Most expect that getting an MBA is a good move that will advance their careers and increase their income quickly.
But do students have realistic expectations about getting an MBA? And how do expectations compare to real life experiences of going through an MBA program?
MBA Expectations Regarding Student Life
Most students think that MBA programs will be challenging and require a lot of work. After all, you are getting a world-class business education in just two years.
However, some students still underestimate the pressure that MBAs require. Students often have to manage multiple projects and might have to cut back on sleep to get things done on time.
Another factor students sometimes underestimate is the amount of competition in MBA schools. As undergraduates, many students are used to getting straight A’s and being top of their class.
But due to the tough requirements of top MBA programs, many of your classmates were also top of their class. Students may find that they are just average and that being a top performer is no longer easy due to the competition.
Some Industries and Positions Don’t Require MBAs
Some students might think that an MBA will be their ticket to a higher paying management position in their field. However, not all businesses look for an MBA and some companies may not give an MBA any extra weight when it comes to hiring decisions.
Furthermore, some companies might prefer candidates with other degrees, especially if their business is technical in nature. It would be difficult to perform well as a manager or executive in a computer programming company if you don’t know how to code, for instance. In these cases, someone with coding experience or a graduate level computer programming degree might be seen as more qualified than someone with an MBA.
Your MBA May Not be Enough to Get the Job
A lot of students expect that once they graduate with an MBA, they will be able to quickly find a high-paying job with a prestigious company. However, an MBA is not enough to get the job.
Businesses also look for a variety of soft skills and sometimes technical knowledge before they will hire someone for a position. Some of those skills include:
- Ability to work well with others – A successful leader should be able to work with a variety of other people. Be prepared to show potential employers that you have this skill by talking about times when you worked with other individuals that might not have gotten along and how you resolved such situations.
- Ability to manage time and resources – As a business manager and leader, you will need to be able to manage time and resources effectively. You will need to be able to prioritize tasks because you may face situations in which you have too much work to complete and must make decisions on which is more urgent. In fact, according to a survey by the Financial Times, employers stated that strong time management skills were the most difficult skill to find in applicants.
- Being able to see the big picture in business – Businesses don’t want to just hire people that can do what is required, what is taught. They want to find business leaders who understand the company’s big goals and can be proactive it helping them reach those goals.
- Being able to network with others – Many people view business school as a great place to build a powerful network of people. However, MBA students will still have to put time and effort into building their networks. Being able to show potential employers that you have this skill could give you an advantage when interviewing for work.
- Problem-solving abilities – Having the ability to solve difficult problems is another skill that employers look for. A good MBA program might help you become a better problem solver, but real life business problems may be different than theoretical problems you might be solving in the classroom. If you have past work experience that you can use to show that you are a strong problem solver, then perhaps you can use that experience to your advantage.
In addition to your MBA, you need to be able to demonstrate to potential employers that you also have a variety of soft skills.
To prepare for job interviews, think about times when you encountered problems in the above areas and solved them. And if you are still a student, spend some time building your network and working on other extra-curricular activities to develop these skills.
MBA Salary Expectations
MBA News conducted a survey of 250 MBA students and found that only 5% of students expected a salary increase less than 20%, and 18% of students expected an increase of over 100% in salary over the next five years.
According to a study by the Financial Times, the average salary is $142,000 for MBA graduates three years after graduating. On average, people who got an MBA more than doubled their pre-MBA salaries.
However, salaries can depend on a variety of factors including the amount of previous work experience, gender, location, and the economy at the time of graduation. After the financial crisis in 2008 and until 2014, the average MBA salary increased by only 4% per year, while the average cost of an MBA increased by 44% in that time frame.
A PayScale survey of over 100,000 MBA graduates shows that while $85,000 is the average starting salary, salaries can vary based on position and experience as well. An HR manager with little work experience might start as low as $48,000 a year while an experienced project or marketing manager can earn over $110,000 initially.
Overall, getting an MBA seems to provide a positive long-term ROI. However, students should research the salaries in their industry and take their work experience and other factors into consideration before pursuing an MBA.