Is The MBA Applicable To The Public Sector?

Last modified 05 July 2023
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Is The MBA Applicable To The Public Sector?
One of the biggest misconceptions about the public sector is that important business practices are given less consideration than they are in private organisations. Government certainly operates differently to private enterprise, but this does not mean that efficient operation, effective leadership and a strong strategic focus are not just as important. In many cases, these leaders are even more essential as government works to such tight budgets and has many factors to consider when making decisions. The vast majority of the skills learnt throughout the Master of Business Administration (MBA) are very relevant to government-based roles. The MBA presents more of a holistic business knowledge than the Master of Public Administration, and many public sector employees see this as a great benefit. Primary motivations tend to differ between public and private sector MBA candidates, however the foundations of the MBA program remain key areas of interest. For a breakdown of some of the key MBA learnings that are directly applicable to the public sector, see below.

Breaking down silos with knowledge

One of the great features of the MBA is the range of topics studied throughout, allowing students to graduate with a well-rounded knowledge of the business environment. This is particularly useful in the public sector, as business units often work together but don’t truly understand each other’s role in the project. When you understand all key business functions, you can approach projects more holistically, ensuring outcomes benefit the organisation as a whole, rather than your specific business unit. This knowledge also helps to break down some of the silos that exist between departments, as you better understand their roles and can contribute to their technical conversations more meaningfully.

Forward-thinking leadership and decision-making

In an environment that is constantly under scrutiny, public sector leaders need to be confident in making the right decisions for the public that they serve. Decisions must be informed, transparent and for the benefit of the public, adding increased pressure on the individuals. There is so much more to leadership than getting a job done, and this is something that students take away from the MBA. It offers public sector leaders a new perspective, allowing them to transfer the theory into their workplaces and make positive change. Just because something has been done one way forever, doesn’t mean it can’t change for the benefit of all involved. Fast-Track MBA call to action

Business planning, budgeting and innovation

Anyone who has worked in government will agree that the majority of departments are under-resourced and budgets continue to be as tight as ever. As such, the public sector needs people who can offer more for less, finding innovative solutions to get the job done for less time and money. Business planning is an essential component for this, and an invaluable practice that is fine-tuned throughout an MBA. When government agencies have a clear plan in mind, this helps to hone in on exactly what needs to be done, limiting the waste of resources along the way. The MBA is also useful when planning sessions are conducted, as graduates find that they can more confidently contribute and provide valuable advice.

Understanding of other sectors

While many MBA students may not set out to learn about sectors outside of their own, this can be a really important benefit to those from the public sector. Often, public sector employees get stuck in government processes and avoid changing it up as they don’t know any different. When you undertake the MBA, you’ll network with people across all sectors, providing a detailed understanding of how other businesses operate. This is important in government as often there are collaborative projects with other organisations, and it’s useful to understand how their processes may differ from your own. This also keeps you competitive in the event you wish to change from the public sector, and simply keeps your finger on the pulse on all things outside of your day-to-day work. Also read: MBAs Open Doors For The Not-For-Profit Sector Are you a public sector employee considering the MBA? Unlike the Master of Public Administration, the MBA provides a holistic knowledge of today’s business environment, and doesn’t limit you to just the public sector.   
Jo Thomas
As AIB CEO, Jo has almost 20 years’ experience in senior operations and has held multiple c-suite positions at some of Australia’s most iconic companies including iSelect and Compare The Market. Jo’s academic qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in communications, complemented by an MBA completed in 2010. Connect with Jo on LinkedIn

*The Australian Institute of Business (AIB) is Australia’s largest provider of MBAs. Source Ready, B. (2023) Domestic Enrolments Surged During COVID After International Students Locked Out, MBA News. Available at: MBA News.

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