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Should I Get an MBA?

Go back to school. Chances are, you’ve heard this advice at least once in your life. Perhaps you even got this advice because you wondered aloud to family and friends about your long-term career prospects. Solid as this guidance may be, however, choosing to further your education is a major commitment. How can you best prepare to embark on this two- to three-year adventure? What will your itinerary look like? What expectations should you bring with you, and which ones should you leave behind?

What Is An MBA?

While the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) is considered a terminal degree in academia, an MBA is considered both a terminal and a professional degree for business professionals. It is professional in that it equips graduates to work in a specific discipline or industry outside of academia. Professional schools that offer MBA programs may be affiliated with a college or university, or they may be independent institutions. In either case, be sure to choose a fully accredited school for your MBA degree, as some companies will not consider degrees from schools that lack accreditation. The AACSB, or Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, assesses business schools across the globe and holds them to the highest academic standards. FIU’s College of Business has earned AACSB accreditation for its graduate programs in business administration as well as accounting and business law.

What Can I Do With An MBA?

Breaking this question down may be the best way to answer it. What exactly is the BA (business administration) aspect of an MBA? Business administration involves supervising personnel, budgets, data or some combination thereof, and managers are responsible for making decisions regarding the operation and allocation of resources. Whatever their area of expertise or specialization, managers establish policies, execute strategies and ensure that their divisions adhere to best practices. While managers’ day-to-day work may be less hands on than that of their reports, their work as strong business administrators is essential to the success of any corporation. Given the scope of business administration, MBA graduates most commonly move into management positions.

How Much Does an MBA Cost?

Costs will vary from program to program. The top five MBA programs in the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings average over $60,000 per year in tuition alone. These figures do not include other expenditures associated with becoming a full-time graduate student such as fees, textbooks, or the cost of relocation and housing. With the increasing popularity of online MBA programs, however, prospective students have new, lower-cost options to consider. The same U.S. News and World Report rankings indicate that completing an online MBA at even the most highly regarded business school can cost less than half the traditional program. Whichever option you choose, consider your MBA tuition less an expenditure and more an investment. Research conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the organization that administers the GMAT exam required for entry to most MBA programs, indicates that MBA graduates typically earn nearly $1 million in cumulative base salary within 10 years of earning their degree. Moreover, GMAC also reports that most MBAs recover all the costs of their education within four years of graduating. And don’t forget that many MBA programs offer scholarships and other forms of financial aid.

What Will I Learn In An MBA Program?

A strong MBA curriculum will expose you to the various functions and operational areas of a successful modern business. As such, an MBA can be classified as a general degree. After completing one or two semesters, most MBA candidates declare some area of specialization and begin concentrating on the field in which they would most like to work after they graduate. Examples of these fields include the following:

  • Finance
    Business professionals with knowledge of asset and liability management as well as capital budgeting projects can help a corporation meet its goals for increasing profitability while planning for the future.
  • International Business
    Many large organizations have a global presence or some aspect of international trade. These companies need experienced, knowledgeable professionals who understand the intricacies of international business, including management practices and global operations.
  • Marketing
    Marketing is perhaps best thought of as a mix of public communications and customer relations. It requires some understanding of the basic principles of human psychology and sociology. Because of the close association of marketing positions with advertising and branding, more opportunities are available for individuals with creative backgrounds. As businesses face more and more global competition, demographics shift, and the internet challenges the dominance of traditional media, marketing continues to grow and diversify.
  • Business Analytics
    Every business transaction, whether it involves an actual economic exchange or not, creates data. Business intelligence (BI) specialists collect, organize and mine that data for insights. These insights, in turn, can be applied in multiple ways. They may be used to streamline operations, discover new customers or even gain an edge over a rival business. If you have IT experience or find the work of problem solving particularly rewarding, a specialization in business statistics and business analytics might be ideal for you.

FIU’s own Corporate MBA program is unique. All online MBA students must complete Professional Development courses in the first quarter of the program. These seminars help students prepare for the online program. The courses assess students’ work preference, build presentation skills, and introduce the Career Management Services group. In addition, FIU is classified as a Doctoral/Research University-Extensive, which is the highest ranking a university can achieve. It doesn’t matter if your undergraduate major was in English or Engineering — the thought leaders who make up FIU’s business faculty are committed to helping you build upon your existing knowledge and training.

What Skills Will I Acquire in an MBA Program?

MBA programs offer ample opportunities to hone both hard and soft business skills.

  • Technical
    Business schools provide access to the software and hardware that drive innovation in today’s business world. This technology includes established quantitative tools like Microsoft Excel as well as cutting-edge applications such as Basecamp, a cloud-based project management and collaboration tool.
  • Public speaking and presentations
    Fear of public speaking is so prevalent that a team of scientists recently created a scale for measuring the severity of any given individual’s public speaking anxiety (PSA). Given that presentations are a way of life for business executives, an MBA program can serve as a safe space in which to practice the effective and persuasive delivery of a budget, marketing plan or white paper. FIU helps students prepare for public speaking and presentations through a dedicated seminar at the beginning of the MBA program.
  • Leadership
    Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is not synonymous with authority. Leadership requires trust, a willingness to delegate and an ability to share accountability. Entire MBA courses focus on the theory and practice of good interpersonal relations in a business context.
  • Networking
    Your fellow MBA candidates are more than your peers. They are your community. Together, you are all engaged in learning as much as possible as well as educating and inspiring one another. Some connections you forge in business school may end up lasting your entire life, not just the length of your career. And once you earn your MBA, you become part of a larger alumni community. Not only do these communities provide resources for your career goals, they also allow you to share, give back and otherwise enrich your professional life.

I’m Still Not Sure If an MBA Is Right for Me. Are There Any Other Questions I Should Be Asking?

Ultimately, whether you choose to apply to an MBA program or not comes down to your answer to the question “Why?” Your own proclivities, preferences, interests and objectives play a crucial role in your decision. While many MBA applicants are attracted to the degree because of the practical benefits it offers, it is still a graduate degree. To overlook or underestimate the intellectual demands of the MBA curriculum would be a mistake.

If you’re looking to gain skills that will help you do your job better, a certificate program — rather than an MBA — may be the way to go. If your goal, however, is to advance to a leadership position in business administration, an MBA can be a worthwhile investment for you. This is why it’s crucial to think about your own “why” for applying to an MBA program.

Are you passionate about learning or fascinated by the prospect of mastering something new? Do you have plans for starting your own business or a specific job in mind that requires an MBA? Ponder those questions as you evaluate if an MBA program is the right choice for you. “Going back to school” isn’t about taking a break from work. If anything, “going back to school,” especially to earn an MBA online, means taking on additional work, and more difficult work at that. As long as you know exactly what you are working toward, however, you can be confident that your MBA experience will have been worth it.

Learn more about the FIU online MBA program.


Sources:

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

U.S. News & World Report: Best Business Schools

U.S. News & World Report: Best Online MBA & Graduate Business Programs

GMAC: 2016 Alumni Perspectives Survey Report

Fortune: Is Business School Worth the Money?

Psychology Today: 17 Ways to Fix This Common Type of Social Anxiety


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