Business school, the top-tier educational program that millions of prospective business students seek out to complete each year. What exactly is so special about pursuing an MBA degree? Is business school worth your hard-earned time and money? Or are you better off going after other ventures?
Everybody has their interests and goals to keep in mind. For some people getting an MBA may be worth it while for others it is not.
However, I think most individuals wouldn’t want to see their time and money go to waste. So, if you want to know if attending business school is right for you, you are going to have to consider the pros and cons.
Benefits of Attending Business School
There are many benefits to getting an MBA degree. Strong evidence supports the fact that business graduates enjoy many promotions in both pay and prestige during their careers. Now let us take a look at how b-school may or may not be beneficial to your future.
It Sharpens Your Skills
A huge benefit that business school offers is that it provides you with a broad knowledge of complex business, investing, and accounting principles. For graduates with only a bachelor’s degree and maybe little direct experience in business, an MBA may be just what they need to learn more about the field.
There are also specialized MBAs that offer specific coursework in marketing, accounting, finance, and general business. Each of these fields is extremely important in shaping students to become successful in the field of business.
This is especially true if you are coming from a non-business educational background. In this case, business school is a great opportunity for you to enhance your career and maybe even change it.
Business School Provides You With a Network
One of the most important aspects of attending college, in general, is the network you gain. The United States is home to some of the world’s top business schools: You can use these schools to network with some of the finest companies in the nation.
An introduction to recruiters from top investment banks and other firms can help propel you into your dream job.
In fact, most MBA graduates have secured their jobs after college through networking at events and internships.
I would say that 60% of the MBA’s value comes from the network you receive as a student. If you do not utilize this while you’re in school, finding a job after graduating can be challenging, even with the degree.
Now, what about getting your MBA abroad? I’d say, for the most part, an MBA’s value is at its highest in the country you graduated in. This means that if you study abroad and return home to look for a job; it might be more difficult since you don’t have any network in your home country.
MBA Graduates Have The Advantage
More and more companies are starting to see the benefits of hiring business school graduates. MBA grads have proven to be hardworking and knowledgeable, steering many businesses towards higher profits. Many of the top executives at large companies have either gone to graduate school or have obtained an MBA.
It is easy to see the benefits of completing business school in this regard since it can help you move higher up the corporate ladder.
For example, you have a much better chance of becoming an executive or even a CEO if you have an MBA from a respectable program.
I know that the corporate ladder is not something that excites most employees today. Nevertheless, by having an MBA from a top school, you will have an edge in the job market.
Graduating From a Top Program Pays Off
As a new business school graduate, your salary will largely depend on where you attended school. Unlike other higher education like law or medical school, business school’s value is based almost entirely on rankings.
Look at it like this, Stanford University is the highest-ranked business school in the world at #1. Its graduates earn a hefty median annual salary of $176,000.
Graduates of Stratford can easily make that salary only a couple of years out of school. They can even far surpass that once they get well into their careers.
Now let us look at the annual salaries of graduates from Pennsylvania State University Smeal; still a very respected program in its own right but ranked much lower than Stanford at #41. Smeal graduates have an average annual salary of $106,000.
Although a Smeal graduate still has the potential to earn as much as a graduate from Stratford, it will take much longer for them to do so.
It’s important to understand however that these are just statistics: just because somebody went to a better school than you did doesn’t necessarily mean they will be more successful.
There are Ivy League graduates that work for people who have never even gone to college at all, so don’t assume that school rankings will guarantee you success. It all comes down to the individual as to how he or she will use their degree to better their careers.
Do What Works Best For You In The End
School rankings might make the difference in your salary statistically speaking, but education cannot be fully measured by statistics alone. Warren Buffett, the most successful investor of all time was rejected by Harvard Business School.
The admissions committee at Harvard was known for grooming generations of quality leaders. Buffett, who looked younger than he was and who acted in the same way, did not fit the criteria. Instead, he found rejoice at Columbia where he met the most influential person in his life, Benjamin Graham.
You could argue that if Buffett had gone to Harvard instead of Columbia, he might have not been as successful as he is today.
So don’t get caught up so much on your school’s rank alone. The most important thing is that you get a quality education that will help you succeed in your career.
If you feel that going to a lower-ranked business school might be better for you, then don’t hesitate to follow your hunch.
Drawbacks of Attending Business School
As with the many benefits that business school has to offer there are also a few disadvantages you should be aware of.
Business school can take up to 3 years of your life along with a huge financial commitment. Unless you know for sure that b-school is right for you, it’s probably a good idea to be familiar with some of its drawbacks.
It’s VERY Expensive
The most obvious downside of going to business school is the high price tag. In the United States, colleges are now charging up to $100,000 (in some cases more) for an MBA.
$100,000 is about the average starting salary for graduates with an MBA. Increasing your salary higher will depend upon the industry that you work in. That is why you must decide if business school is right for you before you enroll.
Paying off $100,000 of student loans will take a long time, even for an MBA graduate fresh out of school.
Business School Will Take Time
Not only is the price of attending business school extremely high but there is also another risk you must consider, time.
