Applying to MBA Programs – Step 1: Why MBA?

After working a few years, you may decide that you are ready to apply to MBA programs. Personally, I have been thinking about applying to MBA programs since I graduated college in 2008. Consequently, I am a somewhat unique applicant. I took some steps well in advance of applying to MBA programs that have been extremely beneficial. I am going to write a series of posts going through each of the steps you should take prior to applying to MBA programs.

Step 1: Why MBA? – Is an MBA Right for me?

I don’t care what anybody else tells you, this is by far the most important step in the entire application process. Tuition to MBA programs can be pretty steep (over $100k for top programs). Thus, you should spend a lot of time deciding why and MBA is right for you.

Three common responses prospective students give to the “Why MBA” question are:

  • Change of Career
  • Advance Career
  • Personal Development

Those are by no means all of the reasons, just some of the common responses. You might fall into one of these categories or you might not. Regardless, you need to decide why an MBA is right for you.

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself to help decide if an MBA is right for you:

  • What are my short term and long term goals? What specific skills do you need to achieve these goals?
  • Will an MBA provide the necessary skills and help me achieve my goals?
  • Will I stay with my current employer and attend a part-time program or quit my job and attend a full-time program?
  • Am I ready to dedicate myself for the next 2-3 years to get my MBA?

The application process is daunting and expensive and you don’t want to put yourself through this process unless you are sure that an MBA is for you. Accordingly, you should spend a lot of time thinking about these questions. In fact, you should write down your answers to these questions. It will be extremely beneficial to you later in the application process if you already have the answers to these questions. Undoubtedly, you will come across this “Why MBA” question many times on your applications.

Have you thought about getting an MBA? Do you think an MBA is right for you? If you already have an MBA, why did you decide to get one?

Edwin C

Edwin is a marketer, social media influencer and head writer here at Money In The 20’s. He manages a large network of high quality finance blogs and social media accounts. You can connect with him via email here.

18 thoughts on “Applying to MBA Programs – Step 1: Why MBA?

  • April 20, 2011 at 7:12 am
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    I definitely think about getting an MBA – more often than not actually. I’ve written the GMATs and have even gone to a couple MBA fairs to see what’s out there. I’ve talked to recruiters here in Canada and overseas, and done a tour of DeGroote (up in North Toronto).

    But you know what? After all that, I still don’t think I’m going to go. As far as my career goes in the construction industry, I don’t believe it will really advance it that much further; and I believe getting my MBA doesn’t really add value to a possible small business that I’d like to start up. All of these as well as going into an extra $25,000 in debt?

    I understand the value in it, but it’s not for me – today, that is. I’ll be keeping it in my radar for years to come though.

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    • April 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm
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      It’s good that you really thought about it and found that it wouldn’t benefit you right now. If it’s not going to benefit you with your goals, then there really is not a reason to get an MBA and add a lot of debt.

      Reply
  • April 20, 2011 at 9:24 am
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    I think you make some excellent points. I’m going for MAcc. because a CPA license requires that I take those classes. Unfortunately the price will be fairly steep especially for something I don’t want to do in the long term. However in the short term it will add a tremendous amount of value and being able to state ‘cpa’ when opening a business or talking to clients is a bit leg up.

    -Ravi Gupta

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    • April 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm
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      Yeah, the downfall of masters programs is usually the cost… BUT it sounsd like the MAcc will definitely help you get a leg up!

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  • April 20, 2011 at 10:39 am
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    This is always a tough decision for anyone. I graduated with my MBA from the University of Michigan about 2 years ago now. I worked while going to school, and they paid about 60% of my entire degree when all was said and done. People always think you cant work while getting your MBA, and that’s simply not true. Granted there are schools out there that make it impossible, but there are plenty of good schools where you can. My career advanced through 3 promotions while in grad school, on top of having more than half of it paid for, I’d hate to think what i wouldve lost out on had I quit working while going to school.

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    • April 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm
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      You make some good points. I work with a lot of people that got there MBA part-time and say it is by far the best way to go. If your employer will pay for a substantial part of your MBA, then it makes complete sense to go to a part-time program. Personally, I plan to apply to part-time programs in Pittsburgh (Carnegie Mellon and Pitt).

      The only issue I see with part-time programs is it depends where you work. There might not be any decent programs around if you work in an obscure area. You benefited from having a great school close by and I am lucky to have some good schools close by too.

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      • April 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm
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        You’re right, metro Detroit is actually filled with some good business and engineering schools! You are lucky to have both of those schools close to you as well. Though MANY good schools are offering online MBA’s now as well. No I wouldnt sign up for Phoenix University or another school like that because they do not have regional accredidation…but I believe there are even a couple top 20 schools that now offer online MBA’s. These are very legitimate programs that should be looked into by people constrained by location.

