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The Kenyan job market has become increasingly competitive over the past few years.
A high number of graduates leaving institutions of higher learning are chasing elusive job opportunities as employment-creation has slowed down.
This is pushing those who have secured employment and jobseekers to look for ways of remaining competitive and relevant.
The demand has seen thousands of working individuals flocking back to school to improve their skills and acquire additional knowledge, with the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) emerging as one of the most sought-after academic courses in the country.
Working professionals, who have the financial strength to pay for post-graduate courses taken during weekends and after work are however finding it easier as they can finance the high cost by themselves, according to a new survey by Ipsos Synovate.
In 2009, Steve Mbithi, a mid-level manager at KCB Group decided to join the growing number of professionals who have enrolled for the MBA and he admits that the programme is only affordable if one has a source of income that can cover the cost.
â€œTo some extent it is affordable but you have to have a stable income,â€ said Mr Mbithi, adding that although the venture would strain him financially, his main motivation for enrolling at the University of Nairobi was to broaden his knowledge and gain new skills to help him grow. He is taking the course at Bandari College in Mombasa.
According to a survey done by the market research firm in September this year, majority of those who have enrolled for the post-graduate course are either employed or have a source of income, giving them the ability to meet the cost.
The firm interviewed a total of 389 individuals, 80 of whom are graduates and 309 who are students and are working, like Mr Mbithi.
â€œThe MBA fees are met mainly by the students. This is expected considering that most of them are employed or engaged in an income-generating activity. The proportion of those under scholarships is extremely low,â€ said Ipsos Synovate in the survey which was released this month.
Fees are high, ranging between Sh250,000 to Sh350,000â€” with some students paying as high as Sh500,000 for the degree.
According to the survey, 24 per cent of those who are currently taking the course and 33 per cent of those who have graduated paid between Sh350,000 and Sh450,000.
Another 17 per cent of those currently enrolled and 28 per cent of graduates have paid between Sh250,000 and Sh350,000 while 19 per cent of those who are currently enrolled for the degree and 15 per cent of those who have graduated have paid between Sh500,000 and Sh800,000.
â€œThe most disliked aspect of the MBA programme is the financial strain it causes (49 per cent). The MBA degree seems to mainly attract management staff,â€ says the market research firm.
The survey also reveals that majority of those in employment (68 per cent) were in management rolesâ€” junior, middle or senior management while 17 per cent were directors and that this is probably because most students finance the degree themselves with management staff the most likely to have adequate salaries to pay for the course.
Mr Mbithi, whose major is Finance, says that he has to foot the bill every semester although he is banking on his employer to refund part of the fees after he graduates.
â€œMore than two thirds financed the degree course from their own resources. There are diverse opinions about the affordability of MBAs. Those who are currently seeking better papers say it is value for money whilst the graduates found it to be expensive,â€ said the market research firm.
Mathew Mbui, another mid-level manager at Athi River Mining who enrolled for the degree in January this year says that despite the cost, the benefits are worth the expense.
According to Ipsos Synovate, 77 per cent of MBA graduates and 52 per cent of students are in management jobs although there is small proportion of MBA graduates who are unemployed despite the assumption that such a degree would be a guarantee for employment.
Mr Mbuiâ€™s major is in marketing, which is valuable his current position. Although he has been in class for less than a year, he is able to apply what has been taught in class practically.