Is MBA + Engineering the key to success? Experts bust common myths

Myths surrounding MBA and engineering, placements and studying abroad, decoded by career counsellors and students

‘An engineering degree should always be followed by an MBA’. ‘Good grades guarantee a good job’. ‘Admission into a top B-school means you have a secure future’. Career counsellors and education consultants say these are some of the most common myths that need busting, as students prepare to step out of college and look beyond.

“There are so many options today, and so much has changed, that parents and students start out very confused,” says career counsellor Shilpa Pathak. “We have to tell them that no, all the best colleges are not abroad, and all foreign courses aren’t exorbitant.”

Another common misconception, says Richa Saklani, founder of a career guidance company Inomi Learning, is that you must study abroad if you want to focus on international relations or pursue a major in languages. “These things are no longer true. They haven’t been true for a while. And it is potentially harmful for a student to prioritise country over course,” she adds.

Do your research, the counsellors stress. And this doesn’t just mean researching the university, faculty and course; get all your facts in place.

“All my life I thought studying in the US required 16 years of prior education, but some colleges accept 15 years too. I missed out on applying this year because I didn’t know that,” says post-grad student Shubhi Agarwal, 21, who plans to pursue forensic science overseas.

Similarly, engineering graduate Samiksha Panchal, 27, started her career in a finance department because she feared she’d never get a good job without an MBA. “I know better now, but I’ve already spent years doing a job I have little interest in,” she adds. Here then, are a few of the most common misconceptions, untangled.

A GOOD SCORE FROM A FOREIGN VARSITY = SUCCESS

When Priyal Maniar, 27, was doing her BSc in Business Administration alongside a course in Finance from Drexel University in Philadelphia, all she focused on for the first year and a half was the syllabus. “The biggest myth, I then realised, was that people who get into a foreign B-school and score well have their careers made,” she says. “The truth is that people look at jobs and careers very differently in India and abroad. We are conditioned to think that good grades can land you a good job, but I realised that the key, in the US, lies in networking.”

She then began to spend time building her network. “There are so many different ways and I used all of them,” Maniar says. “First, I did a lot of research on the kind of job I wanted. Then I used professors’ connections, reached out to professionals on LinkedIn and used the university’s alumni and job directory. Finally, there are professional organisations like Women in Investing Network that hold networking events. I still try to attend those and meet new people. I realised very quick that unlike India, I couldn’t be dependent on just placements because networking in American B-schools is possibly the only way of landing a good job.”

Maniar now works as a chartered financial analyst with Brandywine, a global equity strategies company.

ENGINEERING + MBA = SUCCESS

This is a stereotype that Indian students really need to break free of, says Pratibha Jain, a career counsellor and study-abroad specialist at EduAbroad Consulting. “An engineering degree coupled with an MBA may increase your chances of working with top-notch companies — if you have the skills required for the job,” Jain says. “If you want to become a data analyst or a cyber-security expert, how will an MBA help? Get a Master’s in engineering instead.”

It’s also important to remember, adds mechanical engineer Ayush Khaitan, 26, that most engineering jobs in India are of a highly technical nature. “Core engineering jobs are underpaid and are more about maintenance than developing new technology,” Khaitan says. “I know people who had taken up such jobs, quit in less than two years and began to prepare for the UPSC civic services exam.”

Khaitan, a graduate of BITS Pilani, is pursuing a Masters in Mathematics from Central Michigan University. “I could have done an MBA, but I realised that my strength lay in Mathematics and decided to specialise in that stream instead,” he says.

This is a more logical and sustainable approach, says Banker of Edushine. “Engineering students who don’t get good placements often opt for an MBA, but that is not the only formula for success. One must know what one is interested in and in what field one will be happy working,” Banker says.

FOREIGN STUDY = ENGLISH

When in Rome… speak the language. That’s the advice most students who have ventured overseas for further study have to offer. It’s not about being understood, they stress, it’s about being included.

“Knowing German was an added advantage,” says Sandesh Kamath, 27, who is doing a PhD in meteorology and geosciences at the University of Cologne. “My everyday conversations range from discussions about Indian food to debates on climate change chats at the railway station with strangers. German just helps me fit in, in college and in the country. Most of my friends here were under the impression that their skills will take them ahead in their careers and land them good jobs, but for me it was a tad easier because I knew the language.”

Knowing a language depends on the country too. “It’s important to know the native language for some such as Russia, China and Austria. Choosing a college based on your language skills may be the wrong way to do it but it is important to check this criteria because colleges may teach in English but once you’re out and looking for internships or jobs, you may fall far behind others who know the language,” counsellor Pathak says.

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