It can be hard to know whether an MBA will be beneficial to your career. In another post I discuss how to determine if an MBA is the right degree for the future role you want. But what if you don’t know what that role is or exactly what you want to do in the future? Can an MBA still be helpful? Or helpful in the meantime while you’re figuring it out?

An MBA is a versatile degree that can do a number of great things for your career: it’s a credential that might give you a leg up in your next round of interviews, enable you to drastically change your career path, or set you up to start your own company. An MBA can accelerate your career trajectory and broaden future opportunities, professional networks, and earning potential. It can open unknown doors and provide unexpected opportunities. But without careful planning, an MBA can also leave you in a lot of debt, and in a job not that far from where you were before. If you’re not certain that you really want to pursue an MBA, or exactly what type of program will be most helpful to you, there are some things you to keep in mind before you start applying.

1. The MBA experience goes by fast! And you only get to do it once. Business school is much shorter than undergrad (usually two years instead of four), and everything happens quickly. You have to be ready to balance intense academics, career prep, and extracurriculars such as clubs, which are central to networking in your future industry. You’ve got one shot to take advantage of everything the MBA experience offers, and if you don’t know what to prioritize, it can be hard to strategically navigate the onslaught of activity.

2. An MBA is expensive! Take a look at your funding options and also where you would likely land after you graduate. Does the math make sense? At a minimum, if you’re thinking about an MBA program, run the ROI on different scenarios and outcomes to avoid costly surprises. Talk to MBA students, MBA grads, and admissions professionals to get perspective on when and how an MBA is worth it.

Beyond the expense, try to get a sense of what the actual experience might be like. Does it fit your personality and how you see yourself in the future? Look into different types of programs that might provide different benefits; not everyone needs a full-time program. Do you want to supplement what you’re learning on the job with a classroom experience to facilitate your professional growth? Or do you want to change paths completely from where you currently are?

The more you know before you go, the better the experience and the outcome will be. Through conversations with many admissions or career professionals and MBAs at various stages of their careers, you can get a good sense of the benefits and drawbacks of the degree, what the degree can or won’t be able to do for you, and explore the range of program options that might be available.

Sarah DeGraaf
Having earned her MBA from NYU Stern, Sarah served as an MBA admissions officer for nearly a decade at NYU. She has a deep knowledge of top-ranked MBA programs and what's required of applicants who hope to earn admission.