Should I Work While Getting an MBA

For most applicants, the thought of quitting a well-paying job and committing to full time graduate school is a scary one indeed. 

Especially if you have spent a little too much on Starbucks and Spotify since graduating college, you may find yourself a little short on cash—and it takes a heck of a lot of cash to pay for an MBA.  With price tags more than $120,000 in most cases, the thought of continuing to work in some way while embarking on an MBA program might be tempting.  Not so fast, type-A grasshopper.

For starters, most, if not all full time MBA programs will not allow you to work while you are enrolled in the program, period. 

Schools put a lot of risk into choosing the incoming class, since anyone who does not make it through the program is a lost revenue case for the school and someone who took a seat from another applicant who may have endured.  Every marginal seat in the program pays the cost of keeping the lights on and paying professors, so schools want students to have zero distractions.  Other than your internship between first and second years, you will not be allowed to be employed and must actually sign an agreement to essentially pledge your allegiance to remain so during the length of the program. 

While there have been stories of “self-employment” for students undertaking a full time MBA program, schools will frown on anything that takes you out of the experience in any way. 

Remember, students are expected to participate in clubs, volunteer experiences and of course, group work outside of the classroom, most of which typically keep students completely engaged in the program’s activities.  Translation:  there is simply no time to work if you aim to get the most you can out of an MBA program and if you intend to be a “good decision” on the part of the admissions committee. 

Of course, if you simply cannot imagine giving up your day job or relinquishing your small business during your two years, you can always consider a part time MBA. 

Part time programs not only allow you to be employed, most actually require it and will verify your employment as part of the application process.  Worried about the quality of a part time program?  Don’t be.  At the better programs, part time MBA-ers are given the same access to professors and career services as their full time counterparts.  As previously detailed in other blogs, there are also plenty of recruiters who actually prefer to hire part time MBA students over full time students, because they are perceived as hard working time managers.  The program will take longer to complete, but the ability to earn income and also apply what you learn in the classroom in real time on the job is often a winning combo.

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