What can a 1-year MBA do for you and your career?
A 1-year MBA is transformative for most graduates – you’ll hear words like “kick-start”, “launch-pad”, or “booster”. The kind of person who will thrive in an accelerated MBA program is someone who wants to be in control of their career and their life direction. On top of that, they are typically very ambitious – they don’t just want to change direction or move to a new level in their career, they want to see just how far they can go. A third key characteristic is hard-working. Whatever goal you want to achieve with your 1-year MBA, you should be prepared to work hard during the year – and probably beyond.
It’s a year out of your life, and applying is a big decision. Here are five outcomes to anticipate if you take on a one-year MBA. (Number 5 will especially surprise you.)
If you are young and only a few years along in your career, going back to school for two years for your MBA is a manageable prospect. Chances are you don’t have things like a mortgage or kids to manage in parallel – important considerations when you will be without an income and taking on significant tuition.
The traditional MBA program is a good starter degree that will nicely round out an undergraduate education and bit of business experience. It offers a complete education in business fundamentals, which will help provide a good foundation upon which to start your business management career.
People who take a 1-year MBA tend to be a bit older and more experienced. Part of the attraction for the shorter program is that taking the time away from “regular life” can be trickier if you’re a bit more established. Fortunately, someone with a strong track record of six to 10 years of business experience – typical of one year MBA students – already has good business knowledge and shows excellent leadership skills potential. This is why accelerated MBA programs are designed with less time on the nuts and bolts of business management and more time developing skills potential.
Knowledge and skills must go hand-in-hand in business management. That’s why MBA programs increase and deepen the knowledge you have, so you can access it like second nature in any business situation. “Aside from the basic MBA toolkit, our leadership stream runs throughout the year combining experiential exercises, one-on-one coaching (each participant has three different coaches following them for the entire year, each coach focusing on a different development agenda), peer learning, and classroom activities,” says Professor Seán Meehan, former Dean of the MBA program at Switzerland’s IMD business school, which was ranked Number One worldwide by Forbes among 1-year international MBAs in 2017.
Meehan says that the need to ensure that business skills are deeply ingrained is why his school places a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning and real-world experiences. In experiential learning, students take part in on- and off-campus exercises – all the while getting constant feedback from experienced professionals (professors and leadership coaches), as well as their peers. Because IMD professors are also consultants and researchers, participants get the benefit of their first-hand experience and work with very current case studies. There is also project work where participants deal with real situations and real companies, seeing immediate results.
IMD’s International Consulting Project (ICP) is the ultimate example. “IMD was first on the scene with ICPs almost 40 years ago, and companies come back to us year after year as they really appreciate the value of the insights they gain from our MBAs,” says Meehan. “The ICPs take place in the second half of the program and are a great platform for all of our participants to put into practice everything that they have learnt during the year and realize how far they have come. It is a step back into the real world. They are no longer working within the safety of the IMD bubble, but are working on a real strategic challenge being faced by a company who expects solid deliverables.”
2. A whole new direction for your career
MBAs and Executive MBAs are considered to be degrees meant for either “career-enhancers” or “career-changers”. One-year MBA programs are particularly attractive to the latter group. It is a perfect opportunity for a self-directed, ambitious person to take a step back and really investigate their goals and how their best skills can be applied.
The MBA fulfils its function in terms of setting graduates on a new course. Out that of IMD’s class of 2017, 97% changed either geography, function or industry. The business school supports MBA candidates to explore avenues and build networks based on the strong connections the school has with major organizations around the world. The MBA program gives candidates direct access to new environments where they can test their skills and interests, such as with local start-ups or through the consultancy projects – all on top of the connections students make with their classmates and other alumni.
The time spent in a 1-year MBA is intensive. Many say they have never worked harder in their lives, never gone as far out of their comfort zones and never forged deeper friendships. When that environment is combined with top-level business learning by leading international business minds, it’s a perfect recipe for a transformational experience.
Mark Cornell, a 1999 IMD grad, had been both a British Army Captain working in counter-terrorism and a newspaper distribution head for WHSmith before he went to IMD. “IMD proved to be the catalyst I’d been seeking,” he says. “The program projected me into the world I aspired to: from domestic to international; low margin to high margin; with increased autonomy and responsibility.” His post-IMD career has included highly prominent positions with luxury goods leader LVMH, Sotheby’s Europe and, the latest, CEO of Ambassador Theatre Group. Stay tuned!
3. Leadership skills & agility – especially for a digital world
An MBA program must be designed to prepare candidates for the demands of real market forces. This is especially true of 1-year Master of Business Administration degrees, which are much more practice-oriented versus theoretical; it also tends to be more the case at institutions that are business schools focused on executive education as opposed to university-based schools. In the current context, effective leadership skills are critical to enable business managers to adapt to situations – even ones never before seen.
“We have a mission for developing leaders who desire to make an impact in our world and believe that leaders today need to have a global mindset, be entrepreneurially oriented and be digitally competent,” says Meehan. “Given all the uncertainty in the world, we develop people who can cope with ambiguity and play an important role in the shaping of our society.”
Some of the strategies used at IMD include involving participants in hands-on experiences in global innovation hubs such as Bangalore, Silicon Valley and Singapore. The business school also collaborates with institutions such as the Federal Polytechnic Institute of Lausanne (EPFL) and renowned art school ECAL in a Digital Lab and an Innovation Lab for training in design thinking and digital technology expertise.
