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How to Choose the Best MBA Degree
If you want to complete an MBA degree, you have a lot of things to think about. There are universities all over the world that you could enroll with, and they offer different curricula, concentrations, delivery models, and more. Hence, you need to know how to choose an MBA degree that is right for you. Luckily, it is a relatively simple nine step process. Let’s take a look.
1. Why Are You Thinking of an MBA?
You need to come up with at least three reasons as to why you would choose to enroll in an MBA. Some valid reasons include:
- A complete career change
- A change of function or industry
- An opportunity to smash the glass ceiling
You also need to think about location, because you will have to start to build a network with local businesses, alumni, faculty, and fellow students. Why you want to study an MBA will also determine where you want to study an MBA, and this may even mean having to learn a new language. Completing an MBA usually means that you have to interrupt your career for a period of time, often two years, so you do have to make sure that you make this decision based on facts and good information.
If you want to make a complete career change, then it is very important that you go to a top MBA school. This is because you will rarely get accepted to a senior position without any industry experience, unless your degree program is so good that it matches work experience. Top MBA schools have very stringent selection criteria, so it is hard to get into them.
Perhaps you want to set up your own business. In that case, an MBA could help you to better develop any entrepreneurial skills you already possess. It cannot, however, teach you how to be an entrepreneur unless you already have some entrepreneurial spirit.
Maybe you want to increase your earnings and have more transferable skills. In that case, the MBA is definitely a good choice. Usually, it increases earnings by around $15,000 per year, and you will be equipped with skills that can be used across different industries. But do be aware of the considerable financial investment you have to make in your degree program first.
These are just some examples of considerations to make in terms of why you want to study towards and MBA.
2. Which Business or Industry Do You Want to Work In?
It is nice to dream about places you might want to live in, and jobs you would like to have. There are lots of interesting places all over the world, with different cultures and experiences. You may want to live on a Caribbean island for the rest of your life, but then you do have to have something to do there as well.
Unfortunately, an MBA may not be entirely suitable for that type of environment. Hence, start by thinking not where you want to live, but where you want to work. Then think about the locations that have that type of work. For instance, if you want to work in fashion, you could consider London, New York, Paris, or Milan. If you like electronics, you could consider Korea, China, or Japan.
3. Get Your Focus Right
A lot of successful business people knew from a very young age that they wanted to become entrepreneurs. Take people like Richard Branson, for instance, who was quite literally born to create a business (despite not even finishing school!). You need to know what your strengths are, whether they are in general management, finance, entrepreneurship, and so on, and build on those. This can be done by choosing an MBA with a relevant concentration. All MBA programs are general management degrees, which means you have transferable skills. But it is often better to choose a concentration that interests you in particular. Areas such as entrepreneurship, environmental technology, IT, human resources, accountancy, finance, hospitality, health care management, and so on, are popular options. A specialized MBA will also put you miles ahead of the competition when it comes to applying for jobs.
4. How Do You Want to Study?
The MBA degree is offered in a range of different formats. The five most popular ones are:
1. Full time, which usually takes two years to complete by going to school during weekdays, daytime.
2. Part time, which usually takes four years to complete by going to school on evenings and weekends.
3. Distance learning, whereby you only attend school a few times during the program, studying the rest online. This usually takes two to three years to complete.
4. Online, whereby you don’t attend school at all. This usually takes around four years to compelte.
5. Accelerated, in which you immerse yourself into the degree program, going to school during weekdays and having fewer school breaks. This usually takes one year to complete.
There are many things to take into consideration when deciding how to study. The amount of time you can take off work is probably a main consideration, but also your level of personal responsibilities. If you go for the accelerated format, for instance, you will have almost no time left for personal or leisure activities.
5. Where Should You Go to School?
Because the MBA is now such a popular degree, there are literally hundreds of schools to choose from, thousands if you consider the international schools as well. Choosing between these options is a personal decision. Generally, the more prominent the school is, the more stringent the admission criteria are. You should only look for schools that will accept you based on the skills and knowledge you already have. Considering how you will study will also be an important factor. If you study online, for instance, it is much easier to go to an international school. Do make sure that the program, and not just the school, is properly accredited.
6. What About Return on Investment?
Completing an MBA is an expensive venture. You may receive some support from your employer, but it is very rare to be eligible for things such as student finance for these degree programs. That said, the program does offer an excellent return on investment. Majority of the people who complete an MBA experience a $15,000 per year increase in salary. Additionally, around 95% of all MBA holders are employed within six months of graduating, which means you should also be able to see a very rapid return on investment.
7. Thinking About the Program’s Rankings
You should now be well on your way towards choosing your MBA degree program, which means you now have to get into the nitty-gritty. Checking out school rankings in sources such as the Financial Times, the U.S. News & World Report, The Wall Street Journal, and Business Week is always a good idea. If you ever attend an MBA fair, you will find that one of the top questions prospective students ask is how high the school and program ranks, and this is an important question. The higher a school’s ranking, the more respected and in demand you will be once you graduate.
8. Speak to Schools
At this point, you should have collected relevant information on a number of different schools. Try to have at least three different schools to look into, getting their brochures and hand outs, listening to alumni, and more. Visit the schools you are considering and check out the campus, even if you intend to study online. It gives you an idea of the overall culture of the school and whether or not that is something that you feel you can fit into. Write down some questions you may still have and pose them to an admissions counsellor to help you make your decision.
You are now ready to actually enroll in a school. Check all the facts and figures you have collated once more, speak to your support network about your choice and motivation, and decide to go for it. Make sure you meet all the different acceptance criteria and send in all your documentation, and you will be good to go.
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