Things You Need to Know Before Applying to An MBA

How long does it take for an MBA degree and how much does an MBA program cost (totally)?Traditionally, in the US, two-year programs are considered the norm, although one-year programs in Europe are gaining in popularity. However, keep in mind that attending an MBA program is both a costly and time-consuming endeavor. While tuition and living expenses may vary from school to school, one should expect to spend $120,000 to $150,000 USD for a top MBA program. Therefore, it is imperative that you step back and do some serious self-analysis as you weigh the advantages and disadvantages.

Do MBAs lead to a higher degree later on?

My ultimate goal is getting a PhD or a DBA. Should I consider MBA or other business master degrees?

The MBA degree is designed primarily for students who are considering a career change or hoping to advance in their careers, therefore, implying that an MBA is a “terminal degree.” Not only is the MBA degree commonly considered one's “last stop” in education, but also many MBA students actually pursue an MBAs after having completed an advanced degree e.g. master's or doctor's degrees in another discipline.

Because post-MBA plans are always career-oriented, do not consider your MBA as the transition to a higher degree. Students wishing to pursue PhDs or DBAs at a later time should choose programs that have a more research and academic emphasis.

What are the rankings for MBA programs?

Conducted by independent institutions, the following ranking reports are the most popular and widely read by consumers: “America’s Best Graduate Schools” conducted by US News & World Report, the “Best B-School Ranking” by Business Week, and the “Global MBA Rankings” by the Financial Times.

US News & World Report updates “America’s Best Graduate Schools” annually. This ranking is more academically oriented since 50% of the assessments are based on evaluations submitted by the school deans and directors and the students’ admissions data (GMAT, GPA, acceptance rate). Finally, its coverage is limited to U.S. programs only and also includes rankings by program specialties.

Business Week conducts its “Best B-School Ranking” every two years. Adopting a different approach in terms of school ranking, Business Week bases its statistics on evaluations collected from MBA alumni and recruiters, rather than academy directors or admissions statistics. The “Best B-School Ranking” includes both US and non-US schools.

Financial Time's “Global MBA Rankings” has started to draw more international attention in recent years. Its rankings are updated annually, and the methodology behind their statistics is based heavily on the post-MBA career progress of students. As a result, the list changes significantly year by year. It ranks the top 100 MBA programs globally.

Finally, other sources, such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Economist, etc., all produce their own rankings, as well. However, it is important to keep in mind that rankings are only a tool to help you make an educated decision about the MBA program best suited for you. While they can be helpful, they can also be misleading! No ranking can cover all the aspects of an MBA program, especially the smaller, unique programs.

Most schools offer full-time and part-time MBAs. Can I choose either one?

Here is some information from mba.com regarding different MBA programs:

A full-time MBA program is usually four semesters spread over two academic years with a three- or four-month break for a summer internship. The first year includes core courses required of all MBAs. The second year allows for functional specialization (a specific concentration of study and elective courses). Students do not work full-time during the program; school is considered their first priority. (One-year full-time programs are shortened by reducing the time in core classes, or limiting opportunities to specialize.)

Part-time MBA programs are designed for working professionals. Most part-time MBAs work full-time during the day and attend classes in the evening. (*Note: Part-time programs will NOT issue a student visa to foreign applicants. Students must hold legal residency in their designated countries.)

What are the differences between an MBA and an EMBA?

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs are geared toward enhancing the careers of working executives, many of whom are company sponsored. These programs are for professionals who are already specialists in a field or industry and need to hone their general management skills to continue up the corporate ladder. Because they are fully employed, EMBA students do not hold internships between their first and second years of school. University scholarships are generally not available for EMBA students. There is limited or no opportunity to specialize.

Some business schools offer specialty degree programs like Master of Computational Finance, Master of Industrial Administration, Master of Health Care/Hospital Administration, Master of Public Accountancy, etc. Specialty programs in business are very career specific. They do not offer the general management background that an MBA does; however, they provide extensive training in a specific field. Some fields may be nearly impossible to enter without specialized training.

What are joint programs?

A full-time MBA program partnered with another full-time graduate program is known as a joint degree or dual degree. Business programs are typically combined with law, healthcare, administration, engineering, technology, international studies, or public policy. Students must apply separately for each program (and obtain both admissions). Both programs are usually at the same school, but some cooperative relationships between schools do exist. Joint degree programs are most attractive to career switchers or individuals early in their careers. However, they require an extensive absence from the job market, usually three or more years.

Can I attend an MBA program without former study in business?

Almost all MBA programs place a heavy emphasis on “diversity.” The value of the MBA program lies heavily in the class portfolio (hence, making it competitive for admissions). Truly, if you take a look at certain MBA class portfolios, some might share a higher percentage of students from certain backgrounds. However, this figure does not necessarily indicate the school’s preferences. Applicants of different genders, former academic training, fields of professional engagement, nationalities, races, as well as, religions are all welcomed.

Does an MBA program prefer certain types of students in terms of backgrounds?

Do I enjoy certain advantages in my application if I am from the hi-tech/finance/… field?

Do not worry about whether you have former training in business, you will learn later in your MBA program. Prospective students from “hot” industries like