Whether you’re a business owner or you simply want to increase your chances of climbing the corporate ladder and landing a coveted leadership position, you’ve realized it’s time to expand your education and knowledge base. Once you’ve made the decision to return to school, though, you need to make the next most important decision: where to study.
Business schools around the world tend to share some aspects, but each individual program is unique. Some focus more on the technical and practical aspects of business, such as finance or accounting, while others take a more holistic approach, with business classes focused on developing executives or entrepreneurs through technical training, but with an additional focus on psychology, ethics, management and global perspectives.
Which program is right for you, though, depends on your ultimate career and personal goals, your experience and your interests. However, there are some factors to consider when comparing your options.
Before enrolling in any business program, review the courses available, both required and electives. By carefully comparing the program requirements, you’ll be able to determine whether the program meets your needs. Ideally, the courses should match up with your ultimate career goals, such as whether you want to lead a major international corporation or operate a successful small business. Beyond the basic courses, look for programs that will prepare you to work in the modern business environment. This means you should be taking classes that provide knowledge you can immediately apply to your current position, with an eye toward preparing yourself for future challenges. This could include classes in the effective use of technology, for example, or managing a global business in the face of worldwide economic challenges. Courses should focus on problem solving and learning the critical-thinking skills necessary for success on a worldwide stage.
While most business school graduates note that they gained significant practical knowledge during their programs, they also point to the connections and relationships they built during their studies as a major benefit of returning to school. When comparing schools, consider the faculty, the alumni network and the caliber of students that the programs attracts. These will be the people in your network, and as you move forward in your career, those contacts can prove invaluable to your success.
Professional and Academic Support
Unless you plan to leave your job to go back to school, which isn’t always practical, you’ll need a program that is flexible and supportive of working professionals. Although online programs offer several benefits and are effective for augmenting instruction, in today’s global business environment, you stand to gain more from face time and in-person instruction. Working together in person allows you to build stronger relationships with fellow students and colleagues. The best programs also include a support dimension, through formal advising, coaching or mentoring.
As an experienced professional, you’ve no doubt realized that few situations in the business world are “by the book.” So, why would you enroll in a business education program that focuses on textbook solutions? When choosing your program, seek one that combines theoretical perspectives with real-world applications. Ideally, your classwork should include hands-on experiences working with actual projects, opportunities to work in a consultancy role and additional chances to apply what you learn in the classroom to real-world situations. And since business today is global, your business training should be global as well.
Earning your advanced business degree is only the first step — you’ll want to apply that knowledge toward advancing your career after graduation. Though you may be attending school while you work, at some point you may need assistance finding new opportunities. Look for a business program that doesn’t forget who you are once you’ve completed your classes, and continues to offer career guidance and support services to graduates.
Choosing to return to school for advanced business studies requires a major investment of time and money, so making the right choice is very important. Select a program that falls in line with your personal goals and experience. You will then get the most out of the program and reap the rewards of a successful career.
Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Guest blogger Stephanie O’Donnell holds an MBA in marketing. She is the global marketing director for a New York–based multimedia communications firm.