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Do You Need an MBA to Have a Successful Career?

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I have been contemplating getting my MBA for awhile now, and now I am ready to go out and get it. I recently began researching options for MBA programs. This post is Part I of a series, Researching MBA Options.

Do you need an MBA? This is the most important question to ask when making the decision to get an MBA or not. A Masters in Business Administration opens many doors to an advanced management position and many other great career opportunities. However, is not necessary to have an MBA to have a successful career, and the process is definitely not for everyone.

How do you determine if you need an MBA?

Define your career goals:

Do you need an MBA?Jobs that require an MBA: Some careers virtually require an MBA. Some of these include investment banking, private equity, hedge fund management, and high end management consulting. If any of these are your chosen career path, I would highly suggest you go through the MBA process.

Jobs that don’t require an MBA: An MBA does not guarantee success. There are also many great jobs that do not require an MBA. In fact, a recent Business Week article, Is the MBA Overrated?, stated an interesting fact concerning the CEOs of the companies that comprise the S&P 500: Only 146 of the 500 executives reported having MBAs. Of course, this article only limited the poll to those with an MBA, and it does not say how many of the executives have other advanced degrees, such as those on law, finance, or a technical field. Some examples of great jobs not requiring MBAs include those in technical fields, the medical field, sales, law, owning your own business, etc.

Quicker Advancement/Greater opportunity: An MBA opens doors that otherwise may not have been open to you, or at least, the door would not have been open to you as quickly. Many times an MBA can also raise your career ceiling, that is allow you to reach a higher position in your career than you otherwise would have. Similarly, an MBA can give you a better chance at getting hired more quickly if you are between positions or if you relocate.

Changing careers: There are many people who are excellent performers in their current career, but who desire to transition into another specialty. An MBA is a great way to enhance your marketability and make an easier transition from your current line of work into management consulting, banking/financial, general management or another business related field. Great examples of career fields that can easily benefit from an MBA include people currently working in IT, medical fields, engineering, military, and non-profits. Often people with these backgrounds are highly sought after by top MBA programs because their experiences are highly valued in the marketplace.

If you plan on working in a job that requires an MBA, you are attempting to change career paths, or you feel like the need to promote more quickly and to a higher level, then you should definitely consider an MBA. If you don’t meet these criteria, that doesn’t mean you should not get an MBA. Do more research and determine what is best for your personal and professional situation.

Why I want an MBA

I need an MBA for all of the above reasons, except “jobs that don’t require an MBA.” My background is technical in nature and light on business. I know that I want to get into management and without additional education, the road is long for someone with my background. I am also looking for a new challenge – one that will give me the opportunity to work on projects with people in a business setting. In a sense, I will be looking for an MBA to help me change careers. I want the opportunity to promote more quickly than I have done already, and more importantly, I want the responsibility and challenge that comes with those promotions. I also want the experience an MBA will help me achieve so if I have to relocate, I will be more confidant about quickly finding a job in my new location.

I know a Masters in Business Administration is not the “magic bullet” that will guarantee me health, wealth, and happiness for eternity. But based on everything I have seen so far, this is the challenge and opportunity I am looking for. I still have a long way to go before I decide where to apply.

Stay tuned for the next installment, Part 2: Program Types.

Here is the rest of my MBA Options series:

Note: Right now I am still in the process of deciding my goals. I know getting an MBA is the direction I plan on going, so wish me luck, and as mentioned before, feel free to leave comments, ask questions, or share your experiences! ;)


Published or updated January 2, 2013.
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