As you might expect, the answer isn’t simple and depends largely on your own personal circumstances, goals and the rigors of the program you’ve chosen. While some MBA programs expect that students won’t have a full-time job while in school, the growing number of flexible MBA options means that more students are choosing to stay employed while earning their business degree.
To determine which path is best for you, you need to consider the program requirements, your current responsibilities, and the MBA pros and cons. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, but when you look at all of the factors, you’ll make the best choice for your situation.
Pros of Quitting to Pursue an MBA
Assuming you aren’t planning to attend a school that requires students to study full-time, in which case the decision is made for you, you might wonder what you could gain from putting your career on hold for an MBA. The fact is that many of the benefits of quitting are intangible, and depend in large part on your own ambition and engagement in your studies. However, if you are 100 percent committed to the MBA experience, and want to get as much out of your two years as possible, then consider the following pros of quitting your job:
More options. When you want to stay at your job, you limit your MBA options to local or online options, which may or may not align with your goals. And in some cases, even local programs may have requirements that you will struggle with, including internships or courses that conflict with your work schedule. If you leave your job, you eliminate these concerns and have more freedom to choose the best MBA program for your needs.
More Time. Perhaps the biggest point in favor of quitting your job is the simple fact that you will have more time to devote to your studies. Rather than trying to squeeze in some reading on your lunch hour, or staying up late into the night studying after you get home from work, you’ll have more hours in the day to get everything accomplished. That doesn’t mean you won’t be busy, but you will have less on your plate.
Less stress. Simply put, balancing school, work and family responsibilities is challenging, and requires making sacrifices. Quitting your job means you won’t have to risk resentment because you missed important events, or had to ask a coworker to pick up the slack during finals week.
More opportunities. The MBA experience is about more than just taking classes and completing assignments. Many schools offer extracurricular, co-curricular and enrichment activities that can enhance your experience, and help you get the most from your program. When you’re working full-time, it’s much harder to participate in these activities, but as a full-time student, you can go “all in” and soak up as much learning as you can.
Increased recruitment. It may not be the case for everyone, but there is some evidence that companies prefer to recruit full-time MBA students. Quitting your job could ultimately position you for more job options after graduation.
Cons of Quitting a Job
While the pros of quitting your job to go back to school are largely intangible, the cons of quitting are more quantifiable – in fact, they are largely finance-related.
Finances. An MBA will take you at least two years to complete – that’s two years without significant income. You may be able to take a part-time job or operate a side hustle while you’re in school, but the fact remains that you will see a reduction in income. Before you decide, you have to take a close look at your finances to determine whether you can afford to be a full-time student. Be conservative in your estimates, being sure to take into account the opportunity cost of either decision and don’t assume that you will receive any financial aid. With some creative financial management, you might be able to pull it off, but it’s vital to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
Lost Benefits. In addition to losing income when you quit your job, you will lose benefits, including any possible tuition reimbursement. The simple fact that your employer is paying for your degree could be enough to keep you on the job. Don’t overlook the impact of losing health insurance, retirement contributions, and other benefits.
Limited real-world applications. One of the most common themes among those students who do continue to work while in school is the idea that they can apply what they are learning in B-school to real-world situations almost immediately. Rather than focusing on theoretical ideas and concepts, working MBA students can use what they are learning to analyze their current challenges and make better decisions. In other words, their career presents another opportunity for learning.
When to Quit to Earn your MBA
If you do decide to quit your job to go back to school, the most important rule to remember is to not cut the cord before you apply to business school. Not only do business schools look for applicants who have a work history that is consistent and shows growth, but the simple fact of being unemployed can also hurt your chances of being admitted. Business schools have a tendency to look at unemployed applicants more closely and may assume that you’re enrolling in the MBA program just to “kill time” between jobs. Even if this isn’t the case, business schools want to see committed, passionate applicants, and thus it’s best to stay in your job until you have an acceptance letter.
That being said, taking some time between leaving work and starting your MBA program can be beneficial. If you can, spending some time traveling or engaging in some career-boosting activities (such as a summer program or internship) can get your MBA experience off on the right foot, and help you start fresh and ready to learn. Even if you aren’t quitting your job, using some of your vacation time before classes start to spend time with your family and friends and get organized can do wonders for setting the stage for success.
Again, at the end of the day, the choice of whether to quit or not depends on your individual situation. You can succeed either way, and each option has its pros and cons. Remember that either way, your time in school is temporary, and you’ll have your MBA at the end of it.