Before you can launch your business, you need to have plenty of management experience. However, not every budding entrepreneur has the time to waste in lower-level employment – they have a business idea, and they need to launch it ASAP.
That’s where MBAs come to the rescue: In under two years, you can gain the skills and knowledge necessary to run your own business, and you can build your professional network, experiment with business models and otherwise improve your entrepreneurial abilities. Still, you shouldn’t throw yourself at the first MBA program you see; there are dozens of considerations to make before you apply and begin pursuing your MBA.
The first and arguably most important attribute of potential MBA programs is their accreditation. Accreditation is recognition from a governing group that a certain program meets standards in place for business administration education. For business schools, there are two major accreditations to look for as well as a handful of smaller, regional accreditations. Specifically, you shouldn’t apply for programs that lack accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA) or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Both these groups review curricula, evaluate student success and generally ensure that a program is up to snuff. If you can’t find evidence of accreditation on a school’s website, contact their admissions office for more information.
An education is never free, and in the case of graduate school, education is supremely expensive. An MBA increases your earning potential – even as an entrepreneur – but it will likely put you into student debt, so you should know what you are getting into before you apply.
Though your exact costs will depend on any financial aid offered by the school as well as cost-of-living expenses, study materials and more, you can get a ballpark estimate of MBA costs by looking into tuition rates. Top-Tier schools will cost more, but they are also more likely to offer scholarships and similar aid to promising students with struggling finances. It’s best to contact the admissions office for more information about tuition and fees.
Do you have the flexibility to move across the country – or across the world – to attend an MBA program? If you do, then you don’t need to worry much about the location.
For most everyone else, the location should be among your top concerns. When you have a full-time job, a house, a family and other responsibilities, you can’t uproot and relocate on a whim. Instead, you should look primarily at MBA programs in your area – or better yet, MBA programs online. Most top-tier schools offer online MBAs that are as rigorous as their on-campus programs, but they can bend to your location and schedule, so you don’t have to drastically change your lifestyle to get the education you need.
Just as you wouldn’t apply to work at a company with a workplace culture at odds with your personality, you should try to avoid enrolling in an MBA program that doesn’t fit your temperament or style. Unfortunately, the culture of an MBA program isn’t easy to discern from online research; you might need to visit the campus to pick up on the subtle differences, or you can try to contact current students or recent grads to learn how they felt. As you do this, remember that you are going to hard-pressed to find any MBA program described as “laid-back” or “casual,” so these might not be characteristics to look for.
Important – but not too important for budding entrepreneurs – is a business school’s ranking. Different institutions rank schools by the performance of their graduates, the quality of their curriculum and other standards. Thus, rankings can tell you a bit more about programs to which you might apply, but for the most part, rankings are used as prestige tools to secure better employment. Since you are planning to enter entrepreneurship, you can use rankings, but you shouldn’t be overly concerned about gaining acceptance from the number-one business school in the world.
Finally, you should look into what kind of resources the school provides to help students excel during and after their programs. At a minimum, there should be a library, tutoring and career counseling available; at best, there will be an extensive alumni network you can connect with to increase your professional contacts. Networking through your MBA program could improve your business-building capabilities, so you should be certain the student services at your potential programs can provide this to you.