Getting an MBA could be the difference between a good career, or a good amount of wasted money. And years of your life.
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It’s a big decision, deciding whether or not an MBA is right for you. It’s an important moment when you decide what you will do with your life. Don’t despair – we’re about to outline some of the key considerations you’ll need to digest before making the decision to get an MBA.
Here are 4 things to (deeply) consider before getting an MBA:
1. Time and costs
An MBA is likely to be one of the biggest investments of both time and money that you’ll ever make. The cost of an MBA program is relatively high yet the return can vary widely by program choice. That’s why it’s critical to do a thorough cost-benefit analysis on any school you’re thinking of attending. One can expect to spend $120,000 to $150,000 USD for a top MBA program – no kidding.
With that kind of outlay, you really have to take a moment to step back and do some serious research as you weigh the advantages and disadvantages.
Evaluate your financial situation. Can you afford an MBA? If not, how do you plan to pay for it? It’s crucial to understand that the costs associated with tuition, room & board and books are not the only ones you’ll have to face. Going to school full-time means missing out on income that you could have earned in the meantime. Depending on where you work, that could easily be $60,000 in missed income over 2 years.
If you plan to take out student loans, find out what interest rates are on offer. Federal student loan interest rates for graduate students are varied and can range from 6% to 9%. Do the math and figure out what you’ll owe and by when you’ll have to pay it back.
Then there’s the matter of time. If you choose a traditional program, then a full-time 2-year MBA program could average as little as two or three hours a day in the classroom. If you choose a more intensive, accelerated MBA program, then you may spend as many as six hours a day in class.
You may decide to go part-time so that you can continue to work. In that case, you’re looking at classes either at night or on the weekends for the next three years. Minimum.
2. Do a self-assessment
Understanding what you want out of business school will help you get the best out of your MBA. It will help you decide what kind of program best fits your needs. Once you know where you want to be professionally, then the next step is to figure out how you can get there.
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
What are you hoping to get out of an MBA degree?
Are you looking to make a career change?
Do you want to start or grow an existing business?
Where will you be in five years?
You should take time to reflect on your work experience, your abilities, and your ambitions. You should ask yourself, “am I where I want to be in my career and my life?” and, “what would it take to get there?”
Assuming the conclusion is that an MBA will best help you achieve your goals, think about what specifically you want to learn and gain in an MBA program.
Remember…careers take time and planning. Set aside the time at the beginning to assess yourself honestly. Your future self will thank you for it.
3. What programs should I take?
Choosing the right school and program is perhaps the biggest decision to make during your graduate business journey. Hopefully the work you’ve done in step 2 will prepare you for this decision. This is the chance to consider your interests, career goals, and learning style, and match them with a program that’s the best fit for you.
Here are a few more things to consider when making this decision.
Are there faculty members that you’re inspired by and want to work with/learn from?
Is the school in question a feeder school or have strong connections with a company for which you’d ultimately want to work?
Keep in mind that studying for an MBA requires a huge investment of time, money and energy. It’s also true that a lot of people go do an MBA to make contacts. Big consulting companies like Deloitte or McKinsey are known to hire liberally from MBA programs in their cities so that may be something to keep an eye out for.
4. Can’t I just…recreate an MBA experience?
We’ve gone through a number of steps that’ll help you decide if you should get an MBA and where to get it from, but now let’s flip it on its head.
What if you could get all the benefits from attending an MBA program – the contacts, the education – without having to go to the actual university? What if you could attain all the benefits of an MBA at a tenth of the cost?
Look, there’re a ton of resources right now for people who want to better themselves.
You really can learn everything one would learn in an MBA program without having to go to school. Maybe you do a ton of free online courses or simply buy and read a ton of books. One book in particular, The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman is often touted as a like-for-like replacement for the ‘information’ you could get in a business school MBA program.
Or you could take the money you would have spent on business school and put yourself through a “real-world” MBA.
Imagine if you went through steps 2 and 3 and you realized that the reason you wanted to get an MBA was to be able to someday start your own business. Well, what if you took half that tuition money and…just…started a business?
That tuition money would have been spent anyway. Whether you succeed or fail in your real-world MBA, you’d know that the lessons learned along the way would be just as valuable as going to a (likely-sterilized) MBA program.
Everything you can get from an MBA program you can get from another source, as long you’re motivated. You want to make contacts so you can work in the startup world? Why would you go to school for that? Just start attending startup events in your city!
Working your way through these key points will definitely help you understand what you want to get out of an MBA and why you are doing it. If, at the end, you still want to do it…well, we wish you best of luck!