The Big Jump
How to Choose the Right MBA
Choosing the right MBA can be tough. Although many people choose to pursue their MBAs for varying reasons, the steps that need to be taken to identify the best school for your situation and goals are pretty common. Here are some smart and helpful ways to assist you in making that big decision.
If you are at a time and place in your life where you want more – you are not alone. There are a considerable number of reasons for choosing to pursue an MBA, and it is not a decision that should be taken lightly. This is because an MBA is a longterm investment of your time and money. MBA programmes can be very expensive and are also time intensive, so diligent research on your part is key.
So, what do you want to do? This should be the first step in choosing an MBA programme. Your career goals, lifestyle and family situation will all play a major role in this decision. Do you only intend to increase your income? Is there a position you have got your eye on that requires an MBA degree? Start by making a list of your goals and what you hope to accomplish with an MBA. Be realistic in your assessment to ensure you are on the right track.
How will you learn
The Internet has opened many opportunities for people to continue their education through distance learning. Although online education is a rapidly expanding and widely popular environment, it is not for everyone. Weigh your choices between a traditional classroom setting and online instruction. Will you go full-time or part-time? Do you intend to enrol in a local university or are you interested in attending a school abroad?
Most MBA candidates have several years of industry experience under their belt, so future plans concerning their career are at the forefront of their goals. For many, continuing to work while attending school is the best option, so part-time enrolment may be the right way to go. Yet others may have already obtained their status as managers and may feel that a change in their career functionality is warranted. This type of situation may be better suited for full-time enrolment, whether on an international or local programme.
Once you have decided which learning mode you want to use, determine the length of time you wish to commit to your MBA. Many educational institutions offer accelerated learning as well as Executive MBA programmes. Most MBAs will take approximately 1-2 years to obtain. Different areas of your life will influence which programme you finally choose.
Do your research
After deciding on the mode in which you intend to learn and what you want to get out of your degree, it is time to do some research. Making a list of the top 3-5 schools that offer your MBA programme and narrowing it down is a good way to weed out institutions that do not have what you are looking for.
Research the schools’ accreditation; find out if your college credits will transfer to other universities or what credits they accept from other universities. Investigate whether or not they provide assistance with career placement. Inquire about any financial or tuition assistance that may be available to you. Many schools also now offer their own scholarship programmes.
If you choose to attend via a traditional classroom, visit the school and evaluate the culture to see if you are a good fit. Ask about tools that will be needed in the course of your training such as laptops or certain software. Discuss the faculty and their reputation both inside and outside the school on a professional level. Do they have the industry experience and knowledge to be a competent authority on what you will be learning? These are some of the important questions to ask yourself.
Also, some schools host their own learning structures concerning theories and practices in management and business. The Manchester Method, developed by the Manchester Business School, is one good example of this; their programme has enabled them to rank favourably when it comes to MBAs.
Beyond your MBA: Networking
Any well accomplished school should be in the position to give you access to a network of businesses, faculty, alumni and other students, like yourself, that may be able to help you realize your dreams. Building a network of business contacts will aid in job search and placement, mapping out future plans for your career and building business relationships that can help to either jump-start your career or improve upon expertise you may already possess in your chosen field.
High graduation success rates will undoubtedly be part of each school’s way of promoting their programme to you. Take into consideration how many students enrol on the MBA programme at any given institution and how many students successfully graduate and continue in their fields of study. Are their graduates more suited for work in the United States or in Europe? This will be especially relevant if you are attending school abroad or intend to work abroad after you graduate.
You can also visit schools and/or speak to alumni to get a feel for their personal experience in the MBA programme; what were they most successful with or where did they find it was a struggle? Each school’s website should be able to provide you with public access to an alumni page for further research.
Location is Key
You may consider a university with high academic status, boasting the best programme among all other schools, which is seemingly perfect in every way, except for its location. School location will play a vital role in where you actually decide to go. Commitments to a job or family may make it difficult or impossible to attend a school which is very far away, or in another country.
Ensure that you are comfortable with where the school is located. Consider travel to and from the site, diversity and cultural elements and, of course, the quality of the MBA programme itself. Certain cities are known for their top MBA programmes. Tokyo, Paris, London and New York are well known for their financial markets and thus have much to offer in terms of education in that particular niche market. Again, research will be necessary to make the best decision for your particular circumstances.
What you get in return for your investment
An MBA is still widely accepted as a premier degree for many, showing employers and peers that you have “gone that extra mile” and devoted your valuable time and money to intensive study in the area you love. Do not fret about the money you have spent - the average salary of an MBA graduate is more than 105 per cent of the pre-MBA level. Most MBA grads can expect to see return on their investment in the first five years post-MBA.
Aside from the obvious and well-deserved increase in salary, you also reap the benefits of being an exclusive expert in your industry niche. You have done all the hard work, pursued specialised training and still came out in one piece. Not to mention the vast network of professionals you will meet both inside and outside the classroom who can further educate you on ways to be the best you can be professionally, as well as help you to hone those skills you have just learned and use them in real-world settings.
By doing just a bit of research, taking an honest look at both your professional and personal priorities and obligations and dedicating your time to pursuing your MBA, you will ensure that you improve and grow professionally and personally and will gain more valuable insight and knowledge in your respective industry.