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Should I Get an MBA?

An MBA is often held up as a must-have qualification in the business world. Some organizations position it as the most important thing that they look for out of their professionals, but is it really worth it? Pursuing an MBA because it's "what everyone does" ignores the reality that it's not an easy button that automatically produces success. Before you enroll in an MBA program, you need to look at the pros and cons as carefully as any business investment.

Why Get an MBA?

How much are you paying to go through the MBA program? A small business loan helps you cover the cost, but the tuition rate often falls in the tens of thousands. You also have to consider all of the related expenses. Schoolwork leaves you with little time to cook your own food, so you may find yourself eating out more often. You have books, school fees and other costs directly related to the course. The program may require specific equipment, such as a tablet or laptop, that you may not have on hand. If you're doing this full-time, staying on campus or getting accommodation nearby eats into your budget as well.

Think About the Opportunity Costs

The direct costs can go up to the six figures, but the opportunity costs often represent that really damaging part. If you already have a small business, you lose out on a lot of time to build up your company and grow it. You may end up losing customers or falling behind the competition due to a lack of focus.
Your business agility goes down significantly. Partnerships and other opportunities are difficult to manage alongside the program. You could find yourself much worse off than when you started the program.

Can I Get Into Top Schools?

MBAs teach you a lot, but the real value comes from the connections that you build in the business world. However, you have to get accepted into a school with one of these top-rated programs to access this elite network. You can still connect with many people at other universities, but it's harder to be in the right place at the right time.
On the other hand, getting into the top-ranked MBA program means that you're paying for this status. These private schools have high tuition and can make it take even longer to get a return on your education investment.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

Small business owners are notoriously bad at work-life balance to begin with. When you throw an MBA program into the mix, it gets even more complicated. Consider the impact on your family, friendships and relationships before you seriously pursue this program. You can't get the lost time back. Avoid the regret of missing out on important milestones in everyone's lives by evaluating whether you can juggle everything. Online and accelerated MBA courses help, as well as part-time programs.

Alternatives to an MBA

An MBA is not always the right choice for someone looking to learn more about business. Here are a few alternatives to consider if your answer to "Should I Get an MBA?" is no. 

MOOCs

Massive Online Open Courses are a concept that makes college level courses freely available. You can look for classes covering the topics that you have the most questions about, or discover an interest that you didn't even know you had. Some of the schools participating in these programs also offer paid courses, which offer specialized learning opportunities.

Local Workshops

Keep an eye out for local workshops that cover areas of interest for your small business. You can often learn from highly experienced people that have run their own successful businesses. Bonus points if you find presentations that relate to your market sector.

Trade Conventions

Conventions and conferences offer a wide range of speakers, workshops, intensives and other learning opportunities. You also get the option to network. Many of the after-hours parties could end up being more informative than the educational sessions throughout the day. Since trade shows are usually focused on a particular industry, niche or audience segment, the information provided is highly relevant to your business area.

Mentorship Program

One-on-one mentoring with an established leader in your industry could open up a major fountain of knowledge. You can learn from their mistakes, understand how to keep your business healthy and use their experience to guide you in the right direction. Finding a mentor may be difficult, and you often need to build up a relationship first. Look for people in your industry that come off as helpful. They may be willing to get into a teacher role.

Certification Courses

Many organizations offer certification courses that show your expertise in an area. You can look for these programs, which often take a short time compared to a two-year MBA, and expand your skill set with each.
An MBA can be a valuable tool, but it's not the only thing out there. Use this guide to evaluate whether it really makes sense for you to start on this path. You have plenty of alternatives that can get you the knowledge that you're looking for.

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