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A typical MBA course, options for pursuing an MBA degree and how to choose the right MBA institutes.

The charm of achieving an MBA degree is hard to ignore. The immense opportunities it opens in front of the students lead more and more students to opt for MBA. Though the economic uncertainty had created an insignificant slump in the number of MBA entrance exam takers last year, but that does not mean that the MBA aspiration is wearing out! Lakhs of aspirants prepare every year to tame the CAT and other MBA entrance exams. Many national magazines release annual surveys on business schools rankings. And, lest we forget, there are tons of MBA coaching centers that promise to help you prepare better for MBA entrance exams – and get that prized degree!

There has been a development in the MBA entrance exams since the year 2009. Exams like Common Admission Test (CAT), Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies Aptitute Test (NMAT) and Management Aptitude Test (MAT) have become computer based. These are entrance exams which lead you to the apex MBA institutes like the IIMs, Narsee Monjee Institute of management Studies (NMIMS) Mumbai and many others. The year 2010 saw 204267 CAT takers and about 40,000 NMAT takers.

But before you decide to be a part of the race to enter the portals of MBA institutes like IIMs, XLRI, MDI or other top B schools, it would be worth doing a bit of homework. You should know, for instance, what a typical MBA course is like, what the various options for pursuing an MBA program are, and how you can choose the right B School. Remember, all MBA degrees are not equal: while a rigorous MBA course from a reputed institute can be your passport to a fat-salaried job at India Inc, there are many lowly-rated institutes from where getting even a halfway decent job is a pipe dream.

Management experts inform that there are over 1500 MBA institutes and the numbers are growing every year. “Management education is very important for the sustained growth of the country and we have some 1,800 management institutes in India,” says Fr N Casimir Raj S J, Former Director, XLRI Jamshedpur.

What accounts for this growth? The demand of a reputed MBA degree is healthy — from both the recruiters and the aspirant`s sides. Says Dr. Harivansh Chaturvedi, Director, Birla Institute of Management and Technology (BIMTECH), “After engineering, MBA is the most sought after course by Indian students. In education, there are many other courses but most of them are theory centric. MBA is a mix of theory and application.” Around 10 lakh students aspire for an MBA degree in India every year, he adds.

The Indian economy has grown at a healthy rate in last decade. This growth has translated into a demand for more managers. Although the growth momentum is slowing of late, demand for quality managerial talent is expected to sustain.

Business is getting more competitive and knowledge-driven, thus creating a demand for knowledge workers. Fr N Casimir Raj S J comments, “There is a great demand for quality talent — both in India and from across the world.” Dr B S Sahay, Director, IIM Raipur, adds, “The perception of whole world about India and Indian B schools is changing today. Earlier foreign institutes didn`t give much importance to Indian B schools, but today things have changed. Foreign institutes are giving a red carpet welcome to Indian institutes and students.” The Yash Pal Committee report has suggested tie ups between Indian and foreign MBA institutes. “In the field of management education the committee believes in granting autonomy and freedom for Indian Institutes to have tie-ups with foreign universities as well as permitting free entry to foreign business schools. This suggestion will open doors for free interaction with the best business schools in the world for the benefit of Indian students,” says Dr. Uday Salunkhe, Director, Prin. L N Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research, Mumbai in this regard.

If you are wondering if an MBA course makes sense in the unstable economy faced by the last two years, banish the thought! MBA experts are clear that a good MBA degree is a long term asset, and will be valuable to get employment as the economy picks up in a year or two.

Prof MM Pant, Member of Board of Management, IIT Delhi and Former Faculty at IIT Kanpur and University of Western Ontario says, “Youth is fortunate to be living in the era of plenty of choices about their career and education. Management education is indeed relevant in recession times. Think for the long term! Indian economy will recover in next few years and by that time your MBA will be a good asset.”