The decision to go to business school is a big one. Earning an MBA can accelerate your career, improve your professional network, and provide exposure to a myriad of new experiences. However, it’s also a time-consuming (and in some cases, expensive) endeavor. Below are some suggestions to help you make an informed decision on whether or not business school is for you, and—if it is—which program(s) to consider:
1. Understand what the MBA is (and what it isn’t) – Some people think an MBA is their ticket to a six-figure job, while others pursue the degree because of the success their family members, business associates, or colleagues have had with it. In my experience, those looking for a managerial or leadership role, those looking to change careers, and/or those looking to start a new company can benefit tremendously from an MBA—both from what they learn in the classroom, and from the experiences they’re provided with. To learn more, I recommend talking with people who have earned the degree, as well as those in careers you aspire to obtain. Try to ascertain whether or not the degree was necessary, helpful, or extraneous, and why. It may also make sense to explore alternatives to the MBA (including online coursework, bootcamps, professional masters programs, and rotational management programs at your current company) before deciding to pursue the MBA.
2. Find the right format for you – Assuming business school is a good option for you, the next step is to find the right format for your lifestyle. Full-time, part-time, accelerated, online, online-hybrid and executive MBA programs are all designed to meet the needs of different types of professionals. Understanding the pros and cons of each format will help you choose a program most likely to help you meet or exceed your postgraduation goals.
3. Rank the Rankings – Many prospective MBA students use the rankings as their primary decision making criteria without really understanding what comprises them. To make a more informed decision, I recommend researching the criteria utilized by US News and World Report, Financial Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, Princeton Review and others to determine which ranking is most helpful to you. You may find the ideal program for your needs by creating your own ranking criteria, as opposed to making your decision based on the sometimes arbitrary criteria used by some of the major ranking agencies.