It’s never too early to think about your future. Now you might be shouting at the screen, “I just decided to attend _________! Of course, I’m thinking about my future.” Absolutely. Enjoy these noteworthy moments as well as your upcoming undergraduate experience. I hope it is only the beginning of a wonderful journey of lifelong learning.
College is an amazing time to explore new interests, activities, and relationships – and as you start to map out your future – an MBA is a great option to consider.
There is a lot of jargon, myths, and misperceptions associated with an MBA degree, so let’s break it down.
First: What is an MBA? An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a graduate program for students seeking a general graduate business degree. In addition to learning the basics, MBA programs also allow you to go deeper into business subject matter. There are a variety of MBA program formats available. Let’s tackle some of the myths and misperceptions surrounding the degree.
Myth #1: I should go to graduate school right after college.
An immediate path to graduate school may be the best course of action for some degrees, however, it’s ideal to gain work experience before applying to business school. A few good reasons to wait include:
- MBA programs are built on classroom discussion and practical application. Students with work experience can contribute more to discussions and typically make better teammates.
- Employers want to hire MBAs who have prior experience – and some companies require a minimum number of years. The requirement varies across industries, but three to five years is typical.
- Students who have impressive pre-MBA profiles will have more post-MBA opportunities. More experience can also mean higher salaries.
Did you know? Some MBA programs, including Georgia Tech’s, allow you to apply for deferred admission into an MBA program your final year of college. You are still required to work before starting the MBA, but the deferred application process allows you to secure an MBA as a possible future option sooner.
Myth #2: I need to be an undergraduate business major.
It’s true that a bachelor’s degree in business can demonstrate critical thinking and analytical or quantitative aptitude, but so can engineering, sciences, and economics degrees. Students who pursue majors outside of these areas may also highlight aptitude by taking statistics, accounting, and other quantitative electives. MBA programs review the difficulty of your undergraduate degree and your performance. If your coursework can’t easily affirm potential success in graduate-level business classes, strong performance on the GMAT or GRE can help.
Myth #3: MBA programs only want applicants who are accountants, consultants, or entrepreneurs.
Absolutely untrue! While having an early career in any of these areas is great, it isn’t the only path to an MBA. Peace Corps volunteers, educators, engineers, veterans, architects, computer programmers, doctors, scientists, salespeople, journalists… they can all be qualified and compelling MBA candidates. Students who bring varied perspectives into the classroom encourage rich discussions and different approaches to problem solving.
Myth #4: MBA programs are only for Wall Street wannabes.
Just as MBA applicants bring a wide range of backgrounds into the program, MBA graduates also pursue a variety of careers afterwards. An MBA prepares you to make industry advances and significant career changes. You take a core curriculum in business fundamentals like finance, marketing, management, accounting, technology, operations, and strategy, and then can go deeper in one of them or specialize in something like real estate, sustainability, or innovation. Your classwork and projects, as well as extensive leadership and career development training, can lead to careers in almost every industry.
Did you know? Many MBA programs offer dual degree options that enable you to pursue two degrees simultaneously or consecutively. Popular options include the MD/MBA (medicine), JD/MBA (law), and MS/MBA and PhD/MBA in specific disciplines. At Georgia Tech, there are several dual degree choices. Masters or doctoral students who combine their studies can distinguish themselves in the hiring process and gain more long-term career flexibility. Also, it typically takes less time to complete the two degrees than if you were to do them independently.
Myth #5: MBAs are all about making money.
While many students return to school with the goal of increasing their salaries, MBA programs also help students build connections and do good within their communities. There are volunteering and community service opportunities, you can consult for non-profits, or even tackle environmental and social issues both during and after the program. Additionally, MBA students gain access to a new, diverse network that helps them build meaningful, often lifelong, relationships.
Myth #6: I need to leave my job to enroll in an MBA full-time.
Traditional MBA programs took students away from the workforce for two years. Now, there are many alternative formats. There are one-year accelerated programs, part-time options, online formats, and executive MBAs. The full-time, two-year option is still popular if you want to make a career change, as it allows you to gain relevant experience during a summer internship. Do your research and talk to admission offices to figure out which program may be the best for you.
There are widely held misperceptions about most MBA admission processes. A few have been addressed in this blog series previously, but bear repeating:
Misperception #1: Most admission teams look for reasons to deny you.
While we look for certain desirable characteristics on your MBA application – we really are rooting for you! We have a lot of information to use in the evaluation process: undergraduate grades, leadership, work experience, recommendations, essays, test scores (sometimes), and an interview. You control these factors to a significant degree.
Misperception #2: Test scores are the most important factor.
While a strong performance on a standardized test (the GMAT and GRE are the most common) can help establish your quantitative aptitude, MBA programs emphasize other factors, too. In the past year, many programs have made the testing process optional, so the future of MBA standardized testing is a bit fuzzy.
For now, it’s best to think about taking a standardized test in your final year of college when your test taking skills are their sharpest. It may help you compete for admission and scholarships.
Misperception #3: MBA programs are expensive.
Yes, the cost is not negligible; however, many programs offer generous scholarships. And most candidates will experience bumps in salaries during or after completing the MBA. The typical candidate sees a return on their investment in 2 to 4 years and a lifetime of increased earnings.
I hope this knowledge about common myths and misconceptions surrounding the MBA arms you with one more option to consider for your future. As you begin your college experience, I encourage you to keep your goals beyond graduation top of mind and allow those goals to drive your decision making the next few years.
Now is the best time to be open to new opportunities and explore the unfamiliar. And you never know – perhaps the future will find you at Georgia Tech, achieving your goals as an MBA.
Dr. Katie Lloyd joined Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business in 2016. Bringing more than 20 years in graduate management education to Tech, Katie leads the Full-time and Evening MBA Programs as Associate Dean. She oversees all recruitment, admissions, and student experience efforts for these MBA programs. Katie is passionate about fostering a diverse, inclusive, and collaborative environment in which students and team members can reach their full potential. In addition to enjoying time with her husband and two children, Katie has been spending the last year learning how to paint.