GMAT & MBA Admissions Blog

Beyond the GMAT: 3 Tips for Evaluating MBA Program Options

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 @ 01:21 PM

mbs programs tutorsYou’ve just finished taking the GMAT, and you’re happy with your score.  There are more options for obtaining an MBA than you might think.

I recently read an interesting article from Accepted.com about the various options available for individuals considering an MBA.  The article offers a nice overview of the various MBA options available today.  To summarize the article, there are five basic options:

  • 2 Year Full-time MBA programs (traditional MBA program)
  • 1 Year Full-time MBA programs (full-time, no internship)
  • Part-time MBA programs (nights/weekends)
  • Executive MBA programs (for more experienced professionals)
  • Specialized MBA programs (focused on industries)

If you’re not sure what one of the above options entails, I’d read the aforementioned article.

If you’re currently studying for or have taken the GMAT, you’re obviously considering one of these options. However, I’d encourage you to make sure you review all of these options, on the off-chance that one is actually more attractive than you realized – or perhaps there’s an option for getting your MBA that you didn’t even realize existed.

3 Tips for Evaluating Your MBA Options

The MBA is a graduate program in business administration for professionals who seek knowledge, new skills, a credential, and/or a network to advance in the business world.  It can “signal” to employers that you have the knowledge and the ability to excel and perform at a high level.  However, unlike the JD, the MD, or even a teaching certification, it is almost never a required degree – yet at the same time, it’s expensive. 

Since as a potential MBA student you should be concerned with getting a return that far exceeds the investment required to get the degree, here are some thoughts to keep in mind.

Tip #1 - it’s critical to attend a top-ranked, well-regarded MBA program

It often only makes financial sense to obtain an MBA, regardless of type, from a top school.  There are too many MBA programs offering degrees that cost tens of thousands of dollars, but which offer little in the way of signaling your value to employers or helping you build a network.  You might learn a bit about business, but there are less expensive ways to learn about business (i.e., books,  certifications, on the job training, etc.)

Of course, if your employer specifically wants you to earn an MBA to learn certain skills that are applicable to your career track within a given company, it makes all the sense in the world to settle for a less selective MBA program.  But, if you’re unhappy with your current career trajectory and expect that simply having the MBA credential, regardless of school attended, will improve your job prospects, you might be surprised by how employers react to MBA degrees from less selective schools.

All that said, MBA programs can be well regarded within regional or even local circles.  One of my earliest consulting clients had a lot of MBAs from Wayne State in Michigan.  I don’t believe anyone is all that impressed with a Wayne State MBA nationally, but within 50 miles of the school, it’s well-regarded.

Tip #2 – take advantage of high quality part-time programs

As the accepted.com article states about part-time programs, “often admission is less competitive than for the same school’s full-time program, enabling part-time students to obtain a “brand” they may not qualify for otherwise.”

In my experience, that’s a powerful and true statement.  For example, here in Chicago, both Chicago-Booth and Northwestern-Kellogg offer large part-time programs.  An individual with a clear career plan and a 650 GMAT score may have a difficult time getting into either program’s full-time program, but has a real shot at getting into the part-time program.  Upon graduation, there is no requirement to list “part-time” on your resume – you took the same classes, from the same professors, and were exposed to the same ideas.  Now, you have the same network as the full-timers.

Tip #3 – consider a 1Y or specialized program

I was initially dead set on applying to a traditional, top-tier two year MBA program.  However, after just a little research, I discovered that Northwestern University offers a full-time, 1 year MBA program for folks with an undergraduate business degree or other evidence of a strong previous business background.  The downside of such a program is that you can’t do an internship.  But, it saves you an entire year of tuition and opportunity cost of lost salary.

As a strategy consultant who knew I wanted to continue a consulting career or become an entrepreneur after business school, this program was a great fit for me. However, as I’ve spoken with students studying for the GMAT, many aren’t even aware of this program.

And, before reading the accepted.com article, I was unaware of the range of specialized MBA options available.  I’d expect there are certainly many students currently on the path towards getting a 2 year MBA from a top school, who know they want to work in non-profit or healthcare upon graduation.  These students’ career prospects may be served better by Boston University’s Public & Nonprofit MBA is or UC Irvine’s Health Care Executive MBA (HCEMBA).

Summary

Still the most popular option, a two-year, full-time MBA program with an internship in the summer may make sense for many aspiring MBA applicants – especially those interested in obtaining a new position post-MBA who aren’t currently sure exactly what industry or function they’ll be targeting.  Indeed, recruiting by potential employers is a clear benefit of deciding to invest in a full-time MBA. 

However, keep in mind that all MBAs are not equal – it’s important to choose well-ranked, highly regarded program.  Furthermore, part-time, 1 year, or specialized programs may be more relevant for your situation than you realize – so do your research about the various MBA program options available to you.

 

 

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