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Choosing the Right MBA for You

If you work in management or business, you’ve probably considered completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at some point. While earning an MBA can often do a lot for your career and earning potential, it’s important to do your research and find a program that fits your needs. Things to think about include the location, focus, reputation and cost of an MBA program. You may also want to consider whether online MBA programs are a good fit for you. By educating yourself about issues such as accreditation, financial options and different types of MBA programs, you’ll be able to find a program that you find enjoyable and that provides maximum return on your investment of time and money.

Why Complete an MBA Program?

An MBA can help prepare you for making decisions in a complex business environment. You can learn sound business theory and techniques from your instructors, as well as your fellow students, which can enhance your job performance. The MBA is also a credential recognized by many businesses: Some employers won’t consider candidates for managerial and executive positions unless they have graduated from one of the top MBA programs. Others may not make holding an MBA an absolute requirement for employment, but those who have graduated from one of the nation’s best MBA programs will certainly have an advantage over those who don’t hold the degree.

Identifying Your Needs

While it’s tempting to just make a list of the so-called “best” MBA programs and then apply to all of them, you are better off first identifying what features these top MBA programs have and make sure that they meet your career and lifestyle needs. For example, the geographical location of a school is often a very important consideration, particularly if you can’t or don’t want to relocate. You should also consider your specific career aspirations: For example, if you want to pursue a career in health care or nonprofit management, you will want to choose from the top MBA programs that offer specializations in those areas. Some MBA programs also offer specialization in specific career roles, such as leadership or executive management, so it makes sense to think long and hard about your career goals. You may also want to ask for feedback from a career counselor or your boss before making a decision.

Researching Top MBA Programs

To find the best MBA programs for you, do some homework. Go online and visit the websites of schools that offer MBA programs. Find out whether these programs are accredited by an agency that is recognized by the US Department of Education, such as a regional accrediting agency or, for even more prestige, The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Find out where a school is located and, if you are willing to relocate, read up on the cost of living in the area as well as housing options for students. Pay special attention to a school’s curriculum and course offerings as well, as you will want to make sure that you’ll be able to study the areas of business that most interest you and that will help you achieve your career goals.

Dual Degree MBA Programs

Some schools offer dual degree MBA programs. These programs allow you to earn a graduate degree in another area, such as law, medicine or public administration while also working on your MBA. The advantage to these programs is that you’ll be able to earn multiple educational credentials while applying coursework from one program to another, saving you both time and money over completing the degrees separately. The downside to these programs is that they can take you longer to complete, and cost more money, than just completing a standard MBA program.

Considering Online MBA Programs

If you live in an area where there aren’t many high-quality MBA programs or if your work and family responsibilities keep you from being able to attend classes, look into online MBA programs. These programs let you complete coursework online and earn your degree without disrupting your lifestyle. In fact, some schools now offer students a choice of being able to take classes on campus or online. Online MBA programs aren’t for everyone, though. Some students learn best when in a classroom setting and while interacting in real-time with their professors and fellow students. Many people also find that online learning requires more discipline than taking traditional classes.

MBA Program Costs

Completing an MBA program requires a significant financial investment. While researching programs, ask schools about their financial aid policies. Some may be able to provide you with grants and scholarships. Other options include paying for your education with student loans as well as taking advantage of an employer tuition reimbursement program. If you chose the latter option, contact the benefits department at work to find out how its tuition program works. Schools have different policies on accepting tuition reimbursement funds, so be sure to find out how the school of your choice processes employment tuition payments.