After graduating, some undergraduates opt to go to business school instead of heading straight into employment. Institutions such as ESCP Europe and London Business School offer year-long degrees designed to introduce the world of business to those with no formal background in this area and little or no professional work experience.
Should you join their ranks? Here are some reasons you might want to do so – and some reasons to think again.
4 reasons to go to business school
You want to gain knowledge and experience
Business school gives you a solid grounding in business and management, which means you'll be able to enter the world of work more knowledgeable than your peers. Subjects you might study include accounting, economics, marketing, strategy, organisational behaviour, leadership, statistics, and decision analysis.
In addition, the group-focused way of learning will provide you with insights into what it might be like to work with others in the "real world". Groups are carefully selected to ensure diversity in terms of undergraduate studies and nationality, providing you with an opportunity to collaborate with people with different experiences and different approaches to problem-solving and teamwork to you.
You want more time to explore your options
If you're confident that you want to start your career in the private sector but not sure which industries or employers to apply for, business school can be a great way of exploring what's out there. At most business schools, numerous companies visit campus and give presentations to interested graduates.
Some schools have very deep ties with the local business community – for example, London Business School organises Business Immersion Week, an opportunity for students to visit consulting firms, investment banks, multinationals and more based in the city, recently including BBC Worldwide, BlackRock, Google and M&C Saatchi.
You haven't managed to get the business job you want yet
If you haven't got your dream role during university, business school can help. Typically, most business school graduates secure great roles on or shortly after graduating, often in finance, consulting or the corporate world. Impressively, one student we heard of secured a graduate salary of £94,000.
The reason for this success is that business schools have developed sophisticated careers services that help students get the jobs they want through techniques including, for example, developing commercially-focused CVs and practicing interviews. Students can often also take advantage of other careers tools like online recruitment resources and student professional interest clubs that organise networking events and employer visits.
You want to expand your network
Business school offers excellent networking opportunities. Students selected are guaranteed to be strong performers at undergraduate level with high GMAT scores, with an aptitude for teamwork and leadership demonstrated through internships and extracurricular activities. These factors mean that, from a business and personal perspective, your peers are likely to represent excellent connections to make.
In addition, you can take advantage of your school's alumni network and will usually find that past graduates are willing and keen to offer careers tips and assistance. One business school master's graduate told us: "I reached out to a couple of alumni, and they were all responsive and willing to share advice."
3 reasons not to go to business school
You might find it doesn't make a difference to your job prospects
Especially in the UK, having a master's degree might not be a significant factor differentiating you from other candidates when it comes to getting a job. So if you can get a position in business that you want without a master's degree, there's a case for arguing that you should probably take it rather than going to business school.
One business school master's graduate confessed: "I realised that a master's qualification did not make much of a difference. In the UK particularly, I feel that work experience is more valued."
Business school can be good value, but it's always expensive
Business school fees range from £11,000 to £26,000 or more per year, to which you'll have to add accommodation costs and personal expenses. A limited number of scholarships are available, but you're likely to have to bear a significant part of the costs yourself through a bank loan or any funds you have access to, or a bank loan.
So if you feel unsure about the benefits of business school for you or if you already have a job offer on the table, it might be worth postponing your decision about attending business school until you have a clearer idea about exactly what you want to get out of the programme.
You might get more out of business school after a year or two of work experience
Some students feel that they get more value from a business school degree after 2-4 years of employment. They feel they now understand the business environment and can reflect back on their own actions in the business world while studying.
In addition, their business experience qualifies them to take an MBA (Master's in Business Administration), a course designed for young and mid-level professionals with business experience. MBAs are arguably a more widely recognised and prestigious option than recent graduate business school master's degrees. Also, they're offered at more business schools, which means you have more choice when choosing where to study, particularly if you're considering international locations.
We've put together five tips for applying to business school by speaking to the admissions coordinator at one of Europe's leading business schools, ESCP Europe.