The good news is that the financial outlay and time for postgraduate study in business administration is worth it. According to United States-based Management Admissions Council, a non-profit education organisation on graduate management information, companies plan to increase their graduate business student hires by 18 per cent. According to the council's Corporate Recruiters Survey 2007 report, the average expected starting annual salary of graduate business students has exceeded that of other graduate school students by 27 per cent and that of undergraduate or first university students by 76 per cent. But in a burgeoning field of MBAs, executive MBAs and doctorates in business administration (DBAs), it is increasingly difficult for people to decide where and what to study. Experts at Richard Ivey School of Business and U21Global said just looking at the rankings of business schools was not enough. The decision had to be an entirely personal one based on the best course to suit that individual. Wing Lam, the dean of information technology programmes and director of pedagogy at U21Global, which provides online programmes in conjunction with 20 universities worldwide, said: 'The standard answer is the course that suits you best. Do I want to be lectured at, or do lots of case studies? 'The choice of programme is very personal. One should not rely on rankings, they are to sell newspapers. I've never seen a list with the same rankings.' Dr Lam said that potential students should talk to faculty members, and use the network of graduates to find the benefits of the course. Despite the plethora of MBA programmes available, Dr Lam said he felt that there was still not enough education in Asia. 'In this part of the world, people have become very busy ... we need more flexible courses to meet the demands of modern professionals; learning that fits their lifestyles.' Dr Lam said. Kathleen Slaughter, dean of the Richard Ivey School of Business/Asia, agreed with Dr Lam that rankings should be ignored. 'We have had rankings among the top 10, the top 20, the top 30,' she said. What's much more important is to look at what sort of programme you're thinking about. Talk to people who are in it, people who graduated from it, [and see] what the learning objectives are. 'Some executive MBAs are conducted like university lectures. But considering that most people who are on these courses are close to 40, people who are 40 don't need another lecture. They don't need just knowledge, as they can find knowledge anywhere. 'They need to be able to look at cases of real business leaders. One of the things with case methods is that it allows people to make mistakes within the safety of the classroom. They have the chance to explore new ideas.' Assistant professor Jonathan Burton, who teaches human resources management among other subjects at a community college in Hong Kong, said studying for a double master's with an MBA component and master's in travel and tourism through U21Global had helped him build a valuable network of fellow managers in a swathe of industries. 'The course has helped me keep my students updated. Apart from the two degrees in one, it has provided me with a huge network of people from different industries. Part of the course is a diploma in business administration, so I have a lot of classmates from around the world, including surgeons, doctors, and people from the engineering and construction fields.' Mr Burton, 31, said he enjoyed the flexibility of an online course. He is three months into the course which he hopes to complete in under two years. 'One of the main reasons I chose travel and tourism is that I'm Australian. So when I go back to Australia in a few years, it will open doors. I hope this course puts me in a position to get a senior management job in tourism,' he said.