(BPT) – If you’ve ever considered getting your MBA, you’ve probably asked yourself: Is it worth it? It’s a fair question, particularly as going back to school as an adult often requires shuffling your priorities so you can make time for class and assignments.
Ultimately, business school should help you accomplish your academic goals and propel your career forward. Some business schools can be expensive, so depending on your needs, it may be a good idea to find programs that are flexible, so you have the ability to work while taking classes.
With so many programs and schools offering MBAs and business courses, it’s important to know what resources to turn to and what features to look for in a program to ensure you receive a measurable return on your investment – financially and professionally.
1. Consider business schools that are ranked by reputable organizations and publications.
Any way you look at it, rankings are critical. A well-regarded business school can help you while networking, job searching and applying for promotions. These rankings are often determined by student surveys and criteria including faculty, technical platforms and career outcomes. Resources like The Princeton Review, Poets & Quants and CEO Magazine deliver helpful annual rankings to guide prospective students.
2. Look for program options that meet your needs.
The ability to take online classes can be a game changer, particularly for working adults who cannot afford to stop working to go to school. Instead of committing yourself to a traditional, brick-and-mortar program, look to see if online courses or other flexible program options are available. For those who consider a salary increase to be the primary reason for enrolling in an MBA program, a recent survey conducted for the Jack Welch Management Institute shows that an online MBA program may be the way to go. Out of the 648 MBA graduates surveyed, 468 reported receiving some kind of raise. Of the 291 online MBA graduates who received a raise, 90 percent reported at least a 10 percent increase in salary. Online students fared slightly better than traditional students – 85 percent of the 177 traditional MBA graduates reported a raise of 10 percent or more.
3. Search for programs that go beyond theory.
Adult students who are working and attending business school can bring an important value to their job. Depending on the school, students can apply what they learn in the classroom directly to their workplace. Choosing a program that integrates current business trends and content with practical application helps ensure students have nearly an immediate return on their investment. Faculty can also play a big role in this approach. Consider programs that provide opportunities to learn directly from faculty with practical experience in business, not just a mastery of theory or research experience.
4. Prioritize programs that build leadership and other soft skills.
According to a LinkedIn survey, the most in-demand soft skills sought by companies are leadership, communication and collaboration, with leadership being the most critical skill. Mary Carr, Dean of Curriculum at the Jack Welch Management Institute, says, ‘Many careers often stall because while people may have technical competencies and strong business acumen, they lack basic people management skills needed to move up. It’s important to consider a program, such as JWMI, that focuses on leadership development. Our students learn critical lessons often overlooked by traditional business education such as hiring the right people, building great teams, managing conflict and developing an executive presence.’ Bottom line: Businesses are looking for skilled employees who can lead people. By selecting a business school that focuses on organizational dynamics, influence and strategic thinking, you will be better prepared to have a positive impact in the organizations and companies you’re a part of throughout your career.