Leadership is a personal skill – each person’s leadership style is entirely unique. That’s why business schools use self-awareness and leadership coaching to help integrate leadership skills. Executive leadership coaching is integrated into most 1-year MBA programs. One-on-one and group coaching exercises help participants feel their responses in simulated situations. Coaches provide impartial, expert guidance in a safe environment.
Nicolas Weber was a successful entrepreneur before he came to IMD, graduating in 2005. He says that even though he had extensive leadership experience, the MBA year made everything gel together for him and structure his experience into firm business leadership knowledge. “While gaining experience in a variety of fields, we learned about human behavior, group dynamics, how to work smarter rather than longer,” he says. In his post-MBA career, he’s been able to inject the agility of start-ups into his leadership roles with multinationals.
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Did you know that 1-year MBAs transform into faster, greater return on investment than other types of MBA and EMBA learning? People taking a 2-year MBA are at the beginning of their careers and will climb and earn their stripes after the program. They are setting out, not transforming. Those who select an EMBA are usually a little further down the career track. They also are not necessarily looking to transform entirely, rather, the goal is to enhance a successful path with yet another solid credential and more diverse experiences. Since they, in general, have a higher salary going in, the rise in pay – although absolutely worth it – is not as dramatic.
The cost of a 1-year MBA is high, but less overall than a 2-year program, and of course there is one less year without a salary versus a traditional MBA. But the difference is also about time of life and the desire to transfor). One-year MBA graduates are ready to take a leap, drive their own futures and deliver real business impact wherever they go.
MBA business schools are thorough and systematic in supporting candidates through recruitment. “With a class size of 90 we can be very personalized in our approach and offer individual career coaching and one-on-one advice for everyone,” says Meehan. “Recruiters hire for leadership potential and we have the advantage of being able to offer tailored solutions to companies so that they connect with the right mix of participants for the roles they want to fill. Workshops, panel discussions and projects with specialists, alumni and HR executives take MBAs from their vision, goal and elevator pitch all the way through the skill range to negotiating their final salaries.”
MBA graduates coming out of top-ranked business schools find employment rapidly. In the Financial Times’ Global MBA ranking of 2022, most of those in the top 100 schools found work within the first three months. The Financial Times ranking suggests that 70-100% salary increase, just three years after graduation, compared to before the program, is a reasonable expectation.
Bloomberg Businessweek’s rankings show IMD graduates as tripling their salaries in about six years. With a 1-year MBA program, the time it takes you to catch up the investment you made (the cost of the program and the year without income) is usually less than three or four years. IMD’s graduates generally earn more than others and the payback time is the shortest in the world at just 2.3 years, according to Forbes.
The skills you learn in an MBA program will serve you for life – coming out of a quality program, you will find yourself to be a stronger leader, more mindful and self-aware in all relationships. Meehan says that MBA schools are increasingly actively seeking people who aren’t simply ambitious in business, but who have a vision and a desire to help positively shape the future of the world. On top of that, he says that MBA programs are attracting more people who aren’t necessarily even looking to apply the skills in the business context. For example, they may become leaders in public administration or non-governmental groups, but wish to apply the rigors of a business education to these fields.
This is why one-year MBA programs like the one at IMD actively integrate global, entrepreneurial and digital dimensions into the curriculum. At IMD, a central “Business and Society” module is specially geared to helping participants to explore ways of collaborating with a wide spectrum of stakeholders and of living with increased transparency.
2004 IMD MBA alumnus Pratik Bhatnagar had been a management consultant for eight years before coming to IMD. “I thought, there has to be more,” he says. “As a consultant, I’d gained skills, and invaluable business and organizational experience. But I wanted to leverage these to build organizations and help them make a social impact. As soon as I started the IMD application process, I knew I was on track.”
He says that IMD helped him redefine himself by learning to better recognize and appreciate his core skills, competencies and passions. And as it turned out, Bhatnagar leveraged his business education to get out of business management and into NGOs. “IMD leadership training is an incredibly good fit for this field, so I would really encourage people to consider it,” says Pratik, who is today a Senior Advisor at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an organization that leverages a public-private business model to get vaccines to developing regions. He also teaches Strategy, Ethics, Social Responsibility & Impact at the University of Geneva.
“IMD reinforced my ‘you can change the world’ confidence — and provided me with the tangible skills to make it possible. I enhanced skills like integrative thinking to draw on many perspectives and disciplines, and cutting complexity to solve problems and. In an NGO, you have to do a lot with little, so these skill let you maximize your capacity to deliver outcomes.”
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The IMD MBA aims to develop leaders who challenge what is and inspire what could be, while transforming organizations and contributing to society.
We do so by focusing on reflective and responsible leadership, in which participants define challenges through a critical and holistic approach, while leveraging collaboration in order to have impact, all underpinned by knowledge proficiency and an open mindset.
We spend much time in the admission process trying to get to know our participants, so that when they arrive on campus, we know what their goals and objectives are and can tailor our support to each individual. The small class size and the personalized nature of our program results not only in strong bonds between the participants but also with the institution and all those associated with it, a relationship which extends well beyond graduation.
IMD is the #1 Business School worldwide for open programs
#1 worldwide for open programs for nine years in a row - 2012-2020 (Financial Times)
Top 3 worldwide for executive education / combined ranking for open & custom programs for nine years in a row - 2012-2020 (Financial Times)
Top 3 worldwide for overall ranking (open and custom programs) for eight years in a row - 2012-2019 (Financial Times)