Is now the right time to study an MBA?

Man at Desk Writing

Coronavirus is likely to change the job market forever in ways that we can’t fully predict. For those of us who have found ourselves job hunting as a result of the pandemic, coming out of education, or simply have realized that we need to find a new job, this is an anxious time. Recessions like this one have historically been a good opportunity to take a break and study so that you are prepared to get ahead when the market returns to normal. The problem is that we don’t know what ‘normal’ will look like, so deciding how best to prepare ourselves is difficult.

How valuable is an MBA?

Right now, the market is tough. There is a lot of competition for a smaller number of roles, so making yourself as attractive a candidate as possible is crucial, but deciding the best way to do that, especially in a market that is in a state of flux, is challenging. MBAs are expensive and time-consuming, so you need to consider if studying for an MBA is the right choice for the goal you are trying to reach.

MBAs give students a breadth of knowledge on business-related topics such as management, entrepreneurship, accounting, communications, and economics. They prepare you for working at a high level in an existing company, or for starting your own business. According to a recent article by the Financial Times, a new MBA is an asset in a tough job market, particularly in the tech sector. They note that despite the world situation ‘the US tech giants — Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Netflix — are still taking on large numbers of MBAs.’ If working with a large tech company is your aim, then an MBA could be a good option. However, MBAs are designed with big business in mind. If your aspiration is to start your own small business or to work with an existing small business, then your energy might be better spent researching your chosen field and getting real-life experience through voluntary work and networking. In smaller businesses, the structure is often less defined, so knowledge of business as a subject isn’t as necessary as knowing the specific industry that will allow you to think on your feet and make well-informed decisions.

Online vs. on-campus study

If an MBA seems like the right choice for you, it’s important to consider if now is the right time to pursue it. Although many colleges are planning to open their doors once more for the new term in September, the professors aren’t necessarily happy about it. Some professors don’t want to return to campus until there is a vaccine for coronavirus, fearing for their health, and the health of their students. So, you could potentially sign up for a course that is understaffed and not get what you paid for. An option is to put off study for a year, when hopefully colleges will be functioning normally again, and begin your MBA in September 2021. Or you could undertake your MBA online. The University of Redlands Online MBA allows you to study with an organization that has substantial experience with delivering teaching online, and they have thought out their syllabus so that it can be delivered effectively in this way.

Although it’s possible to deliver an online syllabus, something that online study struggles to provide is the feeling of support that comes with face to face learning. For MBA’s in particular, the online experience is lacking the opportunity to socialize with your classmates and forge relationships with them that may be valuable not only for your personal life but for your career. Networking in business is absolutely essential, not only for the opportunities that having a good network can bring but for the mentorship that you can gain by asking your contacts for guidance. You can learn a great deal and have your confidence boosted immeasurably through just one conversation with the right person. That said, there are ways to network other than at school. LinkedIn is a great tool which you can use to reach out to the people who you hope will make up your network. In fact, it can be a more efficient and targeted approach than blanket networking with everyone you meet because it allows you to select the people that you want to create a connection with.

The question of whether an MBA is the right choice is really a personal one. Although they offer many positives, you can gain the skills and experience that they provide through other, less costly routes. It is important to approach the decision with a clear idea about what your goals are, and then you can decide whether or not an MBA fits with your ambitions.