10 Tips for Getting an MBA While Working

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 20, 2021

Professionals with an MBA often earn higher salaries than those without and many find the advanced degree to be a worthwhile investment. You can earn an MBA with part-time or online offerings, specifically catered to working professionals instead of going back to school full time. Knowing best practices to have a good work-life balance while working and taking courses can help you make the most of your experience. In this article, we discuss what an MBA is, the pros and cons of earning it while employed and share 10 tips on how to best handle working while earning your MBA.

Read more: Top 10 Benefits of Getting an MBA

What is an MBA?

An MBA is a Master of Business Administration degree. The higher education program costs $100,000 on average, though financial aid is possible and many corporations pay a portion of expenses for current employees to earn this degree. You can finish the program in two years when studying full time or about three years when studying part time.

To earn an MBA, you must have these required qualifications:

  • A bachelor's degree

  • A satisfactory score on a completed GMAT or GRE exam

  • Professional work experience

  • Program prerequisite completion

MBA courses cover a variety of business aspects and you can also select specific industries and fields to explore. Earning an MBA is helpful to move to a new industry, secure positions in management or command a higher salary. You can also grow your network of professional contacts while enrolled in an MBA program.

Part-time MBA programs often fall into these two categories:

  • Online MBA programs: These classes may be cheaper and more flexible, since you watch recorded lectures on your own schedule, rather than being on campus.

  • In-person MBA programs: These programs require you to attend scheduled classes on nights and weekends, and though they may cost more and take time away from home, they offer networking opportunities with professors and other students.

Related: How To Get an MBA: A Step-by-Step Guide

Pros and cons of getting an MBA while working

There is much to consider when choosing to earn an MBA while working. Here are some pros and cons to explore:

Pros of getting an MBA while working

Consider the following pros:

  • Higher acceptance rates: There is often less competition to join part-time MBA programs than full-time ones.

  • Continued income: You can still earn a paycheck doing a part-time MBA program while working full time, which can help balance expenses while paying for school.

  • Immediate use: You can apply what you learn by getting your MBA immediately to your current role.

  • High value: Part-time MBA programs often have the same curriculum and value as their full-time counterparts.

  • Flexibility: A part-time MBA program offers evening schedules, summer classes, the ability to take a semester off without penalty if needed and a chance to go at your own pace. It also doesn't require you to move to attend school.

  • Potential employer contribution: Earning your MBA while employed may mean your company helps pay for the cost.

Cons of getting an MBA while working

Examine the following cons:

  • Longer time commitment: Earning your MBA part time takes a year longer than going full time, on average.

  • Fewer campus experiences: An online or part-time program rarely has a campus component like a full-time program does and you may lose out on in-person experiences or networking opportunities with fellow students and professors.

  • Potential distractions: Going to school while working full time and balancing other life obligations means you cannot solely focus on schoolwork.

  • Loss of free time: You spend a lot of free time studying, so other hobbies, activities and personal time may temporarily be on hold.

  • More time management required: To properly balance work, school, life and obligations, you must manage time and expectations well.

Related: Is an MBA Worth It?

10 tips for completing an MBA program while working

Explore these ten tips to help balance your career and schoolwork while you earn your MBA:

1. Look for the right online or part-time program

There are MBA programs specifically designed for part time or online participation for working professionals and employers value and accept them just the same. These programs even have the same curriculum and some offer GMAT waivers to experienced candidates. To learn about schools and their programs, consider:

  • Reviewing a list of accredited MBA programs, organized by The Association to Advance Collegiate School of Business (AACSB)

  • Learning more about schools through welcome packets, online presentations or in-person or virtual meet and greet sessions

  • Connecting with alumni to learn about their experiences and opinions or to ask your questions

Narrow down your choices and make a pros and cons list of the schools or programs. Factor in cost, class attendance, entry requirements and any other features or benefits that are important. This can help you get the best value and experience from your educational investment.

Prepare your application materials to submit and practice potential questions and answers for any admission interviews.

