Is This The Right Time to Pursue Your MBA?
Whether it is a student finishing up their undergraduate degree or an experienced business professional looking to take their career to the next level, most prospective MBA candidates will wrestle with the question, “Is this the right time to pursue a new degree?”
It’s a decision not to be taken lightly. Completing an MBA program requires a serious commitment of time, energy, and money. Whether it’s the right time for you to pursue an MBA depends on your unique situation, but there are a few factors that every potential business school applicant should consider before taking the plunge.
There are two types of business school applicants: those who are already established in their careers, and those who are headed for business school immediately after completing an undergraduate degree. If you fall into the former category and already have a few years of work experience, this factor will not be an issue. However, if you are one of the many undergraduate students planning to continue on to graduate school before starting your business career, you need to consider whether getting a few years of relevant work experience makes more sense.
The undergrad-to-grad school route is attractive for many students. If you go straight to graduate school after completing your undergraduate degree, you will still be in “student mode” with relatively low living expenses and freshly honed study habits. You may also have less family and work commitments that can make finding the time for school problematic.
On the other hand, some graduate business school programs require an applicant to have a few years of business experience in order to be considered for admission. While many top business schools have relaxed this requirement, if your goal is to be accepted into a program that requires business work experience, then you should plan on working for a few years before applying.
Even if your desired program does not have a work experience requirement for admission, consider whether you would get more out of your MBA program if you already had some business experience under your belt. The traditional work requirement was in place for a reason – having business experience can help put your coursework in context and sharpen your focus on what you want to get out of your MBA program.
If you have already started your career, you face a different issue: can you put your job on hold for two years while completing your MBA program? If you are reluctant to do so, you should consider an executive MBA or online MBA program. While very challenging, these are good options for working executives.
There is no question that tuition for a top quality business school is expensive. The cost can increase to six figures when you add in room and board, living expenses, and either a two-year delay in starting a career or two-year hiatus from an existing career.
You must consider whether you have the means to adequately fund your education. Do you have savings or other resources you can rely on? Can you qualify for a scholarship from your school to help pay the cost? Will your employer pay some or all of the tuition? Can you work part time? Is your significant other willing to make the necessary financial sacrifices for you to take on the challenge of earning your MBA?
There is good news. According to a Forbes study, the average payback period for the cost of an MBA is around 3.7 years. (Badenhousen, 2013) This figure includes both tuition as well as two years of foregone salary. The payback period is up from a few years ago, but it still shows that earning your MBA can pay off handsomely in the long run.
Depending on which route you choose, you may have to put your career on hold for two years and you and your family may need to move to a new town. If your spouse is employed, is he or she willing to support you while you work toward your MBA? Does your family understand the time commitment you will be making to grad school and are they on board with it? Getting the answers to these questions in advance can avoid a lot of problems down the road.
Once you have considered all of the factors and determined that you have the necessary experience, resources, and family support, then there is no better time than now to pursue your MBA and work toward successfully achieving your career goals.
Written by David Mackusick, JD, CPA
David is an Assistant Professor in the Forbes School of Business® at Ashford University.
Badenhousen, K. (Oct. 29, 2013). Stanford tops 2013 list of America’s best business schools. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2013/10/09/stanford-tops-2013-list-of-americas-best-business-schools/