Applying for an MBA program and finally deciding to take what is often a huge leap into the unknown is often a critical turning point in the career of any person.
But with such a massive range of top-level MBA programs to choose from offered in countries all around the world, and even online, it’s no surprise that many prospective students begin to find the process overwhelming. Not knowing where to start can be more common than you think in this situation!
You know that you want to get an MBA, but why? What do you want to specialize in? Where do you want to study? What are your career goals for afterward? Although you might not have all the answers to these questions right now, asking yourself some pressing and crucial questions, and being completely honest with the answers that you give yourself, can help you figure out not only if an MBA is a right pathway for you to take, but what kind of MBA you should embark on.
Why Do You Want to Get an MBA?
Perhaps you have just come up with the idea that you might like to get an MBA, or maybe you have been carefully weighing up your options and considering the alternatives for several months. Whatever stage you are currently at, it’s a good idea to come up with at least three main reasons for why you believe pursuing an MBA is the best option for you. Are you hoping to facilitate a complete career change? Perhaps you want to move into another industry or change jobs in your industry. Or maybe you feel that an MBA is what you need to land that work promotion you’ve had your eye on for a while.
Once you have determined why you want to do an MBA, you will be in a much better position to make a solid decision on factors such as which MBA to do and the business school to choose. The type and location of the business school that you attend can be important factors when it comes to certain factors, such as the relationship with the local business community and the alumni network.
Where Do You Want to Work?
One of the best things about the MBA is that it is an internationally recognized and respected program that will open up career opportunities to you all around the world. Getting an MBA means that you don’t have to stick around in your hometown if you don’t want to; you have an entire globe to explore with abundant career opportunities in every industry.
Think about the places where you want to live and work; don’t just consider the career itself, but also where you would like to work in terms of the country, culture, weather, language, opportunities for raising a family, etc. Start with your career interests and then consider destinations that would provide you with the kind of lifestyle that you want to accompany your career. For example, if you have a keen interest in working in finance and investments and want to live in a vibrant city where the markets are based, like London or New York, it could be an ideal choice for you.
How Do You Want to Study?
Another important question to ask in order to help you determine the right type of MBA for you is how you would like to study and learn. Brick and mortar business schools are often favored when it comes to getting an MBA since this offers the best opportunity to network with other students, alumni, and professors, but attending classes in-person is not always the best option for some students. You may want to consider the extensive selection of online MBA programs that are now available to study.
There are many benefits to studying an online MBA. First of all, these programs do not require you to travel to a campus and attend set classes in-person, giving you far more freedom around your other commitments while you study. If you want to get an MBA but are not in a position to quit your job to return to school, an online MBA program can give you an ‘in’ by providing you with the ideal solution to fitting your studies around your current career, rather than giving your career up.
In addition, you will also need to consider whether you want to study part- or full-time for your MBA. Ideally, a full-time MBA is the best option if you are looking to relaunch your career in another country or advance your career in your current company since it allows you to reach these career goals in a shorter amount of time.
That being said, if you are unable to give up your career to study or want to study on-campus while continuing to work, a part-time MBA also has many advantages. Although it will take longer to complete your MBA when studying part-time, it can be easier for students who already have a lot of commitments to uphold and would struggle to remain focused and motivated with a higher workload.
What Are Your Interests?
There are various different MBA programs to choose from; click here to learn about different MBA concentrations and for more advice on picking the right one for you. Your interests and passions should play a key part in your decision as to which MBA is going to be best for you. Studying for something that you are already interested in is always going to be a much more enjoyable experience for you, and the same goes for your future career.
Consider your career so far – what have you enjoyed about it the most? Are there any aspects of your career that you would change? What would you do more of if you had the chance? What would you do less if that was possible?
Bear in mind that many people often mistake their interests and passions for the things that they are good at, but being good at something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should go ahead and choose this concentration for your MBA. Perhaps you’re amazing with numbers, but if you do financial tasks through gritted teeth, studying for an MBA in finance probably won’t be a very enjoyable experience for you. On the other hand, perhaps you have tried your hand at things in the past that you enjoyed but could use some additional skills in. Opting for an MBA in a subject that you enjoy first and foremost gives you the chance to brush up those skills in the areas that you actually like.
School Rankings – How Much Do They Matter?
Many MBA applicants get overwhelmed with choosing the perfect school, but business school rankings do not always hold as much weight as you might expect when it comes to your career. Yes, the top schools are going to stand out on your resume and perhaps earn you a little more respect over your competition, but on the other hand, the MBA itself is a very respected qualification, and many employers may not be concerned about where you got it; the fact that you have an MBA is enough.
In addition, applying to a top-ranked business school can also be a much more stressful experience. Top-ranked schools tend to get the most applicants every year, along with being the most selective. The barriers to entry can be much higher compared to mid- and low-ranked schools, and you will be up against fellow applicants who have been to the top schools, worked for the best companies around the world, and have generally gotten top marks in everything. While the competition to get in can be fierce, if you’re prepared to face it, it’s also an opportunity to build a fantastic network of distinguished businesspeople.
On the flip side, applying to a top-ranked business school means that you’re making a huge life decision based on somebody else’s criteria of what makes a ‘top’ school, and if that doesn’t match up with yours, you could end up studying somewhere that isn’t right for you. Instead of relying too heavily on rankings, it’s a better idea to consider each individual school and how well it fits in with your study and career goals and plans.
Finally, coming up with a list of non-negotiable ‘must-haves’ can make it easier for you to narrow down your choices of both business school and degree program. Before you start looking, it’s a wise idea to have a list of the factors that you couldn’t do without when studying, so that you can compare your school and program options and narrow them down to only the ones that match up to your expectations.
For example, it might be important for you to be able to study online, complete the program in less than two years, have small classroom sizes, or that you are studying an accredited program. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, so consider what you need from the program.
With so many MBA programs available to study right now, picking the right one for you can be difficult – keep these questions at the forefront of your mind when figuring out where you should be.