Should You Pursue an MBA Degree Now or Wait?

by mba

To every thing there is a season

Is this the right time for an MBA? Every year, thousands of business professionals arrive at this crossroads, trying to make the best decision while considering lots of moving parts.

The availability of many programme formats – full-time, part-time, hybrid – provides a high degree of flexibility to pursue an MBA at various stages of your career. There is no right or wrong time to do an MBA, just a number of factors to consider as you decide on the path ahead.

When is an MBA necessary?

The MBA question usually comes after you have amassed a few years’ experience, typically between four and eight. The main question that needs an answer at this point is what you hope the MBA will help you achieve. The decision can be hard even you are fully convinced that the MBA is the right thing to do because full-time programmes would require you to quit working and forgo wages for a year or two.

Mary Elizabeth Shutley faced a similar choice when she concluded that she should move from consulting to strategy. In 2021, after five years at consultancy Accenture Federal Services, where she had just been promoted to a management position, she went to Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in Washington DC (US).

“If the roles you want in the future require an MBA, it is definitely worth the sacrifice [of income],” she told the Financial Times.

Changing careers

Switching careers is just one of many possible reasons for an MBA. The degree is especially suited for career transitions because the general skills you learn – leadership, management, decision making, interpersonal “soft” skills and more – are required in any industry. You will find MBA alumni everywhere – technology, commerce, finance, consulting, healthcare, government, etc. One of the best features of an MBA programme is that it is highly customisable, so you can specialise in a specific field. From an MBA in Thoroughbred Horse Racing to the Music MBA, the growing trend towards tailored programmes enables candidates to choose from an ever-expanding pool of specialisations.

Hitting a career plateau

It can happen to anyone. Your career is going well, but after several years of work and a handful of promotions and raises, you find yourself stuck with hardly any prospects of advancement. A possible way out of this frustrating situation is the development of new skills and contacts via an MBA. An MBA can help you become a better leader, expand your network and boost your self-confidence.

Increase earning power

The desire for an MBA always goes hand in hand with an aspiration for a bigger pay cheque. Maybe you want to start a family, buy a house or have a child – all expensive endeavours. Whatever your reason, the MBA has proved its ability to reward graduates with a high return on investment. Employers are willing to pay a premium for the skills of graduate management talent. According to GMAC’s 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey, this salary premium could help an MBA graduate earn USD 3 million more than someone only holding a Bachelor’s degree.

Expanding your network

As anyone with business acumen knows, it’s not just what you know, but who you know. In the case of MBA students, it’s also important who your career department knows because the professional network you build at business school extends beyond your peers to include people outside your programme: professors, business leaders, alumni and other professional connections at networking events. A quality network is extremely valuable because it can give you access to opportunities you might not otherwise be aware of. Networking is so important in business that many MBA programmes offer courses to help participants become better at it.

MBA? No, thank you

The job market is booming and employee wages rose rapidly through much of 2021 and 2022. Young employees, who benefited the most from these raises according to the Wall Street Journal, find it hard to walk away from work and return to school full time, giving up a year or two worth of income. And why should they if they find their job fulfilling and challenging, their career prospects look rosy, pay is good and there are opportunities to learn every day? Sometimes you are just fine where you are and there’s no need for change. Things, however, are rarely that great. Some stay in their jobs just because of the high salary, wilfully ignoring the fact that their careers are actually treading water. Other find their work fulfilling but find their remuneration insufficient. If this is your situation, you are probably at the MBA crossroads, too, and have a tough decision to make.

Should You Pursue an MBA Degree Now or Wait?

But let’s go back to the question: When is not a good time for business school? Sometimes, you are just not ready. You don’t have the time, resources, dedication or the supportive environment (personal/work), etc., to make it work.

Yet another reason to hold off on MBA studies is if your underlying motivation is wrong. If you are considering an MBA just because you are bored or if you believe that the degree is a magic bullet that will skyrocket your career, you had better stay away from business school. People who make the most of the MBA are those who are driven, passionate and know what they want to achieve. They are also realistic and know that they are the driving force behind their success.

Looking for economic clues

Let’s suppose you are in favour of doing an MBA but you are worried about the economy and how it could impact your decision. In general, when the economy is strong, professionals are less willing to leave their jobs, while during downturns, when companies freeze hiring and wages, there tends to be a countercyclical uplift in applications to MBA programmes.

As mentioned earlier, the labour market remains in good shape, yet businesses in a range of industries have started pulling back job offers amid an increasingly uncertain future characterised by continuing supply-chain disruptions, inflation, war, the coronavirus and the prospect of rising interest rates that curb business investment. So, what do you do? What is the right move against this background?

While it’s perfectly normal to worry about the economy, it’s risky to make decisions based on predictions about it. The reality is you don’t know what will happen, nor does anyone else. As notable investor Howard Marks puts it:

“There are hundreds, or more likely thousands, of people out there trying to predict the movements of the economy, but no one has a record much better than anyone else.”

Charlie Munger, the long-time business partner of Warren Buffett, agrees: “[…] if our predictions have been a little better than other people’s, it’s because we’ve tried to make fewer of them.” So instead of looking around for signals, shift your focus to your personal situation and ignore all noise. The only person who can answer the “now or later” question is you.

You may also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy