The idea of earning your Master of Business Administration (MBA) can certainly be exciting. An MBA is a well-respected degree that can help you change your career trajectory, break into a new field, or prepare you for life as an entrepreneur. However, it’s not the only way to succeed in business. In fact, the Financial Times reports “digital alternatives are gaining momentum, as demand for flexible and affordable learning increases.”
If you’ve decided you want to pursue a career in business, here are five things to consider.
1. Choosing an MBA: Degree or Program?
The MBA is an exceptionally popular degree. Hundreds of on-campus degrees are offered in the U.S. alone, with many more options available online. There are also dozens of other business programs and degree alternatives. How do you know which program is right for you?
Perhaps the biggest decision you will face is choosing the format of your MBA program. A full-time MBA could be right for you if you want a fully immersive experience and have the time and money to commit. But if you need flexibility or don’t want to give up two years of salary and career progression, there are many other options, like the Invited MBA’s 12-week mini-MBA, that you should consider.
If you are set on a particular concentration like marketing, operations, or entrepreneurship, factor that into your decision. Some institutions are known for quality programs within certain concentrations. However, if you’re looking for general business knowledge and practical application, an alternative program like the Invited MBA may fit your needs and offer more flexibility post-graduation.
You should also understand the approach to teaching within a program. When considering virtual options, some formats are entirely self-paced with little or no interaction with others. Other programs focus more on peer interaction or classroom instruction. Academic institutions often lean more towards theory and lectures versus hands-on learning and practice, which is a key pillar of the 12-week Invited MBA.
2. Consider How You Will Balance Your Time
MBA coursework can be challenging and time-consuming. You may have a full-time job, a family to care for, or both. Or you may have other personal or professional goals and limited time to pursue your education. Now more than ever, people are facing great demands on their time.
Before choosing an MBA program, you need a clear idea of how to make the space in your schedule to attend class, work on group projects, and study. As you begin your MBA or mini-MBA program, you may even need to brush up on skills you’ve already learned or revisit topics that you may not use in your day-to-day life, like accounting or math.
If the idea of a multi-year commitment in a traditional MBA program seems overwhelming, consider alternatives where you can learn the same skills you’d pick up in a more traditional MBA program. Mini-MBA programs specifically are designed to be completed while participants work full-time.
3. Prepare for Academia
Many business schools require applicants to take a standardized test to apply. The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the most common, but some MBA programs allow applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) instead. However, there’s some good news for prospective students who want to avoid test taking. Some schools allow prospective students to point to their professional experience as a predictor of their classroom performance and skip tests altogether. Programs like the Invited MBA defer testing requirements in favor of practical experience.
Whether you take an entrance exam or not, MBAs of all types are designed to be challenging. And if you’ve been out of the classroom for a while, you’ll want to revisit your test-taking strategies and learning styles. That might mean planning your approach to studying throughout the semester, getting better at taking notes, or looking for peers to study with as a group.
Beyond exams, MBA coursework can be rigorous. If your books have gathered a bit of dust lately, you’ll want to prime your mind to start taking in academic material again. Jumpstarting your learning with books and articles about business operations, finance, economics, or innovation is a great place to start.
Networking is an essential skill for MBA students to have. When you are considering different MBA programs, networking can help you get a better understanding of the program before making your decision. Pre-enrollment won’t be the only time you’ll need to practice your networking skills.
Developing contacts and relationships with potential employers or mentors who can help guide you through the program is one of the key benefits of earning an MBA. Your instructors are likely experienced professionals from various industries and are great connections to have.
Practicing networking skills in any way possible is essential, such as talking to others at corporate and social events or using LinkedIn.
5. Keep an Eye on Your Post-MBA Goals
Whether you want to start your own company or earn a promotion at your current organization, success isn’t automatically achieved once you’ve completed your business program or MBA. Before beginning your education experience, envision your goals and strategize how to get there. If you’re considering a part-time program, talk to your manager about your goals – there may be professional development dollars available at your company.
The path to achieving your goals might influence your academic concentration, school clubs and organizations you join, internships you explore, and classes that you take. Aligning your goals with your actions in your MBA program will help you get the most return for your academic effort.
Congratulations on deciding to pursue a business education. It’s not an easy road. But with the right preparation, you can ensure the effort, time, and money you invest is well worth it.