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.
If you are interested in getting an MBA, you have an important decision to make: should you make this time-consuming (and often expensive) investment or should you pursue an advanced certification? While they both have their benefits, the answer really depends on where you are in your career and what your long-term goals are.
If you are leaning toward getting an MBA, you’ll want to ensure this is the right step for your career before you commit. To help you with this important decision, here are four questions you should ask yourself:
Am I only interested in getting an MBA for a higher salary?
An increasing number of professionals tend to assume that attaining a Master’s degree automatically warrants a higher salary. This is true in some instances, where an advanced degree or certification can increase your earning potential. However, it’s important to step back and look at the big picture when it comes to the factors that can impact your take home pay.
“There are a number of factors that can impact your earning potential,” says Mitch Peskin, Chief Growth Officer at The Execu|Search Group. “If you graduated from Harvard Business School, for example, it might be easier to negotiate for a higher salary than if you graduated from a lower-tier MBA program. However, getting an MBA doesn’t necessarily guarantee a higher salary—especially when considering how expensive it can be.”
As a result, 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). All of these factors can impact your earning potential in the long-run.
Since everyone has an MBA, I need to have one too. Right?
In an industry as highly competitive as financial services, it can be challenging to find unique ways to differentiate yourself from competition. As a result, many young professionals believe that getting an MBA is the only way 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,” says Mitch. “Employers want to know that you have the technical and soft skills you need to hit the ground running. In many cases, these skills are better developed on the job as opposed to a classroom setting.”
Isn’t getting an MBA 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. Unless you have a clear vision of how this degree can be applied to your current career, however, you should think twice about this commitment.
As a result, you want to ensure that an MBA will complement your previous experience. “If you worked in an operational type role, for example, an MBA might not be worth it,” advises Mitch. “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.”
Do I have the time?
Getting an MBA is a decision not to be taken lightly. Even if you decide the return on investment is worth it in the long run, going back to school (especially if you work part-time) can be a major time commitment. As a result, you need to ensure you not only have the time, but also that you are in the right place mentally to take on this challenge.