The MBA guide for studying in South Africa


Is getting an MBA worth it in 2023

Committing to a Masters of Business (MBA) degree offers great rewards, but it does require a big investment of both money and time. If you are thinking about doing an MBA, then you’re likely to wonder whether it is worth it. In this article, we will look at all the MBA essentials you’ll want to consider in your decision.

There are conflicting opinions and it can be challenging to cut through the clutter and competition for enrolments. Things are further complicated by someone like Elon Musk voicing his doubts about the value of an MBA degree. However, for every upstart and unconventional billionaire, there are hundreds of business leaders who attribute their success to the opportunities provided by their MBA.

Completing an MBA will not only give you business and leadership skills to further your career but will also expose you to networking opportunities and allow you to join the alumni network. As the cynical saying goes “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” An MBA covers you on both fronts.

We’ll go into further detail on the perks of an MBA to help you decide if pursuing an MBA degree is the right decision for you or to help decide on when would be the best time to make that commitment.

Section outline:

FAQs outline:

List of CEOs in South Africa with MBA qualifications

With the focus of an MBA being on business management and leadership, it helps to know how many people with MBAs are actually in the very top positions of leadership and management. To get an accurate picture of what qualifications lead to great business success, we looked into the executive management of the biggest companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Seven of South Africa’s 20 largest companies have CEOS with an MBA

At the time of writing, the 10 largest listings on the JSE Top40 index are BHP Billiton, Prosus, AB Inbev (the international owner of South African Breweries), British American Tobacco, Glencore, Naspers, Richemont, Anglo American, FirstRand, Anglo American Platinum and Standard Bank. Although BHP Billiton leads with R2,235.9 billion, MBA graduate Bob van Dijk is CEO of both Prosus and Naspers, which together are worth R3,242.9bn. If you are considering an MBA, you will be further inspired to know much of Naspers’ rapid growth over recent years has been attributed to former CEO Koos Bekker, who also holds an MBA. Anglo American Platinum’s CEO Natascha Viljoen also holds an executive MBA (EMBA).

The next 10 largest companies in South Africa are MTN, Vodacom, Capitec, Sasol, South32, Impala Platinum, Absa, Kumba, Mondi and Goldfields. Among these companies the number of CEOs with MBAs is much higher. Cellphone giants MTN and Vodacom are both headed by CEOs with MBAs: MTN CEO Ralph Mupita and Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub hold MBAs. Trailing close behind in market capitalisation is Capitec, which is a relative newcomer and has done a fantastic job of taking market share from the country’s older established banks. It is worth noting that much of the bank’s rapid growth was under the leadership of CEO Gerrie Fourie, who also holds an MBA. Four spots behind, rival bank Absa is headed by MBA graduate Arrie Rautenbach.


Other wealthy South Africans with MBAs

Outside of the corner offices of the 20 largest public companies, there are thousands of others who also enjoy much wealth and success. The Africa Wealth Report produced by New World Wealth and Henley & Partners looked at the qualifications of Africa’s high net wealth individuals (HNWIs). These are people who hold at least $1 million in liquid assets.

The report didn’t give a specific figure for MBAs as they are grouped together with other accounting, finance and commercial degrees. Together these account for 28% of the qualifications of South Africa’s 39,000 HNWIs, trailing very close behind the 30% who hold law degrees.

If you are interested in the earning potential of an MBA degree, you can read which MBA specialisations pay the most.

Types of accredited MBA or Business Courses in SA Business Schools

The South African Business Schools Association (Sabsa) represents all of South Africa’s registered business schools. These come from within government, business fraternities and the education sector and there are 22 recognised business schools offering MBAs in South Africa.

South African business schools offering accredited MBA programmes need to be registered with Sabsa. All legitimate business schools and other learning institutions in South Africa are also accredited by the Council on Higher Education. If you are thinking of studying for an MBA in South Africa, then you want to ensure your chosen business school is accredited

Just in case you were wondering, UJ Online’s MBA programmes are accredited through the Johannesburg Business School, which in turn falls under the wider University of Johannesburg umbrella.

Common MBA entry requirements at South African Business Schools

The South African Business Schools Association (Sabsa) acts as a representative membership organisation for South Africa’s business schools. It stipulates the generic MBA requirements for entry into any accredited South African MBA programme as follows:

  1. A four-year bachelor’s degree OR
  2. A post-graduate diploma (Business Administration) at Level 8 OR
  3. An applicable honours degree OR
  4. A recognised prior learning (RPL) process
  5. Plus any additional admission requirements set by the individual business school

Sabsa also notes that the length of the MBA programme can range from one year to four years, depending on the business school offering it.

