Is an MBA Right for You?
Tips for Planning an MBA
An MBA can be a huge boost to your career and add value far beyond finances. But understanding the educational path to that career and whether or not it is the right path for you is key. This will also help you maximize the return on investment. So it’s important to examine your MBA journey ahead of time.
WHAT IS AN MBA?
A master’s in business administration is an internationally-recognized degree. It’s designed to build out the foundational leadership skills and industry connections needed for advancing a career in business, though many go into the public sector. As you move up in your career, you’re better able to understand how your decision impacts the whole company and your space in the industry. Good programs train you in making data-driven, strategic decisions and can provide tools to help make you more effective.
BENEFITS TO YOUR CAREER
Do you need an MBA to start a new career or to move up in your current company?
Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Don’t go into a program expecting to end up with a VP position if you have limited work experience. Know that it takes hard work and dedication to build your network and make yourself more visible throughout your program.
Look up a company you’d like to work for and conduct informational interviews with the potential hiring managers or those you are already connected with. But go beyond that and get in touch with people in the post-MBA role that you are targeting. Look in the functional area and industry you’re interested in, such as financing or accounting, but be open to other fields available. You may not be interested in healthcare when interviewing for the MBA, but still find a promising career in it after.
DO THE LEGWORK
Understand what kind of experience you’re seeking to have. The difference will help you decide whether you should do a full- or part-time course, whether you should find a program close to home or if you should explore online opportunities.
Make sure both you and the school are the right fit for each other. Visit campuses whenever you can. Attend any available recruitment events in your region. And connect with current students or alumni to get a more intimate and personal understanding of the school.
FINANCING YOUR MBA
Will you be able to cover the cost out of pocket? Will your company sponsor you?
For many full-time programs, admitted students are evaluated for scholarships and teaching assistantships. What you’re eligible for won’t be available until the school decides to admit you. Many awards are based on the strength of your application (academics, test scores and work experience), while others can be based on other criteria the school is seeking to attract. If you’re interested in a full-time program, submit your application so you can be fully considered for scholarships and other aid.
Part-time courses provide you the flexibility to maintain a steady job, but fewer companies are sponsoring employees. Also part-time programs tend to offer more modest, if any, scholarships.
Do a careful assessment of where you stand today to explore options for extending a part-time program over three years to spread the cost. The upside is that you get to apply what you’re learning in the class right away, to enhance your career, and potentially land a new role during the program or immediately afterwards.
HOW DO YOU STAND OUT?
How are you going to market yourself? Are you looking to polish up your skills or to engage in a new field? Will you take your degree abroad or take advantage of the school’s local networks?
Your essay answers on the application, along with your resume, will be key for branding how you’re a unique fit for the b-school.
If you are interested in an MBA but want to hold off another year, this may be a good time to boost your track record through extracurricular activities offering local leadership roles. Or you may take additional coursework to better position yourself academically.
For other tips on standing out, we encourage you to reach out to admissions advisors or friends who have gone through the program for their advice.
GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW
For some, it can take as little as two weeks to get the application ready and sent. But remember it’s not a race. We encourage you to apply as soon as you can, but also when your application is the strongest. Note, if applying to a full-time program, there may be deadlines attached to certain rounds. At UC Davis, full consideration for scholarships is based on the round three deadline.
At this point, the only variable left is the GMAT exam, which is also the best way to boost your application. Your GPA and undergraduate career by now are already set in place. Most of your work experience is as well. So the test score is the best way to really boost your profile. Look at the class average and range and reach out to the schools if you have questions about them. (And look for our post on the GMAT in our next Tips to Succeed article)