The Master of Business Administration is an extremely popular graduate degree in the US and abroad. According to The Economist, 688,000 people took the GMAT—the required entrance exam for many MBA programs—in 2014 alone. The diversity of the degree makes it an appealing choice for professionals who want to advance their career in a variety of industries. You can pursue concentrations in fields such as finance, information systems, marketing, accounting, analytics or strategic marketing, international business, and more, tailoring your education to your specific professional goals.
If you are considering pursuing an MBA, give some thought to the following factors:
People enter the business field from many different backgrounds. While some students enroll in an MBA program after working or studying in a closely related industry, others may have expertise in medicine, sports, entertainment or some other seemingly unrelated field and wish to transition into the business side of the industry.
If you are currently in a different field and want to pivot into a business-related role, an MBA could help you get there. An MBA provides foundational knowledge in accounting, finance, business operations, marketing and other essential areas of study that will deepen your understanding of the business side of your chosen field. This is particularly important if your undergraduate degree is not in business or a similar subject.
However, if you are already in business, an MBA could help advance your career by exposing you to areas of the industry you may not have experienced in the workplace. For instance, if you currently work in accounting, you may not be particularly familiar with supply-chain management. Or if you are employed by a marketing firm, but want to be an entrepreneur, you may need to learn more about business operations. An MBA can fill in the skill and knowledge gaps that are currently on your resume, allowing you to pursue the next step in your business career.
Particular areas covered by the average MBA program include:
- Business operations
- Corporate finance
- Performance measurement
- Business ethics
- Strategic management
- International business
- Information technology
In addition to your core courses, you can also choose to concentrate in a certain area in most programs. For instance, in the Villanova University online MBA program, you can specialize in finance, marketing, analytics or strategic management. A concentration allows you to take a deeper dive into a particular area so that you can develop those skills to further your career.
Enrolling in an MBA program makes career sense when you are pursuing a promotion or other advancement in your career. Depending on your desired position, an MBA can signal to employers that you have the necessary skills to take on a leadership role within your current organization or an entirely new place of employment. While most programs offer specific courses in leadership development and management strategies, you will also gain hands-on experience during group projects. Learning to work well with your business-school colleagues will prepare you to be a leader in the workplace after graduation.
“You will get a few classes in managing people. They might be called leadership or motivation, but they’re about how to manage a group of people working for you,” wrote Forbes contributor, Eric Jackson. “Prior to B-School, you probably will have had little opportunity to manage big teams. Therefore, you might blow off these ‘human relations’ classes. However, post-B-School, you have no idea how important managing people will be to your career.”
Knowing how to manage people and lead teams to success will help you to excel as a leader in the business field. Additionally, when you pursue one of these advanced positions, the MBA is also beneficial in setting you apart from your competition, many of whom may not have a higher degree. According to the Census Bureau, only 12 percent of US adults had a master’s degree or higher in 2015
Are you interested in practicing business at the international level? An MBA provides an opportunity to gain a global perspective through courses on international business topics, such as the economics of international trade, business management, marketing management and corporate finance.
Many programs offer specific international courses or concentrations if your career goals ultimately lie in business on the global scale. However, most MBAs cover the topics in a course or two, which will help round out your business education. Even if you want to practice domestically, having an understanding of how global affairs affect the market in the US is important for the success of your career.
“There’s an undeniable connection between global economies and business,” Diane Gulyas, president of Performance Polymers at the American conglomerate DuPont, said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “In order for professionals to work successfully across cultures, their worldviews must be informed by more than US business, culture and tradition.”
Determining how to finance your MBA is an important factor in deciding whether to pursue your master’s at this point in your life. Some workplaces offer to help with tuition for graduate students. If you are currently working in a field that would benefit from an MBA, consider looking into whether your company offers such assistance. According to a 2015 survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, some form of tuition reimbursement or educational assistance is offered by about 83 percent of companies.
If you will be paying for your degree out of pocket, there are several ways to mitigate the cost of your education. For example:
- Scholarships and financial aid: The government, private organizations and schools offer scholarships and financial aid to offset the cost of pursuing a degree. Applying for as many as you qualify for can help you to lower the cost of your education.
- Tax credits and deductions: When you pursue an MBA, you will likely qualify for a number of tax credits and deductions. Examples include the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, which can cut $2,000 off your tax bill each year, and the American Opportunity Credit, which could qualify you for up to $2,500 in credit annually.
- Remote learning: Pursuing your degree online cuts out many of the expenses associated with earning your MBA, such as notebooks, gas, parking passes and potential moving costs. It also makes it more convenient to continue working full- or part-time while you pursue your education, avoiding the lost wages you would have experienced if you had to stop working completely.
Whatever way you plan on paying for your MBA, keep in mind that the degree can have a positive impact on your earning potential. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council—the organization that administers the GMAT—median starting salaries for newly hired MBAs have increased steadily over the last decade. In 2006, that number was $82,000. By 2015, it had increased to $100,000.
While it is important to ensure that an MBA makes sense for your career, it is also important to make sure that it fits with your commitments outside of work as well. When you choose to pursue an MBA, you may be making a commitment to your education, but it is a commitment that affects your entire schedule.
If you have any commitments that could make completing a degree at a physical campus challenging, consider enrolling in an online program. The flexible format of pursuing your MBA online makes it possible to complete coursework at any time from any place, eliminating obstacles that could otherwise make going back to school difficult. Thanks to remote learning options, furthering your education has never been more convenient.
Ready to take the next step in your career and pursue your MBA? Consider applying to Villanova University’s online MBA program. The remote-learning program allows you to balance your work and family commitments with the coursework that will prepare you to advance your career in business after graduation. To learn more, visit the program page to read about the admission process, coursework and more.