If you ask people the most prestigious qualification in the business world, they will most likely say the MBA. Highly regarded by employers all around the world, the Master of Business Administration has long been seen as the gold standard for those who wish to fast-track their way to an executive or managerial role. However, this is not necessarily true for everyone, of course, so how do you decide whether doing an MBA is the right choice for you?
Embarking on a degree in any subject is a big commitment in terms of finance, time, and effort. Therefore it’s important to make sure that you make an informed decision before enrolling. Whether you’re thinking of an online MBA or a campus course, a part-time program, or a full-time one, this post will go over some of the key factors to bear in mind when figuring out if it’s the appropriate qualification for you. If you decide that it is, there’s also some advice at the end on choosing between in-person and distance learning, ready for when you start applying.
Introduction to the MBA
Before we get stuck into how to decide whether an MBA is right for you, let’s begin with a quick overview of the qualification itself. The Master of Business Administration, better known as an MBA, is a postgraduate level degree that aims to provide students with an overview of key business practices. It’s a challenging program that will push you academically in order to prepare you for high-level job roles in the business world.
Generally speaking, it takes around one or two years to complete an online MBA or its campus equivalent, depending on whether you opt for part-time or full-time study. The course is open to people from a wide range of backgrounds, so it doesn’t matter what industry you work in or what subject you majored in during your undergraduate studies. In fact, depending on the amount and quality of work experience you have, it’s sometimes possible to get accepted onto an MBA even if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree.
What level of experience do you have?
Speaking of work experience, that’s one of the first factors you should think about if you’re considering enrolling in an MBA. Unlike most master’s courses, MBAs are designed for those who already have a few years of professional work experience to draw on. This is to ensure that you have plenty of insights and knowledge that you can bring to the classroom and share with your fellow students, as well as guaranteeing you’ll get the most that you can out of the program.
This means that if you are a new graduate or considering changing careers from a completely different line of work, an MBA might not be the best fit for you. Having said that, these days, there are some programs that are specifically aimed at those with little or no work experience, so there will definitely be options available to you if you have your heart set on an MBA.
On the flip side, if you are already working in an executive or managerial role, then an executive MBA might be the more appropriate choice. This version of the program is tailored towards older students with more substantial work experience, and classes are usually scheduled for evenings and weekends to enable you to study alongside your full-time job.
For those who have a lot of experience in one particular sector, there are also specialist MBAs that focus on a specific industry, field, or area of business. Therefore if you intend to carve out a niche career, either one of those types of MBA or a different master’s course with a narrower concentration could be ideal.
What topics do you want to study?
This is one of the key considerations to bear in mind when thinking about whether you want to do an MBA. The programs are intended to cover a broad variety of business topics, giving you an overview of many different aspects and areas of business. This is true even for those courses that have a particular specialization because they will normally still have a core set of compulsory modules on general topics. Therefore MBAs are good if you want to gain a strong foundational understanding of a wide range of business processes, practices, and functions.
Alternatively, if there is one specific aspect of business that you want to dedicate yourself to and really study in-depth – such as marketing or accounting – you might prefer to take a master’s course specializing in just that topic.
As with almost all postgraduate programs, the exact modules you take during an on-campus or online MBA will vary depending on the college you study. However, the list below details the types of topics you can expect to find on an MBA curriculum to help you figure out if they are the sorts of fields you have an interest in:
- Accounting Practices and Analysis
- Financial Management
- Organizational Behavior
- Business Economics
- Design Thinking
- Business Problem Solving
- Decision Analytics
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- Investments and Risk Management
- Marketing Science and Strategy
- Operations Management
- Leading Organizations
- Critical Leadership Decisions
- Managing Negotiations
- Corporate Strategy
- Leading Global Teams
- Business Ethics
- The Legal Environment of Business
- Data Visualization
- Behavioral Finance
- Consumer Behavior
- Marketing Research
- International Marketing
- Banking and FinTech
- Venture Capital Finance
- Family Business
- Climate Change and Business Strategy
- International Business
- Brand Management
- Pricing Strategy
- Engaging Digital Customers
If any of these topics sound interesting to you, that’s a good sign that an MBA is the right choice for you. Of course, you won’t be able to study all of the modules listed above; however, you do have the option to tailor the program you follow to suit your personal passions and career aspirations.
