Going back for an MBA is a multi-faceted decision. Unlike Law School, Medical School or even regular graduate schools, where a master’s degree or higher is often tacked onto the end of an undergraduate degree, business school takes some planning. Is now the right time for you to make the break? The market may be saying YES.
Perhaps the most nuanced decision for MBA hopefuls is when they should return for their degree. With the work experience requirement for most top schools growing to five years or more on average, business school students often matriculate at a carefully and strategically planned period in their careers to fully leverage their achievements and to maximize their future trajectory.
One of the potential wrinkles in the plan is the condition of the general economy.
Studies have shown that students at both the graduate and undergraduate level who graduate during a recession, for example, can have the impact of their timing follow them throughout their entire career. That’s right! Out of no fault of your own, your graduating in a down economy can negatively impact not only your initial job opportunity and salary, but also every single promotion or raise going forward. Pretty harrowing to say the least, considering it’s almost completely out of your control.
I say almost completely, because as an undergrad, you can at least hang around for a semester or two (or graduate early if you’re one of those) in order to emerge in a better economic environment, but in an MBA program, especially a top-tier, full-time MBA program, the timeline is rigid. You can’t start late, you can’t graduate early, and you can’t tack on an extra semester. The elite business schools are efficient machines, and the cohort treadmill is always running--in one direction.
The good news is, now is a great time to consider going back for your MBA.
Applications to b-schools have been dropping steadily for the past several years, which means there are fewer competitors in a rabidly competitive marketplace. Bull markets mean productive work environments, big bonuses and retention payments, which translate into fewer top employees wanting to leave the workplace, especially for two full years.
Of course there is no guarantee that by the time you graduate with your MBA that the economy will still be plugging along, but if you have concerns at all about the front end, that is, admissions, then you should definitely consider accelerating your plans to apply soon, while your chances to get in are as good as possible.