Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal published an article that questioned the value and necessity of the MBA. This is not a new debate; the MBA is the one professional degree that is often challenged. If you are considering an MBA, the article is worth reading because it is important to enter the graduate school process with your eyes wide open. As a recruiter, I have lots of conversations with people thinking about an MBA. For me, the most promising conversations occur when the prospective applicant can articulate specifically why they need an MBA at that time and when they can discuss specifically how it will advance his or her career.
Let’s also be practical. It is also important to evaluate program costs and to consider what the return on your investment will be. Getting an MBA is a business decision, not a vacation, or an escape, or a magic pill that solves the problems you have with your current job/career/hobby/dreams. The MBA doesn’t make anything happen for you – YOU do. Make sure, with as much certainty as possible, that what you invest in the program (time and money) is worth what you will get out of it (knowledge, experience, promotion, salary increase). You don’t want your MBA to be another bill you pay every month. You want it to revitalize your career, expand your intellectual horizons, and provide you with personal and professional opportunities you would not otherwise have.
So, before you apply to programs, do your research. Set up informational interviews with people in your network to find out about career options and directions. What job do you want to have in two years? In five years? In ten years? Who has those jobs and how did they get there? What programs can help you pursue those goals? How do you plan to pay for the MBA? Keep thinking and planning and gathering information. It’s your career – you’re in charge!