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The coach: ‘Would doing an MBA be a good career move?’

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Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect who is considering studying for a Master of Business Administration

I am interested in moving my career on, a friend suggested I do an MBA. Would this be a good idea?

Matthew turner

In much of the wider economy, a Master of Business Administration is the ticket to a higher salary and more recognition. People I know who teach on MBA courses inform me that students are generally either at a career-change moment in their life, or intend to carry on in their current industry but want to command a higher salary. They also tell me that in years of teaching MBA students, they have rarely come across an architect on their courses.

I imagine one of the reasons for this is that the guarantee of progression after an MBA is not there in our profession. Another barrier is the considerable expense coming after an already long education. For many who undertake these courses, the fees are subsidised by corporate employee sponsorship. 

An MBA combined with your architectural knowledge could prove very attractive to construction-industry-related businesses

That said, if you can somehow pay for it, I think there is a considerable opportunity if you have a good head for business and finance, and perhaps want to progress into a corporate environment. This kind of role at the intersection of business and architecture – a kind of hybrid architect – will likely be much more lucrative than conventional architectural roles. 

In terms of what you might learn, MBAs generally cover the general management of business. That includes technical skills such as managing human resources, undertaking financial analysis, auditing, and issues that architects generally know nothing about, as well as less technical areas such as marketing. There are also specialist courses out there. 

This combined with your architectural knowledge could prove very attractive to some construction-industry-related businesses, such as a large materials manufacturer or a development firm. Equally, there could be great opportunities in being the business mind of an architectural practice, giving you the chance to really develop a small business based on sound business understanding.

So as long as you can see your future away from design, you might be on to something here. An important next step would be to seek out what opportunities might be possible with this kind of qualification. MBA courses are a hotbed of networking, so start honing your skills now. Talk to people, explore your network, search LinkedIn and you hopefully will be able to contact people from whom you could gauge whether potential roles exist, and are of interest.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com

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