There are many reasons why people decide to take the time and spend the money to study for an MBA. Some see it as a step up the career ladder, others as a way to a salary increase, but it's a matter of whether it suits their personal needs. It's also a case of checking if is right for them and if what they choose stands above master's degrees in other disciplines that could propel them forward. For Mark Weir, 44, it has been a way of studying outside the marketing discipline. He is director of customer insights (category and revenue management) for PepsiCo International's Asia, Middle East and Africa division. 'I initially did a master of management in marketing and found what I learned very interesting and applicable to my work,' he said. 'So I decided to do an MBA to broaden my understanding of fields outside the marketing discipline.' Mr Weir, who is now studying an MBA on a part-time basis, began his career in Australia and spent 10 years as an industrial chemist before moving into various sales roles in the fast-moving consumer goods industry. In 2004, he joined PepsiCo in Hong Kong as category development director for Asia. 'My role evolved over the next five years to include customer insights, revenue management and an expanded geographical area,' he said. MBAs are a considerable financial investment, not only in terms of the cost of tuition but also the time taken away from the workplace - and salary - to make that study commitment. As far as Mr Weir is concerned, that commitment has been worth it. As an MBA student, he feels it is a worthwhile investment, even in an economic downturn. 'It's a great investment in the current climate as companies will lean towards keeping those employees who can add real value to the business and improve its competitive edge in the marketplace,' he said. 'It's a competitive world and if you can't differentiate yourself in the workplace, you won't be able to be successful.' While Mr Weir did not comment on the specifics of whether studying for an MBA had resulted in a salary increase or other benefits, he did say that he felt the knowledge gained and the skills accrued through what he had learned through his studies were now benefiting him in his day-to-day interaction with his colleagues and work generally within the company. He added: 'The MBA has furthered my career by giving me the tools and understanding to evaluate business practices and assess their fitness for purpose. Where the fit is less than required, I can now design solutions and sell these to the organisation and have them implemented.' Mr Weir said he had learned many things through studying for his MBA, including aspects that he had been able to successfully apply to his daily working life. These were leading and working in teams, strategic planning, statistical analysis, market research techniques, financial and economic understanding, and co-ordinating new product development and managing people. Choosing the right academic institution to suit one's needs can be tricky when there is so much on offer. Prospective students need to pay attention to the prospectus and ensure that the part-time or full-time courses fit their needs. So it is not just about going with a prestigious academic institution just because of its name. For Mr Weir it was a straightforward decision. His first master's degree was with the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) and he decided to go with the same school for his MBA. 'Two things stand out about the MGSM course,' he said. 'First, the lecturers all have real-world experience and so it is not just learning about the coursework - it is about benefiting from the lecturers' experience and this is truly valuable. 'Second, most subjects are based around group work. Being in a group can be difficult, but at MGSM you really learn how to manage and work in groups, and in the workplace this is a key skill to master if you want to advance.'