Factors in Choosing a Program Type

No two business schools offer the same curriculum, but most expose students to a common body of knowledge in basic accounting, economics, finance, human resources and organization design, marketing, operations, policy, and quantitative methods and statistics.

To help narrow the field of schools you are considering, think about the career, lifestyle, financial issues, and curriculum that are important to you. Use the following list of questions to help you work through the issues involved in choosing a program type.

Financial Impact

Your financial circumstances may help to determine what kind of program you choose. Be sure to ask yourself the following questions about your finances:

  • Do I need to maintain full-time employment?
  • Will the company I work for sponsor my education?
  • Do I need financial aid or a scholarship or loan?
  • Do I prefer to have financial aid?
  • Do I need to spread the cost of an MBA out over as many years as possible to minimize the funds I must borrow?

Lifestyle Factors

Going for an MBA will necessarily affect many aspects of your life. You should ask yourself the following questions about your lifestyle.

Can I define a balance between work and life?

  • Could I handle a full-time workload and full-time course load?
  • Is it important that the school offer peer groups of people with my interests and experience level?
  • Will I want total immersion (learning activities outside of class and my network of people)?
  • Am I ready to assume the responsibilities of an MBA-level position?

Does this decision affect my family?

  • How might the decision affect my family?
  • What special needs might my family have?
  • Will my spouse need to relocate and look for a job? What is the job market like near the schools I am considering?
  • Is there a school-run organization to help spouses and families?

What type of program suits my work style and goals?

  • Do I plan to stay with my current employer after I earn my degree?
  • Do I know from my job what kind of learning environments work best for me?

  • Do I know what biases exist in my targeted industry or company that could affect my choice of program type?
  • Do I already have a functional or industry specialty?
  • Do I need an MBA to develop a functional/industry specialty?

Do I know where I want to study?

  • Do I want to study in my home country or abroad?
  • Do I want to stay local, within my region, or try a new location?
  • Do I know what I need from a location--that is, do I want a college town, a city, convenience and access to services, safety, a low cost of living, or other things, for example?
  • Might the local business community be an advantage? A disadvantage? (Consider the school's access to local speakers, the availability of local internships, access to local companies for class projects, etc.)

Do I know what type of school culture is important to me?

  • Does the prevailing culture of a school fit with my personality?
  • Do I like the dominant personalities of the student body, staff, faculty, and alumni? (Keep in mind that MBA students, like all high achievers, are inherently competitive.)