Related: 35 MBA Interview Questions

2. Take advantage of workshops or business networking events

With online and part-time programs, it is important to take advantage of any workshops, virtual sessions and other networking events to get the most from your educational experience. This can range from learning workshops, like how to best balance professional and student life, to building your professional network of contacts. You never know what situation can lead to establishing a connection and the benefits of learning valuable tips and lessons is worth taking the time.

3. Approach your employer

Talk with your leader or human resources department if you're considering an MBA program while working. Discussing your intentions with them ahead of time is an act of respect and lets you learn about any opportunities the company may offer to arrange a plan that works for both parties. Establish the level of flexibility, expectations or financial contributions an employer can make. For example, ask:

  • Can the company contribute to the cost of the MBA degree?

  • Is there schedule flexibility or time off if you need to meet an urgent deadline?

  • Can you have a work remote day for flexibility, work-life balance or if you need to be on campus?

  • Are they willing to provide a few hours of your total work week for school-related tasks?

  • What job expectations does the employer have while you're enrolled in the MBA program?

They often understand and know the commitment of time, energy and attention an MBA takes. Having honest discussions with your employer shows initiative and even if extensive flexibility isn't available, you might end up with an offering you did not know about or think you'd get. Keep the communication ongoing, too, and consider quarterly meetings to talk about how the MBA is going and your work performance.

4. Build a support network

Let your family, friends and work colleagues know you're pursuing an MBA degree. It is likely they want to support you and sharing with them ensures everyone knows what to expect or can prepare for how best to help you. For example, work colleagues may refrain from giving you extra work or asking favors and personal friends can manage expectations of your free time.

5. Establish a good schedule ahead of time

Good organization increases efficiency and motivation, so establishing a productive and practical schedule ahead of time can help you strengthen your time management skills. Remember to be honest with yourself and set realistic goals and expectations. Make truthful assessments of how much time tasks in your life take and how long you should set aside for school and studies. Create specific study times and hold to them to establish the habit for the long term.

Work with your own preferences and needs and set schedules that are convenient and likely to work. For example, if you're a morning person, perhaps set aside an hour each day for studying. If you do your best work later in the day, schedule time after dinner or once the family is asleep.

6. Make a calendar of events

Invest in a paper planner, wall or desk calendar and digital organizer. Visually seeing important dates, deadlines and scheduled meetings can help you stay organized. Creating a firm plan can ease stress, establish a good boundary between work and school and help achieve your goals. Once you get your syllabus, mark down all important papers, midterms, final exams, study blocks and other school events. Add in any work deadlines or milestones, too, and even consider scheduling time for relaxation.

Also consider making to-do lists. It generates a motivating feeling when you mark off accomplishments and is another visual reminder of tasks to keep you organized. For example, consider writing tasks like "Study chapter two and make flash cards for the exam," or "Proofread essay outline and draft for peer submission."

7. Use electronics that help you

There are many electronic devices and software platforms that can help you stay organized, study well or be a best use of your time. Explore ways your a laptop, smartphone, tablet and other items can suit your lifestyle and learning style.

For example, download your books onto your mobile devices, use cloud file storage programs to always have your documents with you, install study guides and listen to audiobooks during your commute or while walking the dog.

8. Study wisely

You can study with efficiency and effectiveness while working and earning your MBA. Here are some suggestions of how to maximize your study time in creative ways:

  • Consider keeping your school materials with you so you can use any unexpected free time, whether they are online materials or books

  • Think about packing a lunch and snacks to study in your office during lunch hour or breaks a few times a week

  • Sign up for tutoring if you need it, particularly for any topics or courses that are challenging

9. Be prepared to sacrifice interests

Even with great time management skills, earning your MBA while working means you might have to reduce time spent on other things in your life, like hobbies, going to the gym, social activities, volunteer work or watching television. Remember, this is only temporary and the time spent earning your MBA is well worth it.

10. Make time for yourself

Even with sacrificing time spent on your interests, it is important not to overlook the value of making time for yourself. Giving some emotional, mental and physical space away from work and school can help you stay balanced, focused and refreshed. Find time to relax or do something you enjoy, helping keep a healthy work-life balance. Whether that's walking the dog, reading a book, gardening or meeting a friend for coffee, it is important to reset your mind.

Please note that none of the entities mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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