The MBA is a three-letter designation that has the potential to enhance your professional marketability across a variety of industries. Particularly for professionals with backgrounds in business or finance, an MBA is highly sought after as a degree that can provide you with the knowledge needed to take your career to the next level.
However, if you’re having difficulty deciding between pursuing an advanced certification or an MBA, whatever your decision may be, you need to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Mitchell Peskin, Partner and Executive Vice President of The Execu|Search Group’s Financial Services division, knows all too well the benefits that an MBA can bring to a professional’s career in financial services and advises his candidates on the best ways to utilize their degree throughout their job search.
Be sure to evaluate your career goals and do your due diligence beforehand to ensure that this is the best next step for your career. There are some general misconceptions about getting an MBA, so we’ve broken down 3 of the most common ones below:
Misconception #1: An MBA will automatically guarantee you a higher salary
An increasing number of professionals tend to assume that having a Master’s degree in any capacity will automatically warrant a higher salary. This is true in some instances, where an advanced degree or certification can increase your earning potential. In fact, a 2015 survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that 3 out of 4 business school alumni credit their graduate management education with boosting their earning potential.
However, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate the big picture as there are a number of factors that can impact you’re earning potential. “If you graduated from Harvard Business School, it might be easier to negotiate for a higher salary than if you graduated from a lower-tier MBA program,” says Mitch. But attaining an MBA can be very expensive and having this designation doesn’t guarantee success, or that it will separate you from other candidates who already possess this degree. “Young professionals need to consider the current economic climate, their ability to pay off student debt, the location of their intended job, and the employment outlook for their intended specialization(s), as all of these have the potential to affect your earning potential down the road.”
Misconception #2: “Everyone has one, so I need one too”
In an industry as highly competitive as financial services, it can be challenging to come up with unique ways to differentiate yourself from competition. As a result, many young professionals believe that an MBA is the only solution to stand out to prospective employers. “If it came down to you and another candidate vying for the same job and you both share a similar professional background, in this scenario, having an MBA would increase that candidate’s odds of getting the job,” highlights Mitch.
While this might be true in some instances, work experience may hold more weight to prospective employers. “In the initial phases of your career, work experience will typically trump having an advanced degree, as employers will rely more on tangible technical/soft skills you’ve developed to know you can hit the ground running, as opposed to relying on the amount of time you’ve spent in the classroom,” says Mitch. Therefore, if you are unsure of your motives for pursuing an MBA, simply getting this degree because it is more prevalent now than it was years ago, could potentially set you up for a poor return on investment in the long run.
Misconception #3: An MBA is the only way to break into the financial services industry
While an MBA is not a prerequisite for having a successful career in financial services, if executed at the right time in your career, it can be a smart investment. However, unless you have a clear vision of how this degree can be applied to your current career, you should think twice about whether or not it is truly the best next step for you. If you’re looking to break into financial services after 5 years of working in retail, for example, getting an MBA first will not guarantee you will land a job in financial services once you’ve graduated. On the other hand, if an MBA will complement your previous experience, it could be a good decision. “If you worked in an operational type role, an MBA might not be worth it, however, if you have experience working in the front office as an investment banker, quantitative analyst, or trader, an MBA may be a solid investment for your long-term career,” advises Mitch.