Deciding Whether to Go for Your MBA

Are you dead-ended at the far reaches of your career path? If so, then a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) might be your answer. But even if you decide that you want an MBA, there are other elements you must consider before taking the plunge.

Is an MBA right for you?

First, the bad news: To obtain an MBA at a top school, you can expect to spend nearly $80,000 in tuition alone over a two-year period — on top of giving up your salary in order to attend full time. Of course, attending part time is an option with some programs, but that's no picnic. After working 40+ hours, the last thing most people want to do is hunker down in a lecture hall two evenings a week, not to mention study all weekend — for three years.

Now, for the points in the plus column: Most MBA grads command high salaries — sometimes even six figures (not counting bonuses) — right out of school. Moreover, MBAs generally land jobs that put them in the driver's seat.

So how do you decide whether an MBA is right for you? Ask yourself two questions:

  1. What are my career goals?

  2. Will business school help me meet those goals?

For example, if your goal is to enter the field of investment banking or consulting, then an MBA is practically a requirement. And the credibility that an MBA provides can be useful in any number of job scenarios. But some fields may view a certain period of relevant work experience as equally valuable.

If you're looking for a complete change in career — for example, if you're an engineer who has exhausted your ability to move forward on your current career path, and wish to move to management — then an MBA can be instrumental in helping you make the switch.

Paying for your MBA

Obtaining an MBA at a top school can run upwards of $80,000. And if you attend full time, that means you forgo whatever salary you may earn at your current job. Short of inheriting a bundle from a distant relative, how does one pay for such an endeavor?

Fortunately, just about every MBA program out there offers some sort of financial aid, usually through a dedicated office in the business school itself. Scholarships may also be available. The business where you currently work may offer some form of partial or total reimbursement for your educational costs — assuming, of course, that you're going to stay with the company for a while after you graduate.