How to Choose the Right MBA Program

Three Parts:Evaluating the School's ReputationAssessing the School's Available OpportunitiesDeciding If a Program is Right for You

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree requires graduate-level studies at a college or university's business school. There are several different types of MBA programs that may suit a variety of educational needs. There are also many other factors to consider, like how working professionals view a given program and what types of opportunities are available to students and graduates. Though you don't technically need an MBA degree to work in the business world, having a degree can give graduates many tools and connections that may lead to a more successful career.[1]

Part 1
Evaluating the School's Reputation

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    Research the program's academic ranking. One of the biggest factors in most students' graduate program evaluation is how each program ranks nationally. These rankings can give you a better idea of how a given program stacks up to other programs across the country, typically broken down into factors like graduation rate, internship opportunities, and cost of tuition.[2]
    • Start by talking to friends, colleagues, and professors to find out what type of reputation a given school's program has.
    • Read objective rankings online that compare programs across the country. You can find rankings through U.S. News and World Report, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times.
    • Find out more information about a program you're interested in by checking their website and contacting the appropriate representative/coordinator to ask for details.
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    Read about what current and former students think. A good way to get a feel for what it will be like attending a given program is to see what actual students like you think about the school. If you search online, you can generally find reviews written by students who are either currently attending or recently graduated from a given program.
    • Consider the quality of life for students at each school.[3] Were students generally happy, and did the school deliver on its educational/training promises?
    • You can find reviews of MBA programs and colleges in general by searching online for "student reviews of MBA programs." There are a number of websites where current and former students publish their experiences and opinions.
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    Assess the expertise and experience of the faculty. Many students look at who will be teaching their classes, and business school is no exception. Look into the educational and professional experience of the various faculty members you would be working with at each program to see how much you're likely to learn from them.[4]
    • Most college websites have a page dedicated to faculty bios. These bios list each instructor's education and work experience, and should be the first place you check to find out about the faculty at a given school.
    • In addition to the faculty bios, you might be able to learn more about an instructor by searching for their name online. This should give you information about publications and prominent positions held by a given faculty member.
    • Faculty members should have sufficient educational training and significant working experience.
    • Be wary of working with instructors who have just graduated and/or have only worked in the business world for a year or two.
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    Evaluate the school's teaching methodology. Different schools have different methods of teaching. While there isn't necessarily any right or wrong option when it comes to teaching methodology, it's important to get a feel for whether you would do well in a given learning environment.[5]
    • Are you more of a hands-on, experiential learner? Or do you prefer a strong foundation in textual studies and analysis?
    • Consider whether work or internship experience is a required part of a program's curriculum. You can learn a great deal in the classroom, but you may also want some real-world work experience to graduate with.

Part 2
Assessing the School's Available Opportunities

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    Look into the school's support network. Graduate studies can be overwhelming for students. There are many stressors, both in and out of the classroom, that can make it difficult to get through alone. If you think you may need help at some point, it's worth knowing in advance what type of support network each school offers to students.[6]
    • Find out about any academic support opportunities, such as tutoring, that can help you manage your studies.
    • Ask about medical options on campus, including a doctor's/nurse's office and an on-campus therapist, if those options are important to you.
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    Assess the learning opportunities at each program. Some schools leave their graduates better prepared for the workplace than others. Not all students take advantage of the learning opportunities available at each school, but if you intend to do so you should find out what options you would have in each program you're considering.[7]
    • In addition to the available courses, you should also consider the opportunities available for applied learning experiences (both internships and jobs).
    • Think about whether a given program focuses on local business or offers a global perspective on the business world.
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    Check each program graduate's average starting salary. A high starting salary for recent graduates in a given program suggests that that program has done a good job preparing students for the business world. While business-related careers typically pay very well, a confirmed ranking of the salary most graduates start with will help you assess whether that school offers the training employers are looking for.[8]
    • You can usually find average starting salary information on a program's website or in a national ranking of programs.
    • Search online for this information. If you can't find it, contact someone from the program to ask about how much graduates typically start making.

Part 3
Deciding If a Program is Right for You

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    Identify your career goals. Rankings and student accounts will only tell you so much about actually attending a given program. The biggest thing to consider is whether that program would help you meet your own professional goals.[9]
    • What is your motivation for getting an MBA? What do you ultimately want to do with your degree?
    • Look into the careers and fields recent graduates work in, as well as how employable those fields are.
    • Think about your passions and interests. What were your favorite and least-favorite aspects of your previous jobs and internships?
    • Don't forget that you'll most likely be accruing significant debt while attending business school. Would you be making enough money after graduation to pay those loans back?
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    Choose a type of program. There are several different options when it comes to the type of program you'd be attending. Which program you choose depends on your schedule and your relevant experience.[10] The most common program formats include:
    • Full-time MBA - takes one to two years and is designed for students with over three years of professional experience.
    • Part-time MBA - takes over three years and is designed for students with some or no professional experience.
    • Online MBA - takes an average of two years and is designed for students with some or no professional experience.
    • Executive MBA - takes an average of two years and is designed for executives with significant professional experience (typically over eight years' worth).
    • Early Career MBA - takes over two years and is designed for students who recently completed their undergraduate studies.
    • Global MBA - takes one to two years and is designed for executives with significant managerial experience.
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    Decide on a concentration. Once you're in business school, you'll need to choose an area of concentration. However, unlike choosing an ordinary major, in business school you may be permitted (or even expected) to have multiple concentrations. Some schools encourage students to have three or even four concentrations.[11]
    • Some common concentrations include accounting, finance, business management, marketing, information technology, and even energy and the environment. Figure out your interests and goals, then choose a program that meets your needs.
    • Not all MBA programs will offer the same concentrations, so it's worth considering what you'd like to do with your degree before committing to a program.
    • Rehash your previous career choices and think about which job aspects and work environments you enjoyed the most. Your interests and preferences should help shape your concentration choices.
    • If you're still unsure about which concentration is for you, explore as many as you can. Network with other students and working professionals, and take as many diverse business courses as you can.[12]
    • Go see guest speakers and campus seminars, as these may help you realize where your interests and specialties lie.
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    Think about the school's location. Location is an important factor to consider for any college decision. Location can mean the difference between a bustling urban campus, a small college town, and an isolated rural campus.[13] While location can be an issue of comfort for many students, it can also affect what types of opportunities you have during and after attending a given program.
    • The location of a school may be a factor if you hope to stay close to home or remain within a given geographical region.
    • Think about the types of professional connections you might make in business school. Do you plan on staying where you attend school after graduation, and if so, what types of business-related opportunities are available there?[14]
    • You should also think about a given school's proximity to a regional financial market. For example, schools in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco are all conveniently located close to important regional markets.[15]

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