For UJ Online, the programme takes two years, but it is structured to be flexible enough to study part-time and can also be completed over a longer time.

Steps to Choosing the right MBA course for You

If you are considering studying an MBA, it is important to think carefully about your current situation, your longer-term goals and what exactly you want to get out of your MBA. There are many things to consider when trying to choose the right MBA course.

People enter MBA programmes from a range of different backgrounds. For example, some MBA entrants run their own companies and are looking to grow their skills to better lead that company to success. For others, they might be taking time out from their career to build their skills base so that they can return to the working world a step or two higher up the corporate ladder. Yet another might be working full time in a particular discipline and find that they have hit a bit of a ceiling in their career and that they need to gain both more specialist knowledge and some management skills to further their advancement potential.

You will need to think carefully about where you are now in your life and the resources you can realistically commit to your studies. Studying requires both money for the tuition and the time to complete courses and assignments. You will want to select an MBA that you can afford both financially and time-wise. It is not so much just about how to choose the best MBA in South Africa, but rather about how to choose the best MBA that works for you.

The Cost of Studying for an MBA Degree in South Africa

MBAs are not known for being cheap, but the return on investment can be very rewarding. Internationally, the most expensive business schools in the US and Europe can charge about R2 million to R3 million for their courses. Here in South Africa, with our weaker currency, we do at least enjoy far lower tuition fees.

Although some SA schools can charge up to R350,000 for a full-time course, with additional costs for travel modules pushing this up by as much as another R100,000, the cost to study an MBA with UJ Online is R193,620 for 2022 for the entire tuition programme.

This cost of an MBA degree at UJ Online doesn’t have to be paid upfront and can instead be paid off one module at a time as you progress through your course. This way you don’t have to commit your finances or time fully to the programme. If at some stage through your course you find you are unable to commit the fees or the time, it’s possible to take a break for a few months and pick up the next module at a later stage. This flexibility has been specifically built into the degree with the understanding that it can be a challenge at times for people with full-time work and other commitments.

Things to include on the MBA motivational letter

Some MBA providers require a letter of motivation along with proving that you meet the academic requirements when you submit your application.

When writing your MBA motivational letter, don’t just repeat the academic qualifications and work history, that you will have already given. To make your MBA motivation letter count, it should include new information to argue why you are ready to start learning the business and administration skills that are covered and how it will further your career.

At UJ, you do not need to write a full motivational letter, but you do still need to motivate your application. When making your application at UJ, you will be asked to write 250 to 300 words explaining how your classmates will benefit from having you in the MBA programme. There is also a slightly shorter section asking about your goals after completing your MBA and how you believe an MBA will help you achieve those goals.

The selection processes for both the UJ online MBA and the JBS face-to-face MBA are highly competitive and both seek to select students who will not only cope with the academic demands of the programme, but who will benefit the most from what they will learn. Meeting the academic entrance requirements does not guarantee acceptance into the programme, so it is important that you provide strong motivation.


Here are some common questions that prospective students have when considering MBA courses.

Study an online MBA with UJ

Now that you have read about all the MBA essentials and what different MBA degrees and programmes entail, you should have a better idea of whether you would like to study for an MBA qualification in 2023. In fact, you may not need to wait that long. Thanks to the way the course is structured with six entry points throughout the year, you can begin your studies within no more than two months from any given date.

Apply for an MBA

If you meet all of the MBA admission requirements and have the supporting documents, then it is quick and easy to apply for an MBA with UJ Online.

Study your MBA online

If after looking at all of the pros and cons of an MBA you would like to go ahead, then please have a look at UJ Online’s Master of Business Administration programme.

How long does it take to study an MBA in South Africa?

How long does it take to study an MBA in South Africa?

Usually, an MBA takes two years to complete. There are also some courses that condense this into an accelerated one-year programme while others offer part-time programmes over as long as four years. This is confirmed by Sabsa, which stipulates that MBA courses can run from one to four years.

At UJ, the online MBA course runs for two years, but it is structured in a flexible way so that you can continue with your existing work responsibilities and study in your own free time. The way in which the payments and modules are structured also allows for students to take breaks along the way as you only need to pay for each module upfront. This means you can pause your studies without penalty should you find that you are short of either fund or the time needed.

