Should You Pursue an MBA?

Reasons to get an MBA; reasons not to

Having a master's degree in business administration can be a great tool in the business world, but it's not for everyone. Here are some smart and not-so-smart reasons to pursue an MBA:

1. You want to build a stronger professional network

Most MBA programs bring in a variety of successful businessfolk to bestow some of their workforce wisdom on students. This is a perfect chance to meet leaders and experts in your field and give your professional network some depth. MBA programs with strong alumni chapters also provide great networking opportunities. If you do it right, you'll develop relationships with professors and classmates that could come in handy down the road.

"We have people from all over the world. You never know, maybe two people bonded in class, and someday there'll be a job opening, and that seals the deal," says Mitch Swanger, Recruitment and Admissions Manager for Graduate Programs at WSU. "They're interacting with each other daily and developing lifelong connections and friendships."

2. You want to learn to think outside the box

The professors in MBA programs know the business world inside and out, and a handful of them will really challenge you. Play your cards right, and you can probably find a mentor or two to challenge you beyond the classroom as well. You'll also be surrounded by a much more diverse group of classmates than in undergrad. In particular, American MBA programs draw a substantial number of international students. Working alongside students who have backgrounds in foreign markets will help you develop a global mindset that'll serve you well in any job.

3. You want to practice your leadership skills

It takes a special set of skills to make a company full of people with varying personalities and work ethics cooperate. Hopefully by the end of your MBA studies, this won't seem like such a daunting task. In addition to courses that specifically teach you how to manage people, you'll also be working in teams in many of your other courses. This atmosphere should give you some solid leadership and interpersonal skills that will help you work better in a group setting and effectively manage your future employees.

4. You want to refocus or revive career goals

An MBA can give you the skills and resources to take your career in a new direction. If you've always dreamed of working in a certain realm of business, or even of starting your own business, most programs allow you to choose a concentration that aligns with your professional goals, like nonprofit work, international business or entrepreneurship.

5. You want to qualify for better and/or higher paying jobs

Money isn't everything, but if you want more job opportunities — including higher paying opportunities — an MBA is a good way to increase your chances. This is especially relevant if you're fairly young and looking to work your way up the corporate (or non-corporate) ladder faster. MBA holders certainly earn higher salaries, but the post-MBA pay increase depends on which sector they work in and which program they attended.

"While an MBA doesn't guarantee everything, it puts people in a much better place for obtaining promotions or for different jobs that may not have been attainable before," says Swanger.

3 Bad Reasons to Get an MBA

1. You just want to boost your resume

Sure, an MBA will help you stand out in a pile of resumes. But if that's the main reason you want one, don't do it. You can't reap the full benefits of earning the degree if your heart isn't in it. You can add it to your resume, but if you didn't try to develop personally and professionally from your studies, it can be useless.

2. You don't know what else to do

As with any graduate schooling, getting an MBA is no easy task, especially if you're simultaneously juggling a job/family/social life. If you're not certain that an MBA is the right next step for you, do some serious thinking. There's no sense in spending time and money on a degree if you're just pursuing it as a filler. MBAs are geared toward professionals who have experience and a plan for how they want to use the degree in their careers.

3. You're a recent college grad who mostly wants to continue school to avoid the "real world"

Don't be silly. You've been living in the "real world" your entire life. Graduating from college is just another step into it. So, unless you have a specific plan and you know exactly why you need your MBA as soon as possible, it's probably best to wait. Most MBA programs prefer (or require) candidates with one or two years of experience after undergrad. Plus, you could gain more from your classes if you have a couple of years in the workforce under your belt.

However, sometimes it might make sense to jump into post-grad studies. Jaunessa Walsh, co-owner of the popular Farmgirlfit gyms in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, did find success after receiving an MBA right out of undergrad. The Gonzaga grad said she thinks there are pros and cons to the path she took.

"The advantage was that I didn't have a lot of other pressing matters in my life — no family, no kids — it allowed me to get my degree at a time when I could easily fit it into my schedule," she says. "I think the disadvantage was not having real world experience. Most of the people in my classes had work experience, and just by the way they talked in classes you could tell that their wheels were turning a little differently. You could tell they were looking for specific things for their businesses. But also, I think not having the experience left me a little more open minded to absorb everything that the program had to offer."

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