Deciding to go back to school for your master’s in business administration (MBA) isn’t always a clear choice. While adding to your resume can increase job opportunities and open up doors that might otherwise be closed, a lot can depend on your personal circumstances, what programs are near you and the skills you use in your daily tasks.
If you’d like to move into management positions, an MBA is typically expected. However, there are many paths to gaining your advanced degree. Alternatives to traditional classroom learning include online courses and schools offering credit for real life experience.
Statista reports around 92% of employers in 2022 planned to hire MBA graduates in nearly every industry. Most of the brands followed through with employing new MBA graduates. You can see how adding an advanced degree in business ramps up your earning potential and possibilities for employment.
Even though there are many positives to expanding your knowledge, there may be a few drawbacks. The best way to figure out if going for an MBA is right for you is to sit down and answer some tough questions. You’ll be more prepared for the journey ahead and avoid some of the pitfalls others may experience.
1. Why Do I Want to Go Back to School?
Adding to your list of qualifications is an excellent use of your time. However, know what you want to get out of going for your MBA. You’re looking at a minimum of two years to complete the requirements for your degree. If you go part-time, it may take significantly longer.
Keep in mind that full-time for a postgraduate degree looks different than the hours you must take to be considered full-time as an undergraduate. You’ll likely only need to take eight hours instead of 12. However, the courses will be much more in-depth and intensive. Many students choose to take six credit hours a semester and focus on raising their GPA.
2. Can I Afford to Get an MBA?
The cost of higher education is significant. You can reduce your expenses by choosing a less expensive college. Every MBA doesn’t have to come from Harvard. Start by crunching the numbers. What does your current budget look like? Is there any extra or flexibility for funds to pay as you go?
You may need to choose some extreme options, such as selling a vehicle and getting a cheaper method of transportation, with the idea that you’ll earn more when you finish and can buy the car of your dreams then.
Perhaps you could move back in with your parents or another family member for two years to reduce living expenses while you finish your education. Another option is to seek a roommate so you can share rent and other expenses.
Consider available scholarships and other financial help. Some of the top MBA programs cost as much as $80,000 per year, so you may need to get creative and seek scholarships. Also, talk to your employer about what they might cover if the courses apply directly to your current job.
3. Am I Able to Devote Time to Studying?
Consider where you’re at in life at the moment. If you have young children, ill family members who need help or a particularly demanding job, you may have little time for studying. MBA programs can be intensive.
Sit down and make a list of how much time you need to attend classes, what the workload might be and how much time you should allot to studying. Every individual is different in how much they need to focus to do their best. Different subjects can also vary how hard the classes are for you.
If you’re still unsure, talk to an admissions counselor for the program you’d like to enter. Ask them what the average times people study and what the time commitment might be. Make a list of your other commitments. Can anything go? Do you really need to take the Jiu Jitsu class at this time or can you sit out a semester or even take only one class a week?
4. Have I Looked at Alternatives?
Consider the payback for getting an MBA. If you plan to stay in your current position, do they pay MBAs more or put them on the fast track to management? What are the benefits in adding to your education?
It might be smarter to add some specialized certifications rather than seeking a graduate degree, depending on what you’d like to add to your skill set.
Could you make more by adding skills versus classes? You can crunch the numbers on the cost of education versus future earning potential but getting an MBA requires more than just money. You’ll also give up time with family and friends. You’ll have to consistently put in effort and deal with the stresses of being in a competitive program. Make sure the payoff matches the level of effort required.
5. What Is the Earning Potential?
Do some research into the average salary in your area and the increase you can expect. Understand some areas pay more because the cost of living is higher. For example, in Hawaii, you can expect to pay a premium for housing and other common items.
The graphic above shows an MBA nets an additional $49,000 per year for general managers and around $20,000 more per year for a marketing manager. If you pay $100,000 per year for two years of tuition, it will take you 10 years to break even.
6. How Long Will It Take to Finish?
A traditional MBA takes two years of full-time studying to complete. However, you might find a school with a condensed schedule and finish sooner. You also could take a class or two each semester and finish in four years or more.
Most MBA students must complete 30 graduate credit hours to earn their degree. The requirements for each program may vary a bit, but include business courses, math and a few electives in related topics.
7. What Kind of Reputation Does the School Have?
Check out online reviews of the school you’re considering. Are there any complaints with the Better Business Bureau? What do their former students have to say about them? They’re going to present themselves in the best light possible, so it’s crucial you do your own research and don’t just take what the school says at face value.
Pay attention to the structure of the program and how well it fits your life. Do you see any potential time constraints?
You should also consider if there are varied times and plenty of options to complete requirements. Is there an online version of the course? Are there multiple professors?
Use tools such as Rate My Professors to see what others say about the teachers you might study under. You can also gain the most by registering with the best professors. Don’t necessarily look for the easiest courses. Instead, seek the ones that lift their students up and teach them something valuable.
8. Can I Meet Admission Requirements?
Another thing you must consider is if you can meet the school’s admission requirements. What must you have to apply? How likely will you be accepted? Some schools are more choosy than others. Find out what their admission rate is. You don’t want a school that takes everyone as the program may be a bit less than stellar. However, you also might not make it into a program with a 1% acceptance rate.
Gather all the necessary information and talk to the admissions counselor about your chances. Is there anything you need to complete before you apply? Is there a backdoor way in if you get denied? Some schools allow you to register and take graduate courses to prove you can get the necessary GPA and do the work. You can then reapply to the program and show them your progress.
Listen Carefully and Add Your Own Questions
Committing to intensive study and taking a step forward in life requires a big financial and life change. Make sure you listen carefully to all responses and write out any additional questions you might have. Some questions only you can answer, while others need to be asked of the school. Getting an MBA takes your career to the next level but it’s smart to do research and ensure it’s the right option for you.