So long as the course is completed within the four-year limit, students can stop and start as many times as they like. This has been structured with the working professional in mind and it allows for students to also maintain their personal and family commitments.

What are the requirements for an MBA in SA?

What are the requirements for an MBA in SA?

An MBA is a postgraduate degree, requiring applicants to already hold a graduate degree. MBA courses differ from most other postgraduate degrees in two important ways. To study an MBA, you do not need to have studied any particular undergraduate degree so long as you have one. This allows for diverse backgrounds among MBA students. The second part of the general MBA requirements is that applicants do need to have some work experience behind them before they can be admitted.

For full details on the MBA requirements, please look at the common MBA entry requirements at South African Business Schools section higher up in this article.

Is an MBA worth it in South Africa?

Is an MBA worth it in South Africa?

It is certain that an MBA can increase the job prospects and earning potential of graduates, but merely completing an MBA is not by itself a guarantee of career success. In deciding whether an MBA is worth it for you, you need to consider where you are in your career and where you would like to get to. It’s also important to consider the field in which you work or would like to work.

As a business-orientated degree, an MBA is aimed at those in business. If you are looking to climb the corporate ladder or grow your own entrepreneurial venture, then the skills learnt in an MBA programme will be of direct benefit. There is also a focus on leadership and management skills, so it is aimed at those who are in charge of teams or other groups of people.

If however, you work in an entirely unrelated field and carry out most of your work individually, such as an academic researcher, writer or artist, then it is likely that other academic pursuits would give you a better return on the investment of your time, effort and money. So, is an MBA worth it? That depends entirely on you.

What is an MBA qualification?

What is an MBA qualification?

An MBA qualification is a Master of Business Administration degree. It is an internationally recognised postgraduate degree that provides graduates with a set of skills aimed at producing effective managers in the business environment. As the name implies, it is a master’s level qualification, meaning that it can be used as a stepping stone towards a PhD.

You can read more about the MBA meaning in our previous article, What is an MBA? or check out the different subjects in MBA curriculums, with breakdowns for your first year and second year of study along with other MBA course details.

What is required for an MBA?

What is required for an MBA?

All of South Africa’s MBA programmes require a graduate degree and some work experience. Exact MBA requirements differ among institutions, but the baseline requirements are detailed in the Common MBA entry requirements at South African Business Schools section higher up in this article.

Can anyone do an MBA?

Can anyone do an MBA?

As a master’s level degree, an MBA is certainly not open to just anyone. Completing an MBA means that you have proven yourself to be especially skilled, knowledgeable and proficient. That said, an MBA is open to far more people than most specialised master’s level degrees.

What makes the MBA different from most other courses at this academic level is that applicants do not need to have studied any particular field in their undergraduate degree. This means that MBAs attract applicants from all walks of life and fields of study.

So while the MBA is not open to just everyone, it is a far more accessible course than other masters level degrees that will require a very specific academic path to enter.

Do employers care if an MBA is online?

Do employers care if an MBA is online?

There is a notion that if all other things are equal, traditional contact courses are seen as being better than their online counterparts, but there’s more to consider.

We spoke to Lindy Taylor, the innovation and business development manager at Altgen, Africa’s leading recruitment company for the renewable energy sector with offices in South Africa, the UK, Kenya and Mauritius.

“Unfortunately, they do somewhat, but this will likely change as more respected institutes emerge or begin to offer online courses. Many companies have had to do a paradigm shift in the way they think about remote work and have become more accepting of the concept, and the idea of online education will be the same as we progress into the 4th industrial revolution,” Taylor said.

She did, however, add that the work experience that an online MBA student could gain over the same time would be beneficial. “Any work experience will always make a candidate more attractive to a company. Having commercial awareness and the ability to hit the ground running is a key factor that employers are look for,” she noted.

You will need to assess your own situation and look at the costs and benefits. For many people though, the very real dual benefits of maintaining an income and continuing to build up work experience while studying online are likely to far outweigh the possibility that an employer might view a face-to-face MBA as more valuable than the diligence and discipline displayed by working and studying at the same time.

Is an online MBA different from a regular MBA?

Is an online MBA different from a regular MBA?

The contents of an online MBA are the same as a traditional contact MBA. The only difference between the two is the manner in which classes and assignments are handled. Through the use of chat rooms and other forms of online communication, students are still able to get direct feedback from their lecturers as well as interact and network with their peers.

