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Going back to school, want MBA, where to start?

WhittledownWhittledown Registered User regular
So I have a Bachelor's degree in History but in the decade since I got it my work experience in finance have me wanting to get my MBA. Should I first get an undergraduate degree in Business/Finance before trying to step up or would it be waste of time/money?

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    ThundyrkatzThundyrkatz Registered User regular
    edited June 2017
    So I did this very thing a few years ago. My undergrad was in Social Studies Education and Job in Finance.

    Typically you will have to take some foundation courses in business before you begin the rest of the MBA classes, no need to have a business undergrad. For me I had to take...

    - Math & Statistics for Business
    - Economics for Business
    - Financial Reporting and Analysis

    Then I was on my way!

    Thundyrkatz on
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    WhittledownWhittledown Registered User regular
    Sweet, I was hoping someone here did a similar thing. Thanks! Thats not as onerous as I thought it might be.

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    a5ehrena5ehren AtlantaRegistered User regular
    Yeah, MBA programs are designed for non-business undergrads to be able to get in as well.

    You also need to register for the GMAT and start studying. You'll need to brush up on your high school algebra, etc.

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    EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    The Enc signal has been lit!

    The below is largely applicable, except that in many cases MBA programs can be (not always) more acceptable for professional references than other programs. Keep in mind that not all MBA programs are created equal and especially online MBA programs are more notoriously scammy than other programs.

    And now the blargleblang:
    So since we are going there in the thread, here are some tips for @Bucketman that might apply to someone else:

    ======================-Things Graduate Schools Look At In General*-======================
    Why should I listen to you?: Good question! Full bias report: I am an academic staffperson working at a major public university for just about ten years. About a third of that was specifically running graduate applications for a set of five programs at the certificate, masters, and PhD level. Over half of that was in undergraduate success advising. I have a masters in Educational Leadership, a few graduate certificates in unrelated disciplines I've done in fields I didn't study in my undergrad, and am credentialed as a CDF (Career Development Facilitator). This is sort of my bread and butter! That said, I am not the advisor running your graduate program, you ALWAYS want to speak with them before sending in your application to learn what they are looking for, what information they value the most, and to learn about what they can provide you (after all, education is a two way street. Your faculty should be able to tell you why you should choose to listen to them rather than at other schools).

    The reason for applications: This is the most important thing to think about before you begin. Why are there applications in the first place? Generally speaking, graduate education runs into the following problems:
    Schools lose money (almost*) universally on graduate student education. The class sizes are too small and the returns (even at grad tuition) are too low to justify losing the research faculty in teaching, making keeping class sizes and cohorts small essential to operation.
    Graduate education is almost* always highly specialized and requires expensive operations from the university in terms of software, research, laboratories, electronic resources, and more. Access to these is very limited due to the costs, making courses small.
    Quality of education needs to be high to justify the former being valuable, which means they are wanting their best faculty teaching graduate courses (and, by accreditation in most* places you need to be a well published, doctorate level, senior tenured faculty member to teach graduate level coursework).
    Small class sizes also lead to better outcomes and (politically speaking) are the only form of class a high-level tenured professor will be willing to teach in most cases.
    Because of the class sizes, loss of money per student, and general problems in operation graduate education causes to the bottom line, persistence (students who are admitted and immediately complete the degree) are the primary form of academic assessment used to gauge graduate program success.
    In addition to persistence, graduate schools are looking for applicants which will enhance the program's prestige. Namely by going on and being successful in the field. What success is can vary by field, but in most cases employment, research publication, and advancing the field of study are what is desired.

    So, if you are the Graduate Director for a graduate program your goal is pretty simple: You are looking to get the most applications possible to your program, then select the students most likely to be a good return on your investment (namely by completing the program and going on to add to the field and (thus) your program's prestige). You want to have some way of determining this from applications. So what do they look at:

    ======================-Things Graduate Programs Look At-======================

    Undergraduate GPAs (Plural): The benchmark for student success. Let's face it, the easiest way to tell behavior is by... past behavior. Graduate schools will look at your overall GPA, and often your major GPA, transfer GPAs, breakdown of GPA by school, and frequently “field” GPAs calculated uniquely to their program (for a computer science program they might look at your math, engineering, and computer sciences GPA along with your compositions scores, for examples). 3.0 GPA (B average) is usually the minimum for consideration for many programs, though depending on the program the functional cut-off GPA is frequently much, much higher due to the volume of candidates.

    If your GPAs are under a 3.0, you likely cannot be admitted under regular admissions status. Luckily, that is what probational status is for. Essentially most* public universities allow for somewhere between 10% and 25% of their accepted applicants to be admitted from within a probationary status. Usually this is exclusively for Undergraduate GPA issues, but can occasionally be for other missing or lower elements in the application. To be admitted in probationary status you have to be so stellar in everything else that they are wanting to ignore your previous education.GRE Scores: The big test. This is essentially proving your determination, when it comes right down to it. Most schools love to see and report big, impressive numbers here. But functionally speaking, the GRE isn’t so much of a measure of functional knowledge. Instead, it is a measure of determination to study for something incredibly hard over months of time for little direct benefit.

    In other words, it’s your test run for your thesis hours.

