Whether you’re stalled in your career, looking for more career flexibility, or simply want a bigger pay check, getting a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) is a plausible next step for you. However, before charging off to the classroom it’s important to sit down and really think about what you want to get out of the program.

Here are five things to consider before getting your MBA.

1. Will it Expand Your Comfort Zone?

One of the biggest benefits of a good MBA program is that it gives students the opportunity to become more generalist. While stretching some long unused mental muscles might feel intimidating at first, having a range of skills is one of the best ways to protect yourself against being laid off during company restructuring. It will also help you work better during team projects if you understand a bit about what the other members of your team are doing.

Make sure the schools you’re considering offer a range of classes and then don’t hesitate to take them!

2. Ask About Group Projects

Speaking of working in a team, according to Care.com CEO Sheila Marcelo, “Study groups outweigh classroom participation.” When business students talk about learning how to work as a team, you often hear the phrase, “learn to be a leader.” This is a valuable skill, however; if everyone on your team tries to be a leader you’ll waste time and emotional energy in conflict. Learn to be a leader, yes, but also learn to follow. Learn when your team needs a leader, then learn to step up. This is the value of group projects.

3. Networking and Mentorship

One of the traditional benefits of getting an MBA are the networking and mentorship opportunities. Business leaders from across the country come to give lectures, offering you the opportunity to ask questions that might not be appropriate to ask if you were their employee.

Similarly, as a student, people expect you to seek advice and guidance. Take advantage of this by reaching out to alumni in your field, because once you’re out in the “real world,” such advances are sometimes (though not always) seen as insincere.

Finally, cultivate good relationships with your professors. These people are there because they enjoy helping students succeed and, having been at the school far longer than any student, professors often have incredibly powerful networking connections.

4. Will it Interrupt Your Life?

If you’re not happy with your current job, you might not mind taking a couple of years off to pursue your MBA, but what if you are already happy with your work and you just want to take things to the next level?

It depends a little on what you’re already doing. Some companies might welcome you back after an absence getting your MBA. However, others might not. That’s why many students find getting their MBA online demonstrates loyalty to their company (as they are still working there), and their drive (taking classes during their free time). Be sure to check out WSU’s online mba program if you’re considering this option.

5. How Much Will it Cost?

While it’s difficult to break down exactly how much a good, well-rounded MBA is worth (after all, some of the greatest benefits are intangible), it’s still worth considering – especially because some schools are far more expensive than others.

Even if you’re not a financial alchemist, it’s easy to see that taking on too many student loans could pose a problem, as it then puts pressure on you to get a job that pays well enough to make the investment worth your time.

Therefore, make sure you investigate both big brand name schools, which generally have matching price tags, and smaller schools. If your heart is set on an expensive school, see if you can find any scholarships, or consider saving for a year or two before attending to help bring down your student loan burden.

Getting an MBA is often a great decision. It is, however, a BIG decision. Do your research, and your soul-searching, so you know you’re making the right choice.

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