You can read more about the differences between online and contact MBA degrees in our previous article weighing up an online MBA vs part-time and traditional contact MBAs.

Is EMBA as good as MBA?

Is EMBA as good as MBA?

Essentially they are the same thing. Traditionally the two differed in terms of how they were studied, but both aimed to produce graduates with the same set of skills. The distinction between the two is less relevant today with many MBAs offered in flexible and part-time ways that would previously have caused them to be called EMBAs.

Asked about the value that employers place on an EMBA, Altgen’s Taylor said that they have never had an employer ask for an EMBA graduate.

What is an EMBA?

What is an EMBA?

An EMBA is an Executive Master of Business Administration. The only difference between the two is that traditional MBAs were seen as full-time courses that do not allow for students to continue working at the same time. Executive MBAs in comparison have traditionally been structured to allow for part-time study while carrying on with work commitments.

Due to this difference, executive MBA students were often supported by their employers, meaning executive MBAs were often more expensive. Although course requirements vary, executive MBAs tended to require more senior level experience than non-executive MBAs and this meant that the average age of EMBA students tended to be older than that of MBAs.

These days this distinction is becoming redundant, especially with the rise of online learning. For example, UJ Online’s MBA programme takes two years, but it is structured to be flexible enough to study part-time so students can continue with their work commitments. Applicants for the programme do also require four years of relevant work experience, which goes beyond the base requirements as set out by Sabsa above. In this way the UJ online MBA acts very much like an executive MBA in all but its name.

What’s the difference between MBA and EMBA?

What’s the difference between MBA and EMBA?

In terms of the final qualification, there is no real difference between an MBA degree and an executive master of business administration (EMBA) degree. Traditionally, EMBA programmes were designed specifically to allow students to continue with their work commitments, attending classes in the evenings or on weekends. Another factor that sometimes separates the two types of programmes is the fact that EMBA students were usually older and had more work experience.

With the recent increase in the availability of online and flexible part-time MBA courses, the distinction between an EMBA and a “regular” MBA is largely redundant. Most South African MBAs already require that applicants have professional work experience and many courses, such as the UJ Online Master of Business Administration, are presented as “regular” MBAs but with all of the flexibility that was traditionally offered by an EMBA.

Is EMBA considered a master’s degree?

Is EMBA considered a master’s degree?

Yes, an EMBA is considered to be a master’s degree, as is an MBA. Both courses hold the same level of qualification and are at level 9 on the National Qualification Framework (NQF).

Is there a mini MBA?

Is there a mini MBA?

The term “mini MBA” covers a broad range of courses offered by different institutions. Typically, the types of courses that use this label aim to teach students business skills in an accelerated time.

In South Africa there are also some business-related postgraduate diplomas, which require half the time to complete as a full MBA. These give a similar set of skills, but with less depth of knowledge than is covered by the longer MBA.

What level is a mini MBA?

What level is a mini MBA?

There is no officially recognised “mini MBA” and the name is used differently by different institutions. Some courses can be completed in just a few weeks, but these will only grant students a certificate and not a properly recognised degree.

South Africa does officially recognise several business-related postgraduate diplomas that are quicker to complete but lack the depth and respectability of a true MBA. These do provide SAQA recognised qualifications, but they are at NQF level 8, one level lower than for an MBA.

What level is a mini MBA?

What level is a mini MBA?

There is no officially recognised “mini MBA” and the name is used differently by different institutions. Some courses can be completed in just a few weeks, but these will only grant students a certificate and not a properly recognised degree.

South Africa does officially recognise several business-related postgraduate diplomas that are quicker to complete but lack the depth and respectability of a true MBA. These do provide SAQA recognised qualifications, but they are at NQF level 8, one level lower than for an MBA.

What are the benefits of a mini MBA?

What are the benefits of a mini MBA?

With “mini MBA” being such a wide term, it is tricky to provide a blanket answer. That said, there are certain features and benefits that they have in common that may appeal to people in certain situations.

The main selling point of a mini MBA is that it is quicker to complete and, usually, more affordable than a full MBA. For example, a mini MBA course might appeal to someone looking at starting up their own business who wants to learn some basic business skills in a matter of weeks and who does not have the time or funds to commit to a longer-term degree.

Where they do not match up to a proper MBA however, is in terms of the qualifications gained. A mini MBA can be seen as a quick, short-term stepping stone to acquiring a useful set of business skills. A better recognised academic qualification like an MBA will be far more useful if you want to advance your career over a longer term.


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