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The MBA Degree

What is MBA?

The MBA a Master degree of Business Administration, granted after one to two years of graduate-level university study. The curricula vary according to the program, but all expose students to the broad spectrum of business functions - finance, marketing, operations, IT, human resources and the like. In essence, your MBA degree is a certificate of general competency in all the major roles you'll find in the modern corporation.

In job market, your MBA training will directly add value to your skills, experience and personal qualities. But more importantly, it will tie them together in one package that the market recognizes and responds to. Whether you consider an MBA a degree, a positioning, or a set of opportunities and costs, you need to ask yourself why it is right for you. In fact, every top business school will ask you this question, in one form or another, on the admissions application. They'll ask you again during the interview. Finally, the companies that recruit on campus will probably ask you a third time. The answer seems obvious: money, opportunity, prestige.

But these one-word answers aren't enough. Your reasons should be specific and tangible, and should function as the connecting arrows in a flowchart linking your past experience, the MBA, and your career objectives. Following are some of the most tried and tested responses.

Why an MBA?

For career progression. You're 26 and you have four years experience as a junior account executive in a large commercial bank. So do 10,000 of your peers. Turnover is relatively low, and unless you want to relocate to the middle of nowhere, a promotion isn't likely anytime before the year 2010. You visit a headhunter, who says there are lots of great opportunities for someone with your profile… in the middle of nowhere. You're stuck. A Wharton MBA will change all of that. In fact, you're convinced it's the only way.

For career change. You're 29 and you've been an Army engineer since you left college. You're ready to cash in your chips, but you don't want to do the same old thing for a private engineering firm. In fact, you think marketing would be a great job, and considering the specialized knowledge you have about the defense industry, you'd be a big help to a defense contractor trying to land government contracts. But you need the marketing skills and business exposure. An MBA is just the ticket.

For credibility. You've got an e-commerce concept that is so far ahead of the curve, it makes Amazon.com seem obsolete. Unfortunately, you can't find anyone willing to post the $10 million you need to get it off the ground. Your business plan is a mess, and when the bankers ask to see your financials, you say, "Boy, I would too!" Credibility is clearly an issue, and unless you can hire a McKinsey team for the price of a case of beer, you'll have to earn that credibility yourself. An MBA is the fastest, most risk-free way to do so.

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