Business school can take anywhere from 2-3 years to complete, maybe even more if you are doing a part-time program. 3 years is a long time to be out of work as a full-grown adult. You will essentially be living as a college student again, broke and forced to eat those horrible salty ramen noodles.
Your time might be better spent doing something else, after all, not everybody learns in the classroom. For some, it might be better to just go out there and start a business instead of spending $100,000 and two years of their lives.
It’s also possible to get promoted without a graduate degree of any kind. It just depends on your undergraduate major along with the type of field you work in.
For example, an English major has a good chance of moving up the ranks of a public relations agency, even without a graduate degree.
For an engineer working at a technology firm, the same can be said. The engineer’s skills are relevant to the company and can compensate for the lack of higher education.
Doing your MBA part-time will allow you to keep your job, but it will also consume your life. Working full time while also doing your MBA can be difficult.
However, I will say one thing about this and that is it may be worth the trouble if you can get it paid for. Many companies offer MBA compensation if you sign a contract to stay with them after you graduate. In that case, doing your MBA part-time will eliminate the financial burden it will have on you.
It’s Not Exactly Easy To Get In
Business school curriculum and hours alone are a challenge for many students. But the biggest hurdle for most is actually getting accepted.
It can be quite difficult to get into a top-ranking program: the reason is that business school rankings are based entirely on the performance of the annual graduate class. If they admit someone who performs poorly and drops out, it can hurt their rankings.
So it’s true that your grades matter when applying to business school, but they are only part of the application.
There is generally more flexibility for someone learning business outside of the classroom than there is for future doctors and lawyers.
Those professions require 100% attentiveness and knowledge of the coursework for success. Business is a little different in that a lot of the actual learning does not necessarily have to involve academics.
But even though there might be less emphasis on grades than there is for law and medical schools, it can still be a challenge to get accepted into a top program.
These are the 6 required components of a business school application:
- Work Experience
- Undergraduate GPA
- GMAT or GRE Scores
- Extracurricular Activities
- Letters Of Recommendation
Work experience is necessary for almost all applications in business school. This can be both good and bad in that it adds an extra layer to your resume, yet it also requires time and a successful track record.
Many top-ranked schools require you to have at least 5 years of professional experience at a respectable company generally having dealt with clients.
Business schools also tend to emphasize managerial experience. To have a managerial position at your current company will mean that you have acquired the skills of sales and leadership. Two perfect qualities that b-schools look for in applicants.
A strong undergraduate GPA is a requirement for most admissions into business school. The GPA reflects your past academic performance and serves as an indicator for the admissions office.
However, unlike law and medical school GPA has been shown to not matter as much if other areas of the application are strong. Again, the reason is that academics don’t always make someone successful in business and it is why other parts of your resume will be considered.
GMAT or GRE Scores
The GMAT is the main test that is used to determine the current academic proficiency of business school applicants. It is used as a more recent indication of academic performance since most applicants apply many years after undergrad.
For most people, the GMAT is a hit or miss. If you suck at standardized tests (like me) you will most likely struggle with the exam.
You can also take the GRE, which is being accepted by many schools now instead of the GMAT.
Yet, I think most people will agree that the GMAT reigns supreme in b-school admissions. It’s considered more difficult since it has a harder quantitative section, and quantitative skills are what b-schools are looking for.
Unlike law school and medical school, business school offers prospective students with a chance to show off their skills in areas outside of academia. For example, if you’ve built a successful website online which operates as a profitable business, this might be something the admissions committee would be interested in.
You have the chance when applying to b-school to impress the admissions department through other achievements in your life.
I think this is what separates business schools the most from other higher education, and it might be a strong reason for people to choose it over other schools. But again if this part of your resume lacks then it can only harm your application.
The interview is generally seen as the opportunity to show yourself in the best way possible to the admission committee.
If you dress well, keep it real, and articulate your interests for business school in the best way possible; then the interview can help your application tremendously. But just like everything else, it’s another obstacle in the way that you have to worry about.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are something you have little control over on your application. You can choose to have whoever you want to write a recommendation for you, but what they write about is up to them. If you’ve made a bad impression on the people you’ve asked, don’t expect them to put you in a positive light.
The Bottom Line
What we have seen so far is that business school is a massive commitment for anyone to undertake. The fact is that the money, time, and work that it will take to get in and graduate are massive.
If you are working a full-time job right now and want to go back to get an MBA; get ready to take a pay cut and potentially get into debt. You will also have to consider the amount of time and work that it will take to get accepted and finish the program.
But then again, for the people that aim high and end up graduating from a top program, the benefits might outweigh the cons.
The salaries of top business school graduates are substantial, and the network you gain from them is incredibly valuable. Sure, it will be hard and costly, but if you put in the work you will achieve greatness.
I think that for people who know what their goals are and can confidently tackle the obstacles that I’ve listed above; business school will serve them as a huge asset.
Yet, for people that might not have a clear goal in mind or who feel that their application may be weak for some reason; it might be better to rethink their strategy and pursue something else. After all, there are plenty of successful people who’ve never gone to business school. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t go.