Every year the choices of graduate business programmes become greater and more complex. Most local tertiary institutions - including the Open University of Hong Kong - offer Master of Business Administration Programmes, (MBAs), as do a growing number of overseas business schools. MBAs can also be earned through locally-based schools of continuing education, the Hong Kong Management Association, or various commercial entities. While most prefer studying in a traditional classroom setting, a growing number are also finding distance-learning convenient. Online options are limited, but more are likely to come on stream. The main advantage of distance learning and online courses is flexibility. Working people who travel regularly can more easily keep up with their course work, and are allowed more time in which to complete the programme. Deciding to invest in an MBA is often the easiest part. What is difficult is to choose the most suitable programme. The first step is to do a needs analysis. This means first defining career objectives and then identifying skills gaps, according to Professor Andrew Chan Chi-fai, associate dean of graduate studies of the Faculty of Business Administration, and director of MBA programmes at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. 'Considering the above two issues, candidates can compare which programme or programmes fit their requirements and overcome their handicaps,' Professor Chan said. Naturally, the selection of a programme must be influenced by what particular skills will be in demand in the future. Another major consideration is whether you want to study full- or part-time. Full-time courses allow you to focus more on studies. These tend to attract younger students, many of whom have just graduated and have little or no work experience. The downside is that these students usually have less practical insight to offer in class discussions. The focus, therefore, tends to be more academic and less practical. Part-time courses are targeted more at working professionals and tend to attract older students with more on-the-job experience. While part-time students can often find it difficult to balance the conflicting demands of work, home and school, they have the advantage of being able to bring experiences from work to the classroom, and the ability to discuss them from a practical standpoint. Many students say the chance to network with professionals from different backgrounds is one of the most important benefits of taking an MBA. Part-time MBA programmes usually offer classes on weekday evenings, weekends or a combination of the two. They are often taught at town centres in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island, but there are some exceptions. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), for example, offers Saturday classes at its campus in Clear Water Bay. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), meanwhile, offers two options: weekday evening classes at its town centre in Tsim Sha Tsui East, and Saturday classes at its Sha Tin campus. Most MBAs in Hong Kong are offered in English; at least, the course materials are in English, even if lectures and group discussions are occasionally conducted in Cantonese, Putonghua or a combination. A few Chinese language programmes are beginning to come online, especially across the border. Keep in mind that courses taught in Chinese will attract a more homogenous group, whereas those taught in English will attract students from a variety of backgrounds. If you work or do business mostly in China and expect to continue doing so, then Chinese might be the best way to go. If you work for a multinational, however, you would definitely prefer a course taught in English. A final but important consideration is the opportunity to develop professional relationships with fellow classmates. 'While the MBA curriculum is the main consideration, candidates should also evaluate the extra-curricular activities the MBA programmes offer,' Professor Chan said. 'These activities should enable the candidates to develop business contacts, alumni networks, management and other skills.'