More students than ever are enrolling in graduate programs in business, management, and other related fields. Graduate business degrees are becoming an increasingly ubiquitous part of the modern professional landscape. And just as the laws of supply and demand would suggest, more and graduate business programs are popping up to service this market of would-be professionals. With more options than ever before, how can you decide what the right master’s program is for you?
What Do You Want To Go To Business School For?
You need to be able to answer that question before you can decide what the right school is. Your motivation behind going to business school in the first place will have a huge impact on what the right school for you is.
Most people planning to get a master’s degree in business fall into one of three categories.
CATEGORY 1: Do you simply want to get the best possible overall education in business, finance, management, and related fields? This is the case for many people who already run their own business, or plan to start their own business in the future.
CATEGORY 2: Do you want to get a specific kind of education and accreditation, like a master’s degree in finance or in accounting?
CATEGORY 3: Or, like so many young would-be businesspeople, are you looking for the education, accreditation, experience, and networking to help you launch the most successful possible career in business?
Category 1: The Entrepreneurs
The most important part of the education for you is, well, the education. You’re looking to expand your knowledge and skills so you can be the best possible business owner. The quality of your education is very important to you. And for many of you, who have already started businesses and families, the convenience of your education is also important to you.
If you’re primarily looking for a foundation in the essential building blocks of a business education, there are many schools out there that could work just fine for you. And thankfully you don’t have to worry about getting into a flashy, big-name, top-ranked (and top-dollar) school. This should allow you to prioritize other elements of your education that will be important to you, such as convenience of location and schedule. Many Cat. 1 business students opt for part-time enrollment while they help run their businesses and families full-time.
Of course, there are plenty of ambitious entrepreneurs who also want the ability to learn from and network with some of the most innovative and influential minds in the industry. If this describes you, then you will likely be looking at some of the more highly-ranked and expensive schools.
Category 2: The Specialist
Many potential graduate business students are already aware of the specific business niche they plan to fill, such as students who plan to go into finance and accounting. Still others are drawn to a business school education because they are primarily looking to increase their expertise in management.
Many of these Category 2 students decide that they don’t need all the elements of a business education that go into, say, the typical MBA. There are more specialized graduate degrees for these kinds of students. There are an increasing number of programs offering graduate degrees in specialized business-related fields, including master’s degrees in finance and in marketing.
The kinds of careers these degrees prepare you for vary somewhat by country. You’ll want to research the locations where you imagine yourself studying and working. These non-MBA business degrees provide education and accreditation to students who plan to work in business but to specialize in some area that does not require all the components of the Master’s in Business Administration.
Category 3: The Ladder Climber
Many students do not enter graduate school with a particular area of expertise in mind, or even a particular industry. These students are primarily motivated by strong ambitions to launch a long-term and successful career in the business world. Some may start their own companies, some may work for other companies and climb their way up to CEO. Many in this category are likely motivated by ensuring their competitiveness in a marketplace that is crowded with job-seekers but which promises strong salaries to those who are able to get hired.
If this is you, you’re probably competitive by nature, so it won’t necessarily shock you to learn that it matters how highly-ranked a school you get into. Increasingly, hiring and salary data suggests that the benefits of a business degree are going disproportionately to graduates of top-ranked programs.
But to get into one of these high-end programs is not an easy task, as thousands of young and motivated students apply to them every year. The competition for these programs means you must have a great resume, recommendations, a high GMAT score and a well-written essay.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every top-ranking program is right for you. There are still powerful considerations like particular schools’ locations, faculty/alumni networks, industry specialties, and cost of admission. Because of course, the top-ranked programs also tend to be the most expensive.
Though you shouldn’t worry that a top-quality business school education is beyond your financial means. For one thing, there are many ways to finance your education. But also, the fact that there are more business schools than ever before means there will be a program whose cost of admission is within your means and which can offer you the education you need for the career you want. But at the end of the day, the right school is different for every applicant—so you have to decide what you want out of your b-school education, and then do the research to find out what school best fits your needs.