What is an MBA?

An MBA teaches primarily the quantitative skills required for management positions, such as accounting, finance, marketing, statistics, project management, operations research techniques, analytical decision making, and human resources. Some MBA programs specialize in a particular area, for example Finance, IT or International Business, while others are more general. Many students outside of the business profession pursue an MBA because it gives them the skills to move into management positions in their original field. For example, many engineers choose an MBA instead of a technical masters because they become interested in management after honing their technical skills for a few years.


Benefits of an MBA

The ability to command a higher salary is the most visible reason to take an MBA program. A 2012 study by Forbes reported that full-time students typically found jobs after graduation that paid 50 percent higher than their earnings before they entered school. Another study of schools in Virginia found that, 18 months after graduation, the median wages for MBA graduates was about twice that of graduates with a bachelor’s degree in business.

In addition to increased earnings, taking an MBA has other benefits, such as:

Gaining knowledge about best practices and other aspects of the business environment that can give you a wider perspective. This perspective can help you make better decisions and improve your ability to forge interpersonal relationships as you deal with both customers and employees.
Giving you a networking opportunity to meet with people from other
industries. In addition to increasing your personal network, you will also gain insight into how different industries operate and the issues they face.
Providing a chance to practice your management and teamwork skills in a setting with few, if any, consequences for making mistakes.
Demonstrating that you are committed to your profession. There is nothing like an advanced degree to let others know that you are serious about your career. A side benefit of being a student is that you may also be eligible for discounts in professional societies while you are attending school.
Learning skills that will transfer to other parts of your life. The management and quantitative skills you learn from an MBA can help you make better decisions and be more organized in all aspects of your life. Your MBA skills can also be valuable if you have a passion that leads you to a leadership role in an organization outside of your daily job.

Picking the MBA Program That’s Right for You

There are hundreds of MBA programs, so before you pick one, think about your goals, interests, and your lifestyle. If your goals and interests are focused in one area, such as finance, entrepreneurship, or international business, you may want to pursue a specialized program. Your lifestyle will also help you decide whether you want to attend school full time, part time, or pursue an online or distance learning course of study.

Full Time. Attending school full time typically requires a two-year commitment. During this time, you will likely not be able to hold down a full time job, so be sure to factor that into your expenses. On the other hand, attending school full time allows you to devote your full attention to your studies and will leave you more time for family commitments and other pursuits.
Part Time. Many schools offer part time programs during the evenings or weekends. Weekend programs are especially popular among students who must travel for work or who work irregular hours. The major advantage to part time attendance is that you don’t have to give up your job, and some employers may even pay for some or all of your expenses. However, juggling a full time job with part time studies isn’t for everyone. Part time programs vary considerably in length. Some programs are very structured and offer accelerated learning options that can be completed in one year, while others allow you to proceed at your pace and take whatever time you need to finish.
Online and Distance Learning. Online and distance learning MBA programs are becoming increasingly popular. Many offer considerable flexibility in schedules and duration and can allow you to participate in a prestigious program without moving. You do miss out on networking opportunities and the ability to learn from fellow students when you study online. However, many distance learning programs have “cohorts” in a single area, so you can maintain some of the benefits of in-residence attendance.

Here are some additional things to consider as you choose an MBA program:

Costs vary widely, from about $20,000 to up to $60,000 or more at a top-tier institution. However, the Forbes study found that it typically takes only about 3.5-4 years to break even on the MBA investment.
Be sure to select an accredited MBA program. There are dozens of accreditation bodies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business .

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