How To Know If an MBA Is Right For You

Many believe an MBA degree teaches critical skills and could lead to increased hiring potential, networking opportunities, and a future salary boost.

This may be true, but you need to look closely at your own situation — what job do you want after graduation? Is it with your current company or will you leave to pursue the degree? Are you hoping to switch fields? What effect will this have on your personal life?

Obtaining a degree purely for the sake of getting it isn’t a good enough reason and, depending on your goals, may or may not be the best next step. Consider JetBlue Airways’ Chairman Joel Peterson’s words : “ … the fact remains that many successful MBA alumni have the kind of drive that would've allowed them to flourish even if they’d never gone to business school. And some of them may have found success sooner.”

For others, business school may be the launching pad for their success.

  • Where do you fall?

  • Do you hope to gain skills better taught in the classroom or on the job?

  • Would going back to school align best with your goals?

School Reputation and Cost

While considering the best option for yourself, you also want to be realistic about finances, which will include more than tuition (more than $60,000 on average). Experts warn that school estimates are conservative and oftentimes do not represent actual cost. For example, Columbia’s first-year tuition is $60,720, but the total first-year budget is estimated to be $93,288.

The most expensive schools are not your only options. Research more affordable schools and be open to those beyond your top choices so long as they are reputable, accredited schools. Regardless of your choices, look for financial aid, grants and fellowships.

Your Options

If you decide to pursue business school, cost will be only one piece of the puzzle in finding the right program for you. You can enroll in a program part-time, full time, in person or online. You can leave the workforce or you can work and join an Executive MBA program. You can choose a program focused in management, one customized to your industry, or a joint program. You can work with your employer while keeping your job (and possibly receiving financial assistance).

Do you want the networking opportunities that come from attending classes? Would an online format allow you to have family time? Or can you teach yourself the business skills you need? Take a look at each option alongside your situation and goals. Which gets you there effectively and efficiently?

Decisions, Decisions…

Always remember that any degree is not a guarantee, and that leadership is “…less about analysis than about synthesis,” as Peterson said “[it’s] the art of putting together the puzzle pieces that an ever-changing marketplace is hurling at you.”

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to fit those pieces together, whether you have the letters “MBA” after your name or not.


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