Whether you spend all day in a job you don’t feel connected to or you’re just not making enough money to justify all the work you do, a career change could be life-changing. According to PayScale, MBA graduates have average salaries of $88,648, but the sky is truly the limit in terms of what you can earn, where you can go, and what you can do.
If you’ve been considering a return to school for your MBA, you may be left wondering what the program will entail and what you can expect in regards to course and schoolwork. Here’s what to expect when going back to school for your MBA.
Why Get an MBA?
An MBA can change the course of your entire future. So before making such a life-changing decision, it’s important to identify your motives. A master’s degree demands hard work and a focus on excellence. When you’re already working full-time or raising a family, you’ll need exceptional time management skills, as well as a clear understanding of why you’re going back to school for an MBA. The benefits include:
- Breaking through career ceilings. Some jobs require you to have an advanced degree before you can ascend to higher positions, particularly those in upper management.
- Changing careers. If you don’t love your job or employer, an MBA can be your ticket to a better role.
- Earning more respect at work and at home. An advanced degree tells people you take your work seriously. This can gain you more respect on the job. Your commitment to your education also shows your kids how deeply you value a lifetime of learning.
- Enjoying a higher rate of pay. Median earnings for college graduates were $64,896 in 2019. Compare that to an average of more than $88,000 for MBA recipients. Within just a few years—and sometimes as little as a single year—your additional earnings may be more than the cost of your education.
- Opening the door to more employment opportunities. After earning your MBA, you might be able to join the management team at a company you’ve always admired, start your own consulting firm, or finally get paid fairly for the skills you’re already using. Particularly during a recession, an MBA can be a powerful tool that helps you remain in control of your life and earnings.
Going Back to School for Your MBA: Pre-Enrollment Checklist
If you’re convinced an MBA is right for you, it’s never too early to get started—or too late to return to school. So what do you need to do before you enroll?
- Identify any prerequisites you must meet. In some cases, you might have to take certain classes to enroll. If you haven’t yet completed your bachelor’s, consider enrolling in a school that allows you to complete a bachelor’s and then transition to an MBA at the same institution.
- Take any entrance exams, such as the GRE and GMAT. Many programs have moved away from these tests or made them strictly optional. SNU does not require either exam. That means no studying, no testing fees, and no fears about how a standardized test might affect your future.
- Get your transcripts together. No matter where you choose to pursue your degree, you’ll need to send your college transcripts. If you previously completed graduate studies, even a long time ago, this prior learning may help you graduate more quickly. Make sure you get an official transcript, not an unofficial version. Each school you previously attended should have guidelines for getting a transcript on the home page of the office of the registrar.
- Complete your application. At many schools, the sooner you complete your application, the sooner you can enroll and apply for financial aid. SNU’s rolling application process means you don’t have to start school on someone else’s timetable. Apply and enroll when you’re ready.
- Get your plan together. Going back to school as an adult is certainly not for the faint of heart. You’ll need to find childcare, enlist the support of your family, and devise a schedule that works for your needs.
What to Expect When Going Back to School As an Adult
No matter how long it’s been since you were last in school, you might not know what to expect from a return to higher education. The best schools are changing rapidly, innovating to keep up with the shifting demands of increasingly diverse learners, including many adults. About a third of incoming MBA students at many schools are over 40, and most have jobs outside of attending school. So don’t expect that you’ll be surrounded by people who are your kids’ ages or that you’ll be a cultural mismatch. Today’s graduate students come from all walks of life.
So what should you expect? Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Time commitment: The amount of time you’ll need to spend on your degree program depends on many factors, including how quickly you read and work, where you attend school, and how many classes you take at once. SNU’s one class at a time can reduce your time commitment, while helping you focus on your other obligations. No matter which school you choose, plan on school taking up several hours each week.
- Expense: The cost of school depends on where you choose to attend, whether you are eligible for financial aid such as scholarships, and whether you take out any loans. Talk to a financial aid advisor about your options. At SNU, almost all students get some form of financial aid.
- Graduation path: The faster you can graduate, the higher your potential earnings will be, because you’ll spend more time working and less time in school. Ask about the classes you’ll have to take, the timeline to graduation, and average graduation times. Then consider your current obligations and whether those duties enable you to work faster or necessitate a slower pace.
- Juggling multiple roles: Going back to school is much different than starting as a teenager or twenty-something with few obligations. Consider how you spend your days and how much free time you have if you operate at optimal efficiency. That’s how much time you likely have to commit to school. Evaluate the extent to which you can reconfigure your other roles to maximize your time.
- Study time: Every student is different. You’ll need to study every week, and if you struggle, you may need to spend several hours on coursework each day. Consider how much time you spent on school in college, and let that guide your time estimates.
- Class attendance: Attending school demands more than just sitting in class. You'll need to get dressed, fight traffic, and allow time to park. For many returning adult learners, online coursework shaves off valuable time. At SNU, students can choose between an online-only model and taking courses on-campus one night per week.
Choosing the Right School
To make the most of your experience, you need to choose the right school. No school is a perfect fit for every adult learner, but colleges with a track record of serving working adults offer more options and may make it easier to complete your degree. As you weigh your options, ask the following questions:
- Is the school regionally accredited? Does it have any other accreditations?
- What is the graduation rate?
- What is the post-graduation employment rate?
- Does the school offer flexible scheduling options?
- Can I take classes online?
- What does the school do to support students to find work after graduation? A cohort model can help you begin building your professional network from day one.
- How long, on average, does it take to graduate?
- Who teaches classes?
SNU specializes in helping adult learners get from where they are to where they hope to be. Our innovative MBA program caters to the unique needs of adults juggling many roles, through a challenging curriculum taught by industry leaders. To learn more and to chart your course for a brighter tomorrow, check out our free guide, The Ultimate Career Roadmap for MBA Graduates.