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  • April 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm
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    I have thought a tiny bit about getting an MBA, but I don’t think that it’s right for me. After 6 years of college, I think there are limits to where formal education can get you. I think that going out and doing things and learning from others in a non-traditional sense can be a lot more valuable than an MBA. If I needed an MBA to achieve my goals, I would probably think differently.

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  • April 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm
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    Over a decade ago, I went back to school full-time to obtain an MBA (Indiana). It turned out to be the best investment I have made.

    My earning power increased substantially upon graduation, and the investment was more than paid for in a short amount of time. I’ve well passed the breakeven point. Of course, I made very little before going to graduate school, so that made things easier for me when making the decision:)

    Additionally, from an academic/intellectual standpoint, I found myself able to focus and truly value the education more than I did as a younger undergrad.

    The key is to do your homework when making the decision. If a program is not ranked very highly, the value proposition can really change. Choose wisely.

    Reply
    • April 21, 2011 at 11:45 am
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      Great advice, Squirrelers!

      I completely agree that you do need to choose wisely and I will cover that as another step in the process.

      Reply
    • April 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm
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      Indiana has a great MBA program. It was my favorite of all the schools I looked at, but doesn’t make sense for me since I want to stay in tech.

      When you say your earning power increased substantially after graduation, what salary were you making before you went to school, and what did you obtain after? I’ve been making high-5, low-6 figures lately, so I question whether the salary increase would be all that significant in my case, esp since I’d like to move into a product management role, where my experience would actually move me into a more junior position than my current place in marketing.

      Reply
  • April 22, 2011 at 7:04 am
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    I thought about it and am still thinking about it — but every year I don’t get an MBA I manage to advance in my career substantially enough that I wonder if an MBA would ever make sense. I realize if I ever want to be management at a large public company and MBA would help — but I’d much rather spend the rest of my life working for startups… and some of them are open to hiring you even if you don’t have an MBA.

    If I did get an MBA, it would have to be from either Berkeley or Stanford, and the reality is that it’s unlikely I’d get into either of them — and the cost of tuition is likely not worth it given the jobs I’d get after are the same ones I’d be able to get now, or after 2-3 more years of work experience.

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    • April 22, 2011 at 7:17 am
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      I am sure that a lot of start ups are open to hiring people without an MBA, but I am pretty sure that they would value an MBA from Haas (Berkeley) and Stanford. Those are two phenomenal schools. If Haas is close by for you, I know they offer an evening and weekend MBA program.

      I don’t know your current situation, but I am 90% sure that both Stanford and Haas would open up a lot of possibilities. The networks of those schools are very far reaching.

      Reply
  • April 22, 2011 at 9:17 pm
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    I 100% agree that an MBA from Haas or Stanford would open up opportunities, but the reality is that at this very moment I am in charge of hiring interns who are applying for my startup from these very programs.

    If I had an academic background in technology and wanted to get into management, perhaps an MBA would make sense. However, my current lack of opportunity stems from my lack of academic background in tech, not business.

    That’s not to say having a degree from either of these schools would hurt — but I do think the debt would make it harder for me to take the same risks I’m able to take now. At the very least, I am confident I can build a very successful career for myself in tech marketing without the MBA. And honestly, it’s unlikely I could get into these programs with my undergraduate GPA (3.2) and my poor standardized test abilities. I’d rather just work my way up and prove that I have what it takes, versus prove I can fit some mold of what Stanford says it takes.

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    • May 13, 2011 at 10:03 am
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      I think you definitely have a point about not getting an MBA. I feel like the degree also loses value the later in life you get it so if you’re doing fine for several years without it odds are you should continue that way. I’m in the other bucket you described – technical background looking for entry to business and management. Well done and be nice to those interns!

      Reply
  • April 25, 2011 at 11:44 pm
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    I have an MBA. I wanted and MBA because I always wanted a formal business education and I wanted more training in accounting. My undergraduate degree was in the liberal arts field.

    I started going part time, then to full time. I also gave birth to my son towards the end of the program. It was a very busy several years!

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  • May 13, 2011 at 9:59 am
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    Asking this question is important for several reasons. First it acts as a screen to see if you really need the degree which is important because MBAs are costly in both time and money. Second, it will provide a foundation for deciding what type of program and which schools to consider based on your values and needs – not rankings. Good stuff!

    Reply
  • July 24, 2011 at 6:30 am
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    When will be the MBAExaminations? | Where can I get the MBA applications? | What is the syllabus of MBA exam?

    Reply

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