How to find out if MBA is the right thing for him/her to do?
September 23, 2008 9:48 AM   Subscribe

How to find out if MBA is the right thing for him/her to do? I'm contemplating to do fully employed MBA (FEMBA). Doing full time MBA is out of question for me. Lot of former MBA students advise to find out whether this is the right thing for you to do, before you get in.

At the same time, when I listened to former MBA students' interviews, lot of them tend to say they were not sure what their MBA is going to provide them 'exactly' or what career path they are going to take after finishing their MBAs. Many of them found themselves in entirely different career path (as a delightful surprise), then they thought ever possible. They didn't know what's coming, what would be ROI, why 'exactly' are they going through FEMBA, except that something inside them told them strongly that this is the right thing to do. For many people, this intuition was so strong, that it helped them make the leap and they were not disappointed.

I'm in the same boat right now. So I want to know how do you find out if MBA is the right thing for you to do? Or is intuition plus some basic fact check plus strong desire enough to dive right in?

When I say basic fact check what I mean is - I've been into and thrived in leadership positions throughout my career, leading small teams of software projects from 4 to 15. I have found creating a very strong place for myself as a team lead in very short span of time, wherever I went. I enjoy the zest, the speed, the struggle to get things done. I enjoy interacting with people. I really want to learn the mechanics, the science of how business, economics, market dynamics works. Over next 10-15 years, I see myself in very strong leadership position (in business field) impacting lives of thousands of people in a positive way and making a difference in the world.

I want to make sure MBA is the right thing for me to do, to accomplish above. I don't want to make $90K investment for a wrong career path. Even if I may find an employer who reimburses my tuition fees, it's huge time and effort investment to go through FEMBA, on my part as well as my family's part.

So again, my question is - How does one find out if MBA is the right thing for him/her to do?
posted by tvjoshi to Education (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you ever *know* 100% that you are doing the right thing. Sometimes you just have to take the leap.

That said, getting an MBA was a great experience for me. I was able to go full-time, but I had classes with part-time students and they seemed to get a lot out of it too. My school had a "set" curriculum, in so much that for full-time you went two years and you had the middle summer off. The part-timers had a three-year full-year curriculum (no summers off). Each cohort started and ended together. I think this created a feeling of community rather than "just taking classes." Also, everyone was required to take all the core classes. Suffering through them together (rather than letting people test out, or take them at their own pace) was a good bonding experience.

Having been at school in New Orleans and halfway through my degree when Katrina hit, I had the unique experience of spending a semester at a different school. I enjoyed my host school, and was grateful for their hospitality, but there was a huge difference between the schools. My host school's program was geared for part-time students, and they did not have a time limit for completing the degree or a set path to follow. I felt like a lot of the students were just getting the degree simply to get a promotion in their field, not because they were actually interested in the curriculum. There was no feeling of community between the students. Also I think the un-structured path meant that they didn't have to be as motivated to finish in any sort of timely manner.

So that is just my two cents in choosing a school that feels right.
posted by radioamy at 10:07 AM on September 23, 2008

I want to make sure MBA is the right thing for me to do
Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Think moar.
posted by RussHy at 10:09 AM on September 23, 2008

This strikes as quite hard to generalize about. One point to consider is that "MBA" isn't one thing -- not only is there a difference b/w MBA and part-time MBA programs (and I assume FEMBAs, not to be confused with FEMAs), but there is a huge difference in the quality of the programs.

Here's one aspect: a great deal of an MBA degree's value has to do with credentialing and signaling. So what you get out of it may be radically different depending on the institution you attend.

As the above suggests, I would be especially wary of inferring anything from another person's "intuition." Usually the intuition is founded on something and the decision isn't just a leap of faith; if it is, disregard it.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:11 AM on September 23, 2008

Over next 10-15 years, I see myself in very strong leadership position (in business field) impacting lives of thousands of people in a positive way and making a difference in the world.

