Is an MBA Right for You?

Pursuing an MBA is expensive and time–consuming. Are you ready for the commitment?

Most full–time programs last two years, while part–time programs can take three or more years to complete. Tuition can run to the tens of thousands of dollars. Even applying is expensive–you'll probably drop hundreds on application fees and the GMAT, not to mention sending score reports and transcripts.

Yet for many b–school students, the pay–off–from higher salary to better career opportunities–is well worth the investment.

Before you commit, however, you need to know why you're going and what you hope to get out of your b–school education. Knowing what you want doesn't only inform your decision, it also affects your candidacy; admissions committees favor applicants who have clear goals and objectives.

Here are some questions to help you clarify whether an MBA is the right choice, right now:

Is a career in business what you really want?  Business principles are useful in any field, but MBA programs are designed for students who come from–and plan to return to–the business world.

What do you want the MBA to do for you?  You may be looking to accelerate your career at your current job, gain expertise in a new area or move into a new job or industry. Remember, while there's no correct answer you should be able to articulate solid reasons.

If you want to move into a new job or industry, is an MBA essential to making the switch?  Certificate programs offer specialized training at a fraction of the time and the cost. These might be all you need to give your career a boost.

What is the outlook for newly–minted MBAs in the job market now, and what is it expected to be in two to three years?  This can vary based on the industry you hope to enter, as well as your school's reputation.

Is it the right time in your career to get an MBA?  If you are advancing within your company, an MBA may be unnecessary. It might also make sense to wait if you haven't been in the workforce for very long–firsthand experience can enhance your b–school education (and your application).

There's no question that an MBA program can prove to be a valuable and worthwhile experience. The skills you acquire and the connections you make will impact your professional life for years to come. However, it is a large (and at times daunting) undertaking. You owe it to yourself to fully consider your options and weigh your concerns before leaping back into school.