Should I get an MBA?
Recently Stephen Taylor, Executive Director of the International Business Center, received an e-mail from Pete Martinez about obtaining a graduate degree. Since others may have similar questions, the correspondence with Pete is shared below, with his permission.
Q - (Martinez) Let me briefly tell you about myself. I'm 24 years old and a graduated from Vassar College in New York in May 2001. I currently work as a paralegal/analyst in the Corporate Law Department of a major banking group Inc. in New York City. Prior to this, I was a paralegal in a prestigious international law firm.
Mr. Taylor, I have a few questions as follows. Would it make sense for me to even apply to business school with my corporate law background? I've decided not to pursue a law degree, as my interest lies in international business, and not law. To some extent, I would like a career change in the future. Is an MBA necessary for an international business career? I am debating whether I should pursue an MBA or a Masters in International and Public Affairs.
A - (Taylor) Pete, I believe that an advanced "business" degree can be effectively leveraged across a broad range of careers. The difference between a Masters and an MBA is typically another 12 units and, in my opinion very worth the extra semester or two.
Remember that when you are competing for a career position, marketing yourself is an essential element. Many people consider the MBA (rightly or wrongly) as a superior degree. Therefore, if you are interested in public affairs, look for an MBA program at a highly ranked university that has an international component. There are many MBA programs to choose from including those offered from a university or online program.
Q - (Martinez) Since I’ve only been working at my current position for five months, how long should I wait before I apply to business school? Should I do part-time?
A - (Taylor) In my opinion, participating in a "part time" Executive MBA program is the ideal way to obtain your degree. The reasons are many: (a) the degree you receive is identical to a 'full time student' degree, (b) you meet a very interesting and typically more diverse and experienced group of people in Executive MBA programs, (c) you can continue to work and earn money during your educational process, and (d) you have an excellent opportunity to network with fellow professional business students employed in middle to high level management positions.
Q - (Martinez) Obviously, I'm NOT a full-fledged professional and I don't have too much experience under my belt. So, would I be accepted into an ‘Executive’ MBA program?
A - (Taylor) Pete, I recently counseled another young man young man in a very similar situation to yours. He applied to the more ‘prestigious business schools in California, as he lived in the area. He applied to Stanford, UCLA Anderson School of Business, USC Marshall School of Business, Pepperdine, and Berkeley. He was accepted at Pepperdine, and very close to being accepted at the USC. However, the ‘full time’ Marshall School was already filled. However, they offered him the opportunity to apply for their 'part time' Executive MBA program.
He had two concerns. First, he was apprehensive about applying to the ‘Executive’ program as he had very little ‘management’ experience. Second, he was concerned that the 'part time' ‘Executive’ program would not be equal to the 'full time' program. But after hearing the Dean of the school speak on the subject, he found that the programs were identical and that the MBA degree in no way differentiates between graduates of the ‘full time’ or ‘part time’ programs. This is typical of Executive MBA programs.
The bottom line, he is now attending the ‘part time’ Executive MBA program at one of the most prestigious business schools in the Nation, the USC Marshall School of Business Executive MBA program, 6th ranked in the World according to the Business Week EMBA Ranking and Profiles.
Because Executive MBA programs at virtually all Universities are considered 'profit centers', they are just as much a commercial operation as any other business enterprise, and therefore need students to 'stay in business'. The criteria they look for are GSAT scores, undergraduate GPA, and your enthusiasm to join their program; and of course, they'll also want to know you can pay the tuition.
Bottom line, they probably want you at least as much as you want to join their program!
Q - (Martinez) You had mentioned in your previous e-mail that you were a ‘part-time’ student. Please tell me more about your experience.
A - (Taylor) I attended an Executive MBA program at the University of Texas at Dallas School of Management while working as Director of International Business Development for a major semiconductor chemical company.
As each Executive MBA program is different, you need to investigate the details. I selected UTD because there were only five 'on campus' weekend meetings during the full three-year duration of the program. Although I lived near Dallas when starting the program, I was subsequently relocated to California. Because the course-work for the program was primarily handled via the Internet, teleconferences, and e-mails, this was ideal and worked extremely well as my position required extensive travel throughout the world.
This type of MBA program is typically designed around the need for the 'Executive' participants to have maximum flexibility to continue their careers, while gaining an advance degree.
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