How to Choose the Right MBA Program for You

How to Choose the Right MBA Program for You


The decision to return to school and earn a higher degree is not something to be taken lightly. Regardless of whether you have already gained 15 years of work experience or are considering a transition straight from a Bachelor’s to an MBA, there are many factors you should take into consideration before making a final selection regarding a program.

In this article, we will delve into five extremely important elements that you should consider when selecting an MBA program. Most of these factors are in reference to the institution itself, but it is important to always keep in mind the personal nature of this decision. While institutional reputation might be the most important decision-making criterion for one person, program cost or location might be what sways someone else.

Moreover, where you are in terms of career and prior education can also play a very big role in terms of what you expect and hope to get out of a given program. Thus, this post will try to offer numerous perspectives when examining each factor, but please do make your choices based on what is most important to you, and what you hope to achieve.


  • Reputation

Institutional reputation continues to gain importance amongst students across disciplines, as well as around the world. For anyone interested in earning an MBA, such reputation often plays an even bigger role than in other fields; it is often cited as the number one reason for choosing one program over another.

But reputation means more than simply a high position in rankings – it is often built on the achievements of former students. For this reason, institutional reputation is often extremely important for MBA students, since having a strong alumni network is one of the best ways to secure employment after graduation. If the alumni from the university or business school in which you are interested have a strong network filled with successful entrepreneurs and executives, it can (literally) pay to make your decision based on this aspect of reputation.


  • Location

Many prospective MBA students are already well into their careers and may not feel prepared to move halfway around the world just to earn a higher degree. This perspective is understandable and often quite reasonable, but should also lead to a deeper examination of all other factors that can go into the decision of where to go to business school.

Begin by asking yourself a series of questions: Am I willing to leave my city, region or country? Is the institution in a city where I would like to stay and work after earning my degree? Are there opportunities available in the city in the field I would like to work in?

If you find yourself saying yes to each of these questions, you should strongly consider applying to institutions around the globe, as this will create far broader opportunities and allow you to forge new connections, thereby creating a much greater network to build on in the future.

  • Cost

Earning an MBA can be incredibly expensive up front, but the notion is that high tuition fees are a trade-off for helping you land a dream job come graduation. Yet, some institutions charge much more than others, and some offer numerous scholarships while others provide no financial assistance.

If you know that attending business school will put you deep in debt, it is worth taking the time to fully review your options regarding program price and funding opportunities. Sometimes it is a smart choice to attend a second tier institution that still has a strong alumni network, if it means saving you tens of thousands of dollars up front, while hopefully not hindering your earning prospects down the line.


  • Job Prospects

As mentioned above, the future earning potential created by an MBA is what motivates many people to head to business school, despite high tuition fees or other potential deterrents. After the global economic downturn that began in 2009, many people worried that it was no longer a smart investment to earn an MBA. Yet, the connections and possibilities an MBA affords are often precisely what opens doors in today’s difficult job market.

Many top companies recruit directly from leading business schools. If you are comparing one program with another, take a look at the types of industry that tend to be represented in the alumni network and in terms of who gives grants and awards to professors and the institution itself. If you see companies you are interested in consistently recruiting from a given institution, it makes sense to lean in that direction.

Moreover, with unemployment still quite high in many parts of the world, recruiters cite the skills students learn in business school as something that can set them apart from other candidates. Thus, no matter where you choose to earn your MBA, the skillset you acquire will almost certainly strengthen your job prospects after graduation.


  • Teaching Methodology

Certain top business schools are well known for their specific styles of teaching – for instanceHarvard Business School is closely linked with the case-study method – while others offer a diversity of methods. In general, business schools offer a mixture of case studies, lectures and experiential learning. Recently, however, some programs have begun to shift more heavily in the experiential direction, focusing the bulk of classroom time on group projects and interactive curriculum.

If you have a strong preference for one teaching style over another, you should look carefully at each institution’s website or contact them for further information about a given program. No single methodology has been shown to be more effective than any other, however, so you should base this selection on individual preference rather than reputation.


Photo credit: University of Salford Press Office

Photo credit: Jeffrey Smith