The benefits to getting a Masters of Business Administration, or MBA, are enormous — your knowledge of the particular field of business you study (accounting, finance, economics, international business strategy, etc.) will skyrocket. Your résumé becomes infinitely more attractive to potential employers, and your confidence in your own intellectual abilities improves greatly.
Deciding on whether or not to pursue a MBA, however, can be a tough decision. Making your way through a 1-2 year program would certainly be a major accomplishment, one that would greatly improve your chances of climbing the corporate ladder. But first ask yourself if you have the time and money to commit to the pursuit of such a degree.
Here are some important factors to consider before starting an MBA program:
- Be certain it’s necessary. Before you begin researching a particular school or program, step away from your professional life and examine your short- and long-term career goals. Is it even necessary for you to go for an MBA, or could you simply advance through hard work? Many people in the upper echelons of the business world have never received MBAs. This is a personal decision you will have to make, one that depends on how competent and educated you feel you are in the world you’re working in.
- Evaluate your previous academic performance. How strong is your undergraduate university academic transcript and GPA? Keep in mind that your previous academic performance will most likely figure greatly into whether or not you’re accepted into an MBA program. Be sure to get a good handle on a prospective university’s entry requirements and standards.
- Prepare for testing. Be aware that one of the major factors in a graduate admissions board decision to accept your application is how well you score on the General Management Admissions Test (GMAT). The GMAT is a lengthy, in-depth standardized test that requires months of preparation and study. Browse through some test-taking books and start looking at the kinds of questions to expect on the GMAT.
- Assess your availability. Take into consideration how much time you have to devote to an MBA program. Most programs take anywhere from one to two years to complete, and that’s if you’re attending as a full-time student. Do you have that kind of time, or will you be juggling both a day job and school? The good news is that many universities and colleges these days cater their masters programs towards working adults, offering many evening and weekend classes.
- Examine your finances. The cost of an MBA program can be bank busting — where are you at financially in regards to a particular institution’s tuition? If you can’t pay for your education by yourself, then consider applying for financial aid. The U.S. Department of Education offers aid packages designed specifically for working adults looking to go back to school. Also inquire about whether or not your company could pay (or subsidize) your tuition — many businesses will foot the bill for employees looking to strengthen their work skills by acquiring an additional degree, especially if it’s relevant to their current position.
- Make sure you have time to breathe. In addition to assessing the state of your professional life when deciding on an MBA, also take into consideration your personal life. Can you juggle work, classes, homework, a relationship, children, exercise, etc? The last thing you want is to pay a semester’s tuition only to shortly thereafter find yourself unable to keep all the balls in the air.
- Seek out opinions. Advice on an MBA program is crucial. Talk to coworkers who have MBAs and ask them if getting one was worth it or not. There’s a very good chance that many will tell you that simply working in the field will teach you more about business than attending an MBA program. Or you may hear positive things about the experience — ask around and get feedback from several people who have done exactly what you are thinking about doing.