Several career professionals choose to pick up an MBA degree after a few years of professional experience, hoping to boost their prospects of a higher income as well as an executive role in large multi-national firms. Many schools dangle the prospect of a serious upgrade in the career paths of its students as well as high six-figure salaries. But is an MBA the ideal path for most career builders? Does having an MBA deliver on its initial promise? When should one pick up an MBA degree and what should be your reasonable expectation once you do get in on the program? And what is a good time to get an MBA, if at all?
MBA programs are one of the most glorified as well as vilified programs offered by business schools around the world. Much of the attention stems from the career path that more than a few with an MBA manage to follow – and that is a path up the executive ladder, coupled with great responsibilities and clout along with ever increasing salaries and perks. Do you need an MBA to get an executive position? Surveying the horizon, the answer is an emphatic “No”. However, an MBA does begin preparing you with the skill set needed by most executives to succeed in their particular area or industry. Would having an MBA degree guarantee an executive position? The answer again is a firm “No”. But if you do gain an MBA degree and learn to leverage the knowledge you gain from that experience, it could improve your chances of getting into the executive pathway.
Thus an MBA is to be treated quite differently from say a M.D. required by a physician. Having an MD is a pre-requisite to practice medicine; an MBA is not a pre-requisite to becoming an executive. MD from a good school with reasonable grades followed by a good residency almost guarantees you a good job with a high salary. Full-time MBA from a strong school coupled with plenty of initiative from your side can land you a very cushy position on the executive track of a large firm – however the competition will remain intense. There are far too many MBA programs which will not help you land that executive track position. Also, an MBA without any previous experience in that industry can prove to be a major hurdle in getting a good position. Age can sometimes be a barrier as well, with some firms preferring to groom the early career professional only.
Part-time MBA is a totally different ball-game from a full-time degree. One of the chief goals of the MBA program is to help you get a good position at a major firm, and this requires a hundred percent dedication to that goal. Part-time MBA students or executive MBA students should undertake this path with the full recognition that it is up to them to fully leverage the knowledge they are gaining in order to benefit from the degree. Most major firms that recruit new MBA graduates focus their energies on full-time students almost exclusively.
For you to break into the executive ranks in a major firm at a mid-career stage requires a number of factors to work in your favor, including your hard-work and dedication, your ability to make tough decisions, your judgment, and your capacity to lead others as well as your ability to deliver results. This combination almost always gets noticed and you will find the company pushing you to great heights in your career. If an MBA helps you demonstrate all these qualities at work, then surely get a degree – however, do not expect the degree alone to weave magic for you. After all, your value will always be determined on the basis of what you can deliver and not how well you did at school.
As a mid-career professional, set realistic expectations from an MBA degree, and learn to use what you learn in class, as opposed to expecting the degree alone to open new doors for you. Proper leverage of knowledge gained, combined with your own efforts and initiatives can make the MBA degree well worth the while.