Archive for November, 2012

Getting an MBA: 5 Points to Consider Before Applying to Business School

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

When you’re looking to climb the corporate ladder or change careers, a master’s of business administration, or MBA, can be an attractive options. But the decision to pursue this type of education is one you don’t want to make without careful consideration. The degree can be a door-opener, but not always to the extent that prospective students think. Whether the MBA will be worth the time and expense depends on your situation, your goals and the program you choose.


Need. Just how useful will an MBA be in your career? The traditional program is designed for students who are several years out of a bachelor’s degree program and have some experience in the work world. The degree should, ideally, lead to a promotion or a better job, along with a significant salary bump. But it’s important to note that these students were typically already on a solid career trajectory and might have achieved these objectives even without the MBA. Career changers can often make the leap from a non-business career, such as teaching or journalism, to the corporate world with an MBA. And would-be entrepreneurs can meet potential business partners or financial backers among their MBA classmates.


School choice. Not all MBA programs are created equally. Wall Street investment banks and Fortune 500 companies are well known for taking seriously only MBA graduates whose degrees bear the seal of top programs such as the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania or the Kellogg School of Management at the University of Chicago. But not everyone has career goals that require such prestige. To get hired or promoted into some jobs, particularly in government, you may just need to be able to tick off a box that says you have a master’s degree. In that case, a respected local school or even an online program may b sufficient.


Finances. Dollars and cents are likely to determine where you pursue an MBA, and even whether such a degree is a viable path for you at all. Tuition and fees for high-end programs can easily reach six figures. Few programs can be completed for less than $15,000. If possible, get your employer to help out with the costs. Before you take on large student loans for an MBA, be sure of your likelihood of obtaining a higher salary upon graduation, one that will allow you to pay off the debts within a few years. Carefully investigate the placement rates and starting salaries for graduates of the program you want to enter.


Opportunity cost. There’s more than money to think about when pondering whether an MBA will be worthwhile for you. A full-time program could take a year or two to complete. That’s time when you could have been working, earning money, gaining experience and even getting promoted. Even part-time or online programs entail opportunity costs, as that’s still time you could have been putting into your full-time job, a part-time position or an entrepreneurial venture.


Accreditation. MBA programs can have any of several types of accreditation. In the United States, approval from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or AACSB, is the gold standard accreditation, and the one that major corporate employers are likely to demand. Another national accreditation, respected but without the same level of prestige as AACSB, is that of the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs, or ACBSP. Still other schools have accreditation from the national Distance Education and Training Council, and some have no accreditation. Before you start any program, find out what accreditation is required by the organizations where you’d like to work.


Obtaining an MBA takes large amounts of time, effort and money. If you decide it’s a degree that will help you achieve your goals, think carefully about where and how to pursue it. Choosing the right school can help you to get the most out of your education and minimize the debt you have to take on to complete it.


CATPrep is pleased to publish this guest post by Ranlyn Oakes

Does Graduate School Make the Grade? A Three-Step Test

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

That back-to-school feeling is in the air, but before you decide to get a graduate degree, there are several important things to consider.  Do you need it?  Do you need it now?  How will you (or someone else) pay for it?

Do you need a graduate degree at all?

Should you work your way up through the ranks, or do you need another degree?  If you want to be a doctor or lawyer, then the answer is obvious.  Of course, the answer is not always so apparent.  Do your research.  Online research is a great place to start, but there is no substitute for talking, one-on-one, with someone who is already doing what you want to do.

Use you school’s alumni network and career center.  Then, find a graduate program that interests you and contact the admissions department.  Ask for referrals to current students who are willing to speak with prospective students.

Do you need it now?

This is a very important, and very personal, question you must ask yourself before jumping into graduate school.  There is never just one path to your chosen destination.  Once you know you need that next degree, take a deep breath and think for a moment before you continue.  In fact, even if you are already in a graduate program, it is never too late to consider this question.

Consider the money, the time, and any debt you already have.  Think about where you will be in your career, and life, when the you finish the degree. If you are not sure about the degree you are considering, don’t be in such a rush.  It’s easy to feel like you need to get all this schooling over with, but slow down.  A year or two spent working in the field might teach you more.  Much more.  In any field, there are sure to be specialties you don’t know about yet and options you have not considered.  Consider finding a job that lets you get paid while you learn more about your chosen field.

How will you (or someone else) pay for it?

Ahh—now we’ve come to it.  The elephant in the room.  Extra degrees often mean you earn more at that first job, but schools usually insist on being paid while you are still a student.  Now what?

Loans work and are often the right answer.  However, take pity on the 35-year-old you will one day be, and think about it first.  Those loans may follow you for a long time.

Is there another way?  The answer, again, is face-to-face contact with people who already have your dream job.  For example, getting an MBA now will let you get a better paying job when you’re done.  However, many employers pay, or help pay, for business training and business degrees.  Get back on that alumni network.  This time, look for people who work in human resources for large companies of all kinds.  They know the programs in their own companies and can give you an idea of who gets trained for free, and why.  You may want to get that entry-level job, prove how valuable you are, and then take advantage of every corporate training program they have in-house, as well as any tuition-assistance programs you can find.  Hint:  bigger corporations have more programs.

So you have answered all three questions!  Did the graduate program you are considering make the grade?  Remember, be sure you are investing your time, talent and money in an education that will get you what you want.  Once you know you need that degree, that you need it now, and how you’re going to pay for it, you can make that investment with confidence.


CATPrep is pleased to publish this guest post by Charlotte Andrews