If you’re a college graduate, returning to school for your Master of Business Administration (MBA) might not appeal to you. After all, you’ve already spent four years on your Bachelor’s degree. Why should you invest another two years on an MBA?
First, let’s look at what you will learn. The curriculum covers all the different functions and activities within a business organization. In other words, you will study what businesses do to make money and grow. If you’re interested in making a company profitable, then the MBA is for you.
Among the many things you learn in an MBA program, statistics and accounting are essential. Any business manager needs to know how to budget and how to read a financial statement. And in statistics, you learn to use the science of probability to forecast the future. This skill is crucial for people involved in strategy and in planning the future of an organization.
Of course, you could take those two courses by themselves without committing to a full two-year program. But the MBA embeds these courses in a larger curriculum, so that you can explore all the different ways to apply your knowledge as a business leader.
Many MBA programs include a course or two about entrepreneurship. But keep in mind that entrepreneurship is a passion and a lifestyle choice, not a job description. The startup culture demands that you figure out a new business model for yourself. If you’re burning with a great idea for a service or product, and if you love the chaos of a startup, then spending two years on an MBA may hinder you. That’s because MBAs are designed for professionals who want to manage an existing business and execute a proven business model, not invent a new one.
True, an MBA program takes hard work. But before you rule out any possibility, consider a few opportunities that come with an advanced business program:
1. Change your career
You can prepare for your chosen career before taking your next job. While working on your MBA, you might find opportunities to intern or volunteer, which can be a great source of real-world learning before you make the leap. Most MBA programs allow you to specialize. That means you can focus on a specific industry, like health care, marketing, or technology. Specializing enables you to try out different careers and industries before you commit to one.
2. Compensate for youth and inexperience
Some people under 30 have advanced very quickly in their careers, only to find themselves stalling out. Maybe you rose too far too fast. If the upper management at your current company is nervous about promoting you any further until you’ve aged, then earning an MBA is a great way to assuage their fear. It shows that you’re not one to rest on your laurels. You’re willing to do what it takes to keep growing and developing yourself.
3. Exposure to successful leaders
Executives love to visit business schools and give guest lectures. These talks are a great way for you to hear insights and advice from people who’ve already done what you want to do. Plus, unlike a typical day at the office, you can ask them questions directly.
Speaking of experts, you have a chance to build an ongoing relationship with your professors. As they get to know you, they can offer you suggestions and point the way in your career.
4. Expand your horizons
Unless you’re a globetrotter, chances are you don’t get to see much economic activity beyond the city where you live. In an MBA program, you’ll read case studies from many different kinds of corporations around the world. You’ll learn valuable business lessons from organizations you might otherwise never encounter.
5. Team building
Management is all about teamwork and collaboration. If your MBA courses include group projects, you will have several opportunities to master the art of team building. Even if you’re not assigned group work, you should still seek out opportunities to collaborate with your peers. Knowing how to bring people together will serve you well as a business leader.
They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. As you make friends with your fellow students, you’re establishing connections with the top performers. Like you, these colleagues may go on to lead great business ventures. So keep in touch! You never know when you’ll need them or when they’ll give you a chance to contribute.
7. The big picture
Leadership means planning, strategy, and taking the long view. In a sense, the MBA is much like studying for any advanced degree. This two-year program gives you time to step back, get away from the daily routine, and see the world from a much larger perspective. If that sounds like too much leisure and luxury, think about this – some of the biggest ideas in business came from time spent deep in thought.
Indeed, the chance to reflect is one of the most underrated reasons to pursue an MBA. If you’re serious about managing a successful business, then you must break free from the everyday. Invest your time in big issues that matter.
As an added bonus, a lot of big companies are willing to compensate their employees for graduating with an MBA. If you don’t know whether your employer reimburses your education, be sure to ask.
Now you know the benefits of getting your MBA. Ultimately, you’ll have to weigh the benefits versus the costs and determine if an MBA is right for you. But one final warning: those three little letters on your resume do not guarantee you a job. Nor should you expect an automatic salary increase or promotion. Your graduate education will give you an advantage, but you’ll still have to do the work. So use your two years to learn all you can, meet new people, and build a network that will support you well into the future.