On the other hand, if there are only a few topics that you like the look of then, it might be worth pursuing a master’s course or postgraduate diploma with a more specific focus. There are a huge variety of these available, so with a bit of research, you’re sure to find a program that suits you.
How do you like to learn?
In addition to thinking about the subjects you would like to study, it’s important to consider the learning style that you enjoy. An MBA is a little different from many other master’s level courses in how it is taught. Rather than being a purely academic program that revolves mainly around lectures, seminars, and tutorials, it involves a large amount of group work, presentations, case studies, and real-world projects. This is true both of an online MBA and the traditional campus equivalent.
It’s important, therefore, to think about your own personality and whether this style of learning is what enables you to thrive. Participation is considered to be hugely important in MBA courses, so if you are very shy or prefer to spend more time on reading, research, and writing, then you might find it a tough environment. This is absolutely not to say that you cannot enroll in an MBA just because you’re nervous about public speaking! Those fears can be overcome, and you definitely shouldn’t let nerves hold you back. Just be aware of the style of teaching you’ll be signing on for, and take steps to ensure that you can give it your best.
Another key part of doing either an on-campus or online MBA is networking. In addition to your cohort of students, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and work with faculty members, industry professionals, and other key figures in the business world. Therefore if you enjoy meeting new people and making connections, this is definitely the course for you.
What are your career aspirations?
One of the key factors when contemplating taking any sort of postgraduate degree is what you want to get out of the course. When it comes to an MBA or other type of business-related qualification, your career goals are an important part of this. So ask yourself where exactly you hope to be in three, five, or ten years’ time, and then trace the path that you’ll need to take in order to get there.
A good way to do this is to look at people who already work in the sort of job role that you are hoping to progress to after you graduate. Have a look at their backgrounds – if most of them have MBAs, that’s a reasonable indication that getting one will be a big help to you in your career. On the other hand, if the majority of them have a different qualification, then you might want to consider taking that one instead.
Due to the fact that the MBA is quite a general qualification, it can be beneficial to you in a wide variety of careers. It teaches you a broad range of business knowledge, builds your business contacts enormously, and gets you a great deal of relevant experience working on real-world projects with external companies. So it doesn’t matter if you work in healthcare or an engineering firm; the insights you gain will be highly relevant.
In fact, an MBA can even be of use if you don’t want to work for someone else. Budding entrepreneurs can benefit from business knowledge that will be extremely helpful in setting up your own company and the valuable networking opportunities an MBA offers. You may well find that you meet all sorts of potential mentors, business partners, and even investors during your studies. Plus, having the qualification is a great way to stand out from the crowd when it comes to attracting funding.
Finally, no matter what career aspirations you have, an MBA will teach you valuable transferable skills that will be useful to you. These include time management, organization, problem-solving, communication, decision making, presentation, confidence, self-discipline, critical thinking, leadership, and teamwork.
Choosing between an online MBA and campus programs
Once you’ve decided that this is the right path for you, the next choice to make is whether to study for an online MBA or attend a program on campus. It’s important to remember that neither option is objectively ‘better’ than the other – it comes down to which one is most suitable for your individual circumstances.
For example, if you are intending to study while holding down a full-time job, then an online MBA can give you the flexibility to do so. By enabling you to complete the course at your own pace, you can devise a routine that easily fits around your existing work and family commitments. So whether you prefer to study early in the morning before heading to the office or in the evening before bed, the choice is yours. Likewise, you can study in a coffee shop if you work best with some background noise or in the peace and quiet of your home office if you need silence.
Another advantage of the online MBA is that you can study with an institution anywhere in the country without having to move house. This opens up your choices to a greater number of colleges, especially if you already have children in school or a job you don’t want to leave. Online courses can also be a cheaper option, both because tuition fees tend to be lower and because you don’t have to worry about extra costs such as commuting or term-time accommodation. You’ll also have the chance to pick up some useful new technical skills by studying online too!
On the other hand, if you like the image of studying late in the campus library, attending your college’s sports games, or having serendipitous networking opportunities in the hallways, then an online MBA might not be the most appropriate fit for you. The best advice is to think about exactly what you want out of your studies, then see which option delivers that. Whichever you choose, you’ll enjoy the same high standard of teaching and the same chances to meet like-minded people. Plus, nowadays, virtual learning is becoming far more common, so employers won’t look down on an online MBA either.