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Other Deciding Factors for Choosing an MBA Program

by Ryan Guina

We have covered a lot of information about MBA programs over the course of this series. Ultimately, it all comes down to choosing which MBA program is the best program for each individual. Just like where you work, live, or what kind of car you drive, choosing an MBA program is a very personal decision.

We have examined whether or not you need an MBA, Program Types, MBA program rankings, cost, and ROI. Now I would like to examine a few other important factors to help decide which program is best. In no particular order:

Factors in Choosing an MBA Program

  • Program Reputation: Your MBA will stay with you for the rest of your life. So will its reputation. When considering the reputation, you may need to consider how well your prospective school is looked upon by international, national, regional, or local employers.
  • Program Specialization: Sometimes the rank of the school is not s important as who well the school specializes in certain fields. Common specializations include accounting, entrepreneurship, IT, finance, marketing, strategy, operations, or logistics.
  • Program Flexibility: Can you choose a specialty, do you have flexible class scheduling, is the program a lock-step program (meaning you work with the same group of people in a rigidly structured schedule)?
  • In-residence or Distance Learning? Where and how you learn is a very important consideration. You have to choose the program and learning style you will benefit the most from.
  • Full-time or Part-time: Do you want it done with no interruptions? Can you afford to take time off from earning a salary? Do you have more time to devote to completing an MBA program if you elect to go part-time? These are important questions to ask yourself.
  • Recruiting: Many recruiters assist MBAs in finding their jobs after graduation. I’d be lying if I told you recruiters didn’t have a preference when it comes to the schools they prefer.
  • Job Placement Statistics: Let’s face it, everyone who goes to an MBA program does it so they can get either a better job or a job in a different field. Most MBA programs keep detailed statistics about how long it takes for their graduates to find work, what field the post-MBA job is in, and other detailed career information. Some schools also have a dedicated group who will assist their MBAs in finding work.
  • Network: Many people say the most valuable part of an MBA program is the network you gain when you attend an MBA school. Of course, each school gives an MBA access to a different network. Some of course, are much better than others.
  • Expected Salary: Most MBA programs keep detailed statistics about how much their graduates earn upon graduation, and many even have statistics for how much they earn at certain benchmarks such as 5 or 10 years after graduation.
  • Employment Goals: What type job do you want? Where you go to school, your program specialization, you network, and a host of other factors can have a striking effect on your post-MBA employment.
  • Accreditation: Please, please, please, make sure your MBA program is accredited. Regional and AACSB are the most widely recognized accreditations for MBA programs, but there are others. If you get an MBA without an accreditation, you run the risk of your MBA being perceived as from a diploma mill. Do your research here. It is worth it.
  • Desired Work Location: Some schools are more widely recognized in certain regions. Try to determine how well certain schools are looked upon in the region you desire to work. You can find this information by researching program rankings, contacting recruiters, or even contacting HR reps for companies you may want to work for.
  • Other considerations: I am sure there are many other considerations, especially on a personal level. If you think of any others, please leave them in the comments section!

The next step after determining which program(s) you want to apply for is the application itself! Stand by for the next installment: The Application Process.

Here is the rest of my series on selecting an MBA program:


Published or updated February 24, 2010.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brip Blap

I’ve got to say that the specialization part of an MBA – for me at least – has meant very little. I have an emphasis in accounting, but the accounting information I learned is already 15 years old and dated. Since it’s a fairly fluid field, I would say that the lessons I learned about working in teams, managing time and making presentations were far more valuable in the long run than any of the technical information I learned.

Networking and location go hand in hand. I went to a big, well-respected state university MBA program, and then moved 500 miles away where nobody ever heard of it. I would recommend not doing this if you want your network to be in the least bit useful. :)

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2 Ryan

Thanks for the insight, Brip Blap. I would like to go to a top MBA program that is well known everywhere, which will be more helpful if I relocate. We’ll see what happens during the application process! ;)

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3 Make Money

Thanks for all the help with the comprehensive info on the decision making process for choosing an MBA program. I am considering going to back to grad school to get one and will consider all of this information in my own decision making process. Thanks!

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4 Ryan

I’m glad this information has been a help. Doing the research has certainly helped me! There are many more things to consider – and soon I will write about the application process. I’m still studying for the GMAT as well, which is an in-depth process. If you plan on attending a top school in ’08, I would recommend starting the application process now, and if you plan on attending in ’09, then I would begin researching schools and studying for the GMAT now. I think it would have been better for me to have started the process sooner. Good luck!

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