16 Jul 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:promotion? quality assurance? mba? it industry? business degree?

Philip Chatting is vice president of Human Resources at Global Sources.
There is no doubt that the business and employment environment is moving faster with each succeeding year and, to compete successfully, those involved need to constantly refine and redefine their skills. A good specialized degree will often get a good entry-level position, but one only has to look at four-year-old textbooks in engineering or IT to appreciate how rapidly a technology education becomes outdated. Sometimes, an assumption is made after a first degree that the studying tap can be turned off, but that route leads to stagnation and obsolescence. Just to stay on the wave of progress and to retain value at current levels, employees are obliged to continue learning.

Therefore, promotion also needs to go hand in hand with growing ability gained through more knowledge and skills. But is continuing education, by itself, the route to more rapid advancement? Probably not. Many people pursue education for its own sake, even to the extent of making it central to their adult lives. There is nothing wrong with that, but to be an effective instrument for promotion education has to be targeted at both a personal career road map and the corporate environment in which the individual intends to work.

The key lies in the objectives an employee wants to achieve. If the destination is clear, building a road map with career and supporting educational steps becomes comparatively easy. Gaining miscellaneous qualifications that bear no direct relationship to goals, at best, will be a distraction and not add to an individual's promotional opportunities or marketability. Convergence between ambition, experience and education is clearly desirable.

An appreciation of advanced formal education varies from one company to the next, one industry to another, and between countries. In addition to understanding his or her objectives, an employee needs to comprehend the environment to make the right educational decisions. In the engineering or IT industries, specialized knowledge is essential, but whether a master's or a doctorate will obtain a promotion will depend very much on the direction the individual wishes to take. If one is moving into research, the advanced degree will be invaluable, but if the route is sales, continuing formal education becomes less critical. Highly specialized and large multinational companies are where relevant formal education is most prized, and small, or family owned businesses, considerably less so.

The question is often asked, what value does an MBA represent? And again, it has to be determined in the context of direction and environment. There are many organizations where no, or few, MBAs exist in the upper management ranks and an expectation that the qualification is synonymous with promotion may be false.

Continuing learning, therefore, is an essential part of today's work place. For continual formal education to be valuable, it has to be targeted and undertaken with an understanding of personal objectives and the conditions under which it takes place.

? Philip Chatting

Vice President of Human Resources

Global Sources

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