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Am I ready for a Master of Business Administration (MBA)?

James Davis

Careers Commentator
MBA graduates lead the way in terms of graduate outcomes, but knowing if you’re ready comes down to a few personal questions.

There are fewer investments better than the MBA. Recent survey results reveal full-time employment rates upon graduation to be over 90% for business and management graduates in general (p32), with $108,000 p/a median salaries (p76). It’s a chance to upskill and update your resume with world-class qualifications to help you become a better leader and strategic thinker, making it a wise choice for any ambitious professional. Unfortunately, the decision isn’t as clear cut as you may hope, but we’re sure you know that already! Answering as many of the questions to follow as you can will help you to make a decision. 

Is my work experience in order?

It’s not possible to go straight from undergrad to an MBA, which is unusual for postgraduate degrees, but not unreasonable. One of the main purposes of an MBA is bringing already-qualified professionals together to take part in difficult problems. Course content is predicated on bringing previous experiences to the fore, making having such experiences to begin with quite essential! Furthermore, general work experience often won’t cut it either. You’ll want some sort of managerial experience so you can bring what you’ve learned previously regarding leadership to the discussion table. Through the nexus of ideas your cohort will generate, everyone will get more out of it. 

Before making the decision, try to decide if your experience is applicable or appropriate. The easiest way to do this is contact your university of interest and simply ask. They’ll be more than happy to look at your resume. If they’re happy with it, great! If not, no worries. Just get some more experience under your belt and come back to the idea later on.

Am I prepared for the GMAT?

The Graduate Management Admissions Test is often required for entry into the top MBA programs. This can be off-putting for some, as it’s a large time commitment to quite an uncertainty. After all, if you fail it’s time and money down the drain. Furthermore, an insufficient score may preclude you from entry to the university of your choice. This means you really have to commit to it as though it was a mini-degree unto itself. 

The exam has four equally weighted components. 

  1. Analytical writing assessment. Can you think critically and express your ideas?
  2. Integrated reasoning. Can you interpret and use data formatted in different ways?
  3. Quantitative reasoning. Can you analyse data and draw conclusions from it?
  4. Verbal reasoning. How well can you read and understand written material?

Supplementary study materials are available for this exam, which would be worth looking into if you’re concerned. It’s definitely worth looking into some sort of preparatory material like practice exams, regardless of how confident or experienced you are already. Taking tests is often an entirely different beast to using that knowledge in a real setting. It can’t hurt to brush up on these essential skills any way, as the end-goal is going back to uni after all! 

If you’re not comfortable with the idea of doing the GMAT, it’s possible to look for courses that don’t require a GMAT score. However, we’d say if you’re seriously looking at an MBA, you really ought to give it a go regardless. Having done the GMAT and gotten a good score is a seal of approval. We also acknowledge doing this isn’t always possible for busy parents, partners or otherwise, so look to your own situation before deciding whether or not to pursue it (or if you’re able to begin with). 

Am I clear on what I want to do?

This is a question relevant to just about any degree. Having a well-defined understanding of what you hope to achieve with your MBA is crucial to getting the most out of it. The most pressing reason for this are the specialisations. Most MBAs should require you to pick one among many topics to specialise in, so knowing where your career is heading (or where you’d like it to head) will guide your choice. There are some that simply go into an MBA thinking “this is the key to a promotion; doesn’t matter what I pick.” If only! If you’ve studied economics, you’ll know supply and demand governs all. If you aren’t working toward meeting a deficiency in the market, which in this case would be a company lacking in a particular skill set, how can you expect your qualification to get you anywhere?

If you’ve got a goal in mind and a way to get there, an MBA becomes a far better choice. What that goal may be can vary wildly between people, so consider the specialisations offered by your chosen university and pick accordingly. If one university doesn’t offer what you’re after, feel free to explore others! We’re fortunately no longer bound to our present location when it comes to choosing a uni. Flexible online offerings provide greater choice. 

Do I know if there’s an alternative that’ll better suit me?

Another big one. If you’re clear on your goal, the next logical question is, how can you meet it? Sometimes an MBA isn’t the answer. It’s a great qualification, sure, but it’s also designed to provide quite a wide array of skills applied quite practically. If you aspire to become a business owner or see yourself on a leadership track, this is fantastic. Leaders need at least a cursory understanding of the operations surrounding them. If you’re interested in a very particular career path however, sometimes the alternatives are better, but that comes down to your motivations. What makes you passionate about your current job? If whatever that special ‘something’ is can be found in another position or on another path, then it makes sense to choose a degree better equipped to meet it. There’s no shame in a late-career 180!

Postgraduate study in general is a wonderful chance to re-focus priorities and get going on something even better suited. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a career counsellor (or a regular counsellor!) to help understand your motivations before committing to an MBA and you’ll be better off for it. Even if they affirm your choice and you end up doing an MBA anyway, you’ll be able to rest assured knowing you made the best possible choice with knowledge at hand rather than potentially having nagging suspicions of ‘what if?’ later on

Aside from opportunity costs regarding your career, you should also consider your personal life. If you’ve got family, friends, a spouse and hobbies, much of your free time will instead be spent on an MBA. This is one of the most difficult sacrifices many students end up making, or try to juggle all of them at once! If you’re particularly resilient, this can work, but it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s worth considering how much your career matters in contrast to your family if it’s a choice between the two. If it’s a decision to juggle, seriously consider if you’re up to the challenge by reading other peoples’ accounts and struggles with doing so. There are plenty of stories online. 

You should now have a better idea of the kinds of questions you can ask to better clarify whether or not you’re ready for an MBA. Remember: even if you can’t justify it now, or you want to do it and you’re unable currently, keep it in mind for the future. Students of all ages are welcomed into these programs. Quite frankly, the more experience the better! You’ll be accepted and get plenty out of it no matter when you choose to dive in. So keep assessing and reassessing, and you’ll have a better shot at entering at the right point in your life if it’s right for you. Good luck!

Feeling ready? Take a look at our selection of the best MBAs around the country. For the latest in postgraduate advice, courses and scholarships, sign up for free here on PostgradAustralia.