5 P's of Choosing an MBA Program

Ever get the feeling that everyone has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) these days? Years ago, the only students that went into an MBA program obtained a bachelor's degree in business

Today, organizations have begun tapping their engineering, HR, and even IT ranks for management material and the MBA has become almost a must for anyone who would like to be involved in the upper echelons of their organization. Before we go into whether an MBA is the correct direction for you, we first must investigate why an MBA is important in general.

Why an MBA?

The decision to pursue a Masters in Business Administration is a complex and challenging - one that should not be weighed lightly. Not only does an MBA require students to dedicate anywhere from two to fours years in a challenging academic program, but students must also understand that an MBA program is also a big financial obligation.

One goal of an MBA program is to give students a better understanding of the "big picture,"  or the 30,000-feet-above and long-term strategic view that separates the good companies from the great. It is why companies are looking to employ people with that vision into management positions.

An MBA can boost your lifelong earning potential and position you for a leadership position within an organization. Additionally, some students who may have majored in something other than business seek to obtain an MBA to get a well-rounded education. Overall, an MBA prepares you to excel in today's global economy.

Types of MBA Programs

  1. Full-time: A full-time program is usually a two-year program where students are immersed in the educational experience. Many colleges expect to have real world working experience and you'll be taking classes during normal business hours. Full time programs are ideal for students like Jack, who have no full time jobs that will interfere with their class schedules. These types of programs are the best if you're looking to network because the other students won't have "real work" getting in the way of their school work. You may also see Accelerated MBA programs offered and these are a subset of full time programs. Accelerated programs squeeze two years of schooling into a shorter period, sometimes as little as one-and-a-half years.
  2. Part-time: A part-time program is designed for regular working professionals who are taking evening and weekend classes over the course of several years. This is the ideal program for students who have full-time jobs
  3. Executive: Executive MBA programs are usually offered to those with longer periods of work experience. This program may highlight higher level management and strategy issues in the coursework, designed for executives.
  4. Online/ Distance:  Distance Education MBA programs are those where the class doesn't necessarily meet every week in a classroom. A classroom component may be involved but primarily the learning is done at the student's discretion. This type of program is ideal for students with unique time constraints and aren't concerned with networking with classmates.

How to Gauge MBA Program Prestige

There are several factors to look for when gauging an MBA program's credibility. They include: 

  • U.S. News and World Report Ranking: While there's been recent discussion as to the value of these rankings, there is no dispute that the universities rated in the top ten or twenty shouldn't be there, it's merely the order that people complain about. Given that, if the purpose of your MBA is to switch positions and enter the financial sector, you will want to attend one of these universities because financial sector companies will be recruiting from these top schools and you will want to be there for it.
  • Quality of the faculty: Your teacher, or instructor will be the guide for your educational success. If facutly is a really important issue to you, The type of faculty also is important if you're looking to use your MBA program as a big networking session because you'll be interfacing with professors on a weekly basis and have an easy excuse to pick their brain and build relationships.
  • Who hires there?: Every university puts its prospective employers recruiting schedule online for easy access, so go to the career services website of the university you're interested in and see who is recruiting. Call a college's career services department and ask for their historical recruiting records to get an idea of how their employment figures look for graduates over the past few years and who has been coming to their recruiting sessions.
  • Who enrolls there?:  If your primary reason for pursuing an MBA is for networking purposes, it is very important to see what companies tend to send their best and brightest.

Ultimately, where you decide to pursue an MBA is up to you and your own personal set of circumstances. Remember, the best school isn't necessarily the one with the highest ranking in a magazine or book, it's the MBA program that will help you most in achieving your personal goals and put you in a position to succeed in the business world.

If you feel ready to dive into an MBA program, take the first step and research MBA programs today!

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