A while back, I shared with you the story of a student cobbling together a top tier MBA for little to no cost aka the “No Pay MBA”. I had some reservations that make-shift MBAs would gain mainstream traction, but several people insisted this is the future of business education. Recent news of MBA education taking another step in the direction of a “freemium” delivery model suggests those people had it right all along. [Read more…]
It sounds crazy, right? After all, I’ve been known to rant every now and again about people taking on crippling debt to get their MBA with zero plan for the future.
Now what if I told you that you can have a top-tier MBA for less than $1,000? [Read more…]
In one of my first posts on determining if business school is the right move, I talked about some of the issues students need to consider before going back to school, specifically the full-time business school student. As promised in that post, I want to spend some time sharing my top reasons for pursuing a part-time MBA.
Part-time MBA students can get their MBA without sacrificing the professional development that goes along with leaving to the workforce for two years. Oh yeah, and the income that comes with continuing to work full-time is also a benefit.
Fewer Required Courses
This seems to vary by institution. For example, at the Kellogg School of Management (the best business school in the world in my humble opinion) and the Hass School of Business, part-time students are required to take fewer courses to graduate than their full-time counterparts. On the other hand, the Stern School of Business and the Booth School of Business do not reduce the required coursework for their part-time programs. All of these are top-notch programs that simply have
The idea behind reducing the coursework (at least at Kellogg) is that you will compensate for that discrepancy in coursework by continuing to learn in the workplace since full-time employment is a requirement for the Part-time program.
Perhaps the most interesting difference in choosing to go to the Part-time MBA program is the fact that you can tailor your coursework around the needs of your job/company. For example, I was working at a global consumer goods company that always invested in derivatives. Once I became responsible for consolidating North America financial results, I wanted to better understand how derivatives were structured so I enrolled in an investments class and an international finance class. When you are able to see the value like this immediately, it makes it easier to prioritize things you may not have prioritized otherwise, like studying perhaps…
Instant Professional Network
While going to business full-time allows you to develop a network with your colleagues that will go onto leadership positions in their respective business endeavors, it may take more time to realize this than when you’re in the Part-time program. Similar to how you going part-time means you won’t forgo career advancement for two years, you may also reap the benefits of your classmates continuing to advance their careers. I’ve seen multiple instances where classmates have changed jobs in the middle of the part-time program because of a connection made with a classmate.
Ability to Handle Multiple High Priority Tasks
By successfully completing an MBA program while maintaining your career progression, a potential employer immediately knows that you can take on multiple demanding tasks at a time to achieve a desired outcome. Honestly, people respect the fact that you were even brave enough to try going back to school while working full-time. And if you have a baby in the middle of the program like I did, it makes for a great story.
People always love a great story.
This decision really applies to any sort of post-graduate academics pursuits, but I will focus on the MBA since that is the choice I had to make and where I have the most firsthand experience.Here are a few key questions to answer as you go through the process of determining if business school is the right move:
1. Why are you considering going back to school?
As simple as this question is, many people don’t have a clear understanding of why they want to go back to business school or the benefit they expect to receive from obtaining an MBA. Many companies focus in organic growth and place little emphasis on having an MBA. If you have been frequently promoted and are considered a high performer then going back to school may not be the right choice for you.
That being said, if you are looking to get to the next level (and/or senior leadership positions) within your company and all of the people currently holding those positions have MBAs, it may be a sign that you should start looking for some quiet places to study.
On the other hand, if any of the examples below explain your reasons for why you want to pursue business school, I’d recommend you focus your attention elsewhere.
a. I’m not sure what I want to do with it
b. I think it’d be good to have
c. My parents think I should go back to business school
d. All of my friends are doing it
I think you get the idea so I will move on to the next question.
2. Who is going to pay for it?
With the rising cost of education, gone are the days of deciding on schools without taking finances into consideration. The debts that many students incur are life-changing and if you don’t have a clear vision of what this means and how you will generate a return on your investment, you can cause yourself some unnecessary financial strife down the road.
If you have any an employer or sponsor that is going to help share the burden of you graduate education, you need to be sure that you understand what will be required of you in exchange for that support (e.g. 2 years of service following completion of graduate coursework) and determine if it’s an acceptable trade-off.
3. Where are you going to go?
There are some different schools of thought on this topic and I will share my view. If you are going back to business school you should be targeting a school generally considered to be a top 10 program and definitely not consider any schools outside of the top 25.
A large part of the value you get from business school is outside of the actual education you receive. It’s the network that you build with classmates and alumni as well as the school’s reputation when they see that institution’s names on your resume. These are the qualities that are going to play the biggest part in accelerating your career or allowing you to change careers if that is your goal, and this benefit is significantly less when you don’t attend a top school.
I’ve always been frustrated that this how is the world we live in works, but I’ve come to grips with it and focused on using what I know to my advantage. The sooner you make a similar shift in mindset, the sooner you can identify the most effective strategy to reach your career goals.
4. What are you going to do once you have the MBA? Immediately following graduation? Five Years after graduation?
This is the last and most important point you want to consider when determining if business school is the right move for you. The way you want to think about this is there is no reason to take on tens of thousands of debt and give up 2 years of work experience/progression only to return to a similar position at the same company (or any other for that matter) for marginally more compensation. Even if you aren’t 100% sure what you want to do, you should have a strong feel for the potential outcomes and how they would impact you professionally and financially.
Pursuit of an MBA should be a strategic move to accelerate your career, with an action plan to achieve tangible returns on your investment. Of course plans change as you encounter new information along the way, but by taking a step back and challenging yourself with each of the questions above, you can make a more sound decision on business school and proactively shape the roadmap for your future before its too late.
Note: Post was written considering only business school full-time. Part-time students have some additional considerations that I will address in a separate post.