To Attend or Not to Attend

What to Consider When You’re Considering Graduate Business Study

October 05, 2016

1. What is a graduate business degree going to do for my career?

A common reason for pursuing a graduate business degree is to accelerate career advancement. So, you need to do some research and ask some basic questions:

  • Is this is the right time to enroll in a program? If your career trajectory is not what you’d like, or you’re considering changing careers, it might be.
  • What will the degree add to your credentials in the field you’re in or others you might be considering?
  • What knowledge and skills will you need today and in the decades ahead?

2. What is the investment and what ROI can I expect?

A graduate degree requires a significant investment of money and time – a commitment to yourself and your future. Key factors:

  • You’ll need sufficient funds to cover tuition and other costs. Since the price of a graduate business degree can range from $10,000 to $100,000, for many students this involves assuming debt. Curricula tend to be similar across programs so, if your assets are limited, consider schools at the lower end of the tuition range.
  • Do you have the discipline to balance graduate school with your existing work and personal obligations?
  • Who in your life will lend a supportive ear as you meet the challenges of papers, presentations, team meetings, and exams?Naturally, you’ll want to increase the likelihood that the return will be greater than the investment. One measure of return is increased salary, and a Graduate Management Admission Council survey suggests that graduate business degrees almost always boost earning power and job level. How much? PayScale reports that median mid-career salaries for seven common management specializations currently range from$84,000 – $121,000.

3. How can I determine which school is best for me?

There are more than 5,000 graduate business schools worldwide, so how do you go about deciding where to invest your time and money? Key questions:

  • Does the school’s location meet your needs?
  • Do you prefer an urban location, likely to be dynamic and heavily populated, or a suburban or rural one, quieter with fewer distractions?
  • Do the instructional methods match how you learn best? For instance, online classes require a somewhat different skill set than in-person classes. Does the schedule allow for personal exigencies that you may encounter?
  • Do faculty members stay current in their areas of expertise? How recent and at what level is their work experience in the field?
  • Visit campuses and sit in on classes. Is the average class size one where you learn best? What are the students like? You will be spending approximately 1,500 hours with your peers; are these people you think you’ll be comfortable with? Are you stimulated by diversity of cultures, ages, backgrounds, and points of view, or do you prefer greater uniformity?
  • What support does the school give you?
    • Are advisors and administrators readily available to help you?
    • Are faculty members accessible during non-class times?
    • Is there easy access to computer and library facilities?
    • Does the school maintain an active and effective career center, staffed by counselors with recent experience in the business work force and knowledge of current job search strategies?

No matter how many schools you may consider at the outset, use the answers to these questions – and others that you may come up with yourself – to narrow the field down to two or three that seem most appealing.

Attending graduate school is an important life decision. The search process takes time, so plan ahead – you’ll want to start preparing at least 6 months before you expect to file your applications.