Is the MBA right for you right now?

A guide

The 2018 Application Trends Survey published by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that, of the schools surveyed, 70% of U.S. full-time MBA programs and more than half of U.S. part-time MBA programs saw declines in application volumes. This dip in applicants begs the question – Is taking on the responsibilities of returning to school worth the degree at the finish line?

As with many questions in business, the answer just depends.

An MBA can give you the necessary credentials to advance within your industry, especially in industries like consulting. It can allow you to transition away from a technical role into a managerial one, equipping you with business decision-making skills you previously lacked. But it can also pull you away from other important priorities, such as sourcing capital in the startup space.

So how does anyone navigate the ambiguous business of “it depends”?

Dip your toes in first

An MBA alone will not distinguish you in the job market. Dip your toes into the workforce first. Several years of work experience will not only make you a more attractive candidate upon graduation, but also will enrich your experience during the degree. The 2019 and 2020 classes in the Smith Full-Time MBA Program had an average of six years of work experience before returning to school.

Do your research

Before exiting the workforce for a full-time MBA program or taking on the balancing act of a full-time job and a part-time program, do your research.

Is an MBA truly needed to get you where you want to go? What programs fit with your interests? Should you be considering a more specialized degree, like one of the Specialty Master’s programs at Smith?

Know your goal

Know where you want to go next in your career. Whether you’re considering a full-time or part-time program, having a clear vision of the industry and position you want will allow you to maximize your time and make the best use of the resources available to you during your MBA.

Beginning a post-graduate program is a big commitment. Understanding how your past experiences shape your future goals will empower you to find the degree and program that are right for you. The MBA can equip you with the skills and confidence you need to contribute to a global business environment.

The decision of whether it’s the right choice for you, however – well, that just depends.

– By Virginia Pierrie. Virginia Pierrie is a 2021 Maryland Smith MBA Candidate and a Dean's Fellow.