Thinking about getting your MBA? Here’s the truth. You probably don’t need one. It is possible to launch your own business or get into a new field without an advanced degree. In fact, you’ll be able to do it sooner (and with less debt) without investing 2+ years back in school. As a career coach, I’ve had several clients ask me if an MBA is right for them. While it may be beneficial in some circumstances, it usually isn’t necessary to take the next step. It could even set you back a bit when you consider the time and financial investment. Before you jump in, consider the following.
There are other ways you can gain experience.
According to employers, MBAs are sought after for their ability to think critically and solve complex problems. Sign up for a course or hone in on programs that can help you develop these skills specifically. What else can you take on in your job right now to strengthen your problem-solving skills? An MBA focuses on standard business skills, like accounting, finance, and marketing…but another benefit is the growth you are exposed to in areas like leadership, and analytical and critical thinking. No matter what you’re looking for in an MBA, there are probably other ways to cultivate these skills. Get creative.
You might not need it for your next gig.
When was the last time you looked at a job description and saw that an MBA was required? This is different than preferred. Don’t hold back from applying to a job if it’s requesting something that you don’t have. A specific credential may boost your resume to the front of the pile, but what’s more important is how you interview and well how you fit in within the company culture. Brush up your resume and hit the submit button. Believe in yourself and start to take action now…not 2-3 years later once you’ve applied and completed an MBA.
There are other ways to find out what you want to do in your career.
Start networking and see what you’re interested in. What truly lights you up? Talk to people that are already doing it and gain some insight into how you can make the switch. Are there specific skills you can start to acquire right now that will bring you one step closer to making the switch?
Try to pick up other projects in your current job. Join a product launch team and pay extra attention to what’s involved in each area. You may think you want to move into marketing, but after assisting a brand manager with a project launch, you may be singing a different tune.
The return on investment isn’t always there.
You probably won’t make as much money as you think will, especially if you don’t enroll in a top MBA program. If you do have the honors of enrolling in a top 100 business school, you’ll find that it’s a significant investment: fees are now equivalent to 8.7 months of gross annual salary three years after graduation.When you add in all the other costs and living experiences, the total for a top two-year MBA in the US exceeds $300,000. How quickly can you make that back (and then some)? I don’t want to think about what those student loan payments could look like.
On the flip side, even if your employer offers to pay for your degree, it comes at its own price: time. Consider how many years you’ll be committing to the organization. What’s the point of gaining a new degree if you aren’t able to go anywhere for 5+ years? Start to invest in yourself in other ways, particularly those that are less of a time suck.
While it may feel like everyone has an MBA, check in with yourself before you enroll just because it feels like “everyone else is doing it”. (This is general life advice as well – just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it is right for you!) Start to really get to know yourself and find out what’s important to you achieve your specific career goals.
There are plenty of things you can do to start taking action right now, many of them for free. Why wait?
By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
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