Sure, but that's not a plan. What do you see yourself doing the day after you graduate? HR? Strategic consulting? Accounting? You can get to "leadership, impact, difference" through a million paths. Some benefit from an MBA, some don't.
posted by mendel at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2008

My advice is not to get an MBA and also to think more specifically about your short-term goals. My experience has been that most MBAs learn more in their first six months in a workplace/office job than they do in their entire student days. Instead, just build your career in the way you want and are capable of, continue to learn the business world directly, and go from there. There is nothing to match hands-on experience: business and management, like life, cannot be learned through books. Leading 10 people through a software project is good experience, but it's a world apart from managing a company, being a COO or CFO, managing a sales-force, or heading marketing, PR, etc. Find the industry and the aspect of that industry you do best in and work with it. I don't see an MBA giving you the skills or background you need. The theory and practice of business management are worlds apart. Focus on the real-world of the latter. In a tight economy, your experience counts more than your degrees.
posted by ornate insect at 10:32 AM on September 23, 2008

I really appreciate all the feedback. Some more specific info in response to answers above:
1) About specific school: I want to do FEMBA (fully employed) from UCLA Anderson, they says it's world rank 2 in fully employed programs, stands out with their GAP (international hands-on experience) program.
2) About specific field: I'm always thrilled about entrepreneurship. But I don't want to limit myself to anything specific yet, I might not be aware of all the possibilities. I want to take time to check out different paths, as I take my core classes.
3) I'm working as a .net software programmer with 7 years of experience in web development.
Lastly, please keep them (opinions, thoughts) coming. More the brainstorming, more it will help me (and many others in the same boat) to take right decisions. Thanks a tons!
posted by tvjoshi at 11:04 AM on September 23, 2008

I want to commend you on being really smart to think this through. I met all these baby-faced people who have no clue why they want to go to business school but just want to go to a "top" school. They're completely infatuated with the names but aren't at all sure what skills they want or what industry they want to go into. It's fair, of course, because I'm sure if they did get into a name brand b-school, they'd be set with some kind of job. But it's good to do your research and talk to a lot of people who have MBAs before you decide to invest the money.
posted by onepapertiger at 11:23 AM on September 23, 2008

Or is intuition plus some basic fact check plus strong desire enough to dive right in?
^ This was how it was for me.

I am a big supporter of education, and specifically graduate school. That said, I don't think it's the kind of endeavor one should undertake if they are not sure. I knew before I even graduated college that I wanted to get an MBA, and it has done great things for my career. The classmates that knew they wanted it and had an idea of what they wanted to get out of it have found more success (and faster) that those that went because they thought it sort of made sense or they weren't sure what else to do. I see the same thing from those that go to law school or other graduate programs for those reasons. YMMV.

As someone who did a part-time MBA (FEMBA?) - it is not for the faint of heart. I think you need to KNOW that this is what you want, otherwise making it through will be hell. I wanted to quit so many times and if I hadn't been as invested/determined, perhaps I would have. You don't need to know exactly where you want to be at the end, but it helps to be sure that this is the degree you need in order to get somewhere close to where you might like to be. FWIW, an MBA doesn't teach you to be a leader, no matter what the marketing material says. Good luck with your decision.
posted by ml98tu at 11:50 AM on September 23, 2008

You won't know the MBA was the right decision until you've done it. You can think it's the right way to go, but it's impossible to anticipate your entire career.

I did use my time in B-school to figure out some career path choices. It's a really good place to safely learn some things outside of your core skills. I would never have taken a job in Finance, but b-school taught me that my aptitude for Finance is just fine. In the past, I wouldn't have challenged our financial analysts; now I do that.

That said, it's a huge investment. Even with scholarships (thank you!!!), the investment of time and the opportunity costs are huge. The ROI can be great too. My MBA opened plenty of doors that I didn't know where closed. It allowed my to accelerate my career and compensation in a way that I couldn't have duplicated by other means.

Considering your skills, the program and the thinking you've done - I'd advise you to go for it.
posted by 26.2 at 10:09 AM on September 25, 2008

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