At the end of last year, I was in a career funk. So I considered going back to school to get my Master’s of Business Administration (MBA). With an MBA, you can advance in your current field or make a switch to a new field, everyone values an MBA.
I was stoked! I considered the possibility of getting an MBA in the past and it was a great time in my life to do night classes. So I began picturing myself adding the letters “MBA” behind my name on business cards and looking up schools.
However, I quickly hit the brakes!
Ask These 2 Questions before You pursue an MBA
Many of my friends are going back to school or currently in school, and I ALWAYS ask them these 2 simple questions that BLOW THEIR MIND. So I decided to test myself to see if I passed my own “Should You Get An MBA” test.
1. What is the EXACT dream Company and Job Title you want after graduation?
You should know this. Most people will get an MBA because they want to do something in business. They think they need MBA to for future promotions and career growth.
However, you should FIRST figure out what your dream job is. You can’t just say “something in business”. If you are going to spend $80,000+ on an MBA and years of your life. You should identify the exact company and job title you want before you even start school. Come on, it’s your DREAM job.
This is a role you will potentially be doing for the rest of your life. You should have a clear idea of what it should be. This will guide every future decision you make while in your MBA program, affect the electives you take and the networking events you attend.
What’s the point of getting an MBA if you don’t know what you’ll do with it? Seriously? So write down your dream job title and company.
2. Have you reached out to your dream company yet?
Once you can identify the exact company and job title you want, you should reach out to that company and ask what they look for. This should be less intimidating than looking at a future $80,000+ student debt bill.
Usually a company’s Human Resources department would be willing to meet with you if you share with them that you’re considering going back to school to gain the skills necessary to work at their company.
When you meet with your dream company’s Human Resources Department, you should ask them some of these questions.
My dream job at your company is a Marketing Manager (or whatever it is), what is the salary range they get paid?
You should ABSOLUTELY know how much your future job pays because that’ll tell you how long it’ll take you to pay off your newly acquired student debt. Plus it’ll give you an idea of what lifestyle you can expect once you graduate with an MBA.
It’s not all about money, but you should be aware if all your hard work in school will result in nightly ramen noodles once you graduate. Are you OK with that?
What degrees or education do your current Marketing Managers have? (or whatever your dream job is)
This will give you an idea of the education level of their current employees. Some of their employees may have MBAs and some may not. You should probe deeper to what the HR team looks for in your dream position. Perhaps you don’t need an MBA and you have the necessary experience to apply today.
If you need to get an MBA for that position, ask if they have a preferred school or partner with any specific schools. If your dream job regularly partners with a local university and hires pretty exclusively from there, that university may need to be on your radar for potential schools.
Does your dream company offer internships?
Yes, you’re getting an MBA but knowing if your dream company has an internship program is huge. Many companies will hire interns who are working towards their degree and help them grow into the position. There is no reason to wait till after you get your MBA to apply to your dream company. You should use every opportunity you can to start making connections.
What does career growth look like at that company?
If your dream job is to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), they won’t just hire you out of school. What entry level roles will you need to start off with and how does one become a CEO? How did the current CEO get his role and what did they do before that? Some jobs aren’t attainable right out of school, even with an MBA. You need to understand what your career path would look like moving up to your dream position. You should understand what this looks like.
When I considered an MBA, I failed this checklist
Last year when I considered getting my MBA, I went full-throttle and visited 3 different universities. I dropped in classes and met with professors. I received all the brochures, met with all their “advisors” and compared costs ($39,000 – $80,000). I did soft applications and confirmed I would be accepted to each of them. So I was freaking close to full out applying.
I knew I wanted do something in finance because I LOVED writing about finance. So I figured I’d get an MBA with a focus in finance (hence why I write for Wallet Squirrel). This is how most people start the MBA journey. They love the idea of a degree, get an education THEN figure out where they want to work.
I did that when I choose my college degree. I went into Landscape Architecture without actually knowing if it was my dream job. I just thought it would be fun to draw and select plants. I didn’t learn till after internships and after graduation that they spend most of their time looking at a computer, drawing parking lots. UGH, so NEVER again.
So I asked myself these two questions and I failed.
There were some finance positions like Financial Planner, Mutual Fund Manager, Financial Analyst that sounded interesting but I wasn’t drawn to them with such vigor that I could stomach another $80,000 in student loan debt.
One position DID sound fun, but they earned even less than I was making now. So I had to ask myself if I would be willing to gain more debt for lower paying, nicer job? I didn’t like it that much.
Do the Math on your Future Tuition
According to Investatopia, the average MBA program costs $140,000, with higher ranking school costing more. They’re factoring in tuition, living arrangements, books (use ebates to save) and peripheral expenditures. That’s more than the evening only MBA programs I was looking at.
Now factor that $140,000 student debt at 6.8% interest which is the average Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan according to Federal Student Aid. Having that kind of student loan debt is similar to buying a house.
However the common response to seeing these numbers is that you’ll be paid more after your MBA. That is likely true. The average salary of MBA graduates in a full-time program was $126,919. This was taken from US News when they interviewed companies mainly on the east/west coasts which usually provide a higher salary than the Mountain States and Midwest.
Most people like me had to make an insane decision in High school to pick a college major before entering college. So at the same time I was focused on rehearsing for the school musical and wondering if the homecoming queen, Val liked me (she didn’t). I had to choose a degree that would affect the rest of my life. I was not ready.
Going back to school for your MBA doesn’t have to be like that. There isn’t any timetable, no matter what the college recruiters tell you about the deadline for an upcoming semester. You have all the time in the world to choose if an MBA is right for you.
So if you’re considering going back to school for an MBA to improve your future, you should have an idea of what your future will look like by identifying your dream job at your dream company. This is your opportunity to do WHATEVER you want in the world, have a plan that extends after graduation.