    Doing well on your GRE Score will greatly impact how your Undergrad GPA weighs on your application. If you show top-of-the-line GRE scores then your lower undergrad GPA will often be mitigated- but not entirely. You will want to address this discrepancy in your personal statement otherwise it will look like you are smart, intelligent, but not willing to have staying power.

    Having a low or mediocre GRE score also won’t sink your application necessarily, but frequently minimum scores are a thing for high-volume schools (even if they aren’t published). Each time you take the exam is reported, so if you take it twice and have big upgrades, no worries. You clearly show the ability to grow and improve. Taking it three, or four, or eight times with no major growth shows… well that you hit your head against things without figuring them out. Not a great sign. The best sign is always to do stellar on first attempt as it shows preparation, skill, and effort.

    Final note: be sure as to what GRE they want. There is a general, subject area, and sometimes field specific GRE tests offered through ETS.
    Oh, and you can find help resources through the official website: ETS.org
    Personal Statement: Your personal statement is where you show off your writing skills, ability to reason and synthesize, and develop your actual purpose for applying to the program. This is a very, very critical piece and shouldn’t be underestimated. This is where you explain those problems with your application (As you can see here, my undergraduate GPA is low from my misspent youth, but by stellar GRE score reflects my new work ethic and shows I am ready to complete this program and move on to bigger and better things, blah blah).
    Like any personal statement, you want to consider:
    -What specifically are you looking for and why?
    -Who are you asking to help you find it?

    Take some time to really consider these options. Are you seeking employment (if so, in what field? To do what, specifically? How will this degree help?)? Perhaps you are looking to get admitted to another, higher level graduate or professional school (if so, what specific school or schools? Why those schools? How does this program prepare you for your PhD or research? Why that program?). You also need to know your audience. Who is reading your applications? What are they looking for? Have you spoken to their graduate director? If so, what did they say? What is unique about that program that will help you (in specifics!). If the program has a specific research focus or technology no one else has or just faculty well published or established in your field: say that! Research into the school also show you can research in your field.
    For the rest of the personal statement, it is usually a great idea to first answer each of these in a few sentences:
    • Who are you?
    • What do you do?
    • What are you looking for?
    • What makes you stand out?
    • How will supporting you benefit the audience (the graduate program)?
    • What will you do with their support?
    • How are you qualified to obtain what you are looking for?
    • What examples of previous, relevant work can you show?
    • Why are you seeking what you are looking for with this audience?

    If you come up with three sentences to each of these, you are pretty much ready for horrific, painful editing of your personal statement. Remember: they are looking for evidence of skill, persistence, and return on investment. Show you will complete the program and go on to do something valuable with it.
    And it never hurts to get it checked by a friend or family with strong composition skills. Good writing matters.
    Resume/CV: The resume also matters, especially in programs more oriented towards employment rather than research (more on this later). If they call for a resume, you are likely in the clear. Everyone has a resume, and good resume design guides are a dime a dozen online. Go look them up.

    Alternatively, if they ask for a CV (Curriculum Vitae), that is a very different beast. Your CV is an academic resume, and in research oriented fields it is a must. You are detailing out all that research, lab experience, credentialing, service to institutions, and more you did from undergraduate onwards. I could write a whole thing this length again just on the CV, but I won’t. So there.

    Also, the internet has a lot of stuff on this as well, google is your friend here. Don’t copy paste though, that’s plagiarism and you will go to a special level of hell.
    Rec Letters: The biggest thing on your application, the truly most impressive thing, are your letters of recommendation. Ideally from faculty familiar with your ability to do work in that particular field, these are mysterious and problematic since you never quite know what the faculty member says as they go in sealed envelopes (or increasingly through direct upload links) from the faculty member.

    Unless, like many faculty, your professor is lazy and tells you to write one for yourself that they will read, edit, and upload. In which case good fucking luck. This is the worst thing ever and almost always you will offend the professor or screw yourself over by being too humble. There is no way to know.

    Anyhow, in most cases you want your senior-level coursework faculty to write these from your undergrad. Of course, undergrad was a very long time ago so your faculty might not remember you (perhaps, making assumptions here). Ask anyway, most have a template and give you the benefit of the doubt. Some won’t (these faculty are jerks and are to be shunned). But you are at their mercy in this.

    If you are changing fields, this can be particularly frustrating. An English major going into Statistics might have some trouble finding a relevant faculty member to reference. This is a great time for a non-degree course to come into play (more on this later).

    If the field is particularly work oriented (education, programming, public admin, business, urban planning, etc.) often professional references from those working with you in that field can be a great alternative. People like admitting students already immersed in the field as it makes for a more valuable classroom experience for your fellow students.
    Other: Every program is different! Portfolios, specialty tests, interviews, and more can occur. Prepare accordingly!


    ======================-What Else Should I know?-======================

    Non-Degree Courses and You: But Enc, I have a terrible undergraduate GPA, no letters of recommendation, at least 6 months before I plan on applying to graduate school (the deadline, not the start of the semester, more on this later), and/or am changing fields from English to Applied Chemical Analysis (or vice versa), what the hell do I do now!?

    The answer, my friend, is Non-Degree Seeking Courses. Sometimes (but certainly not always, check with your faculty in the programs you are looking at), students choose to enroll as a non-degree seeking student to take one or two graduate level courses without being part of a program. The benefits here can be many:


    -Gives you a chance to sample the field.
    -Gives you a chance to correct your undergrad education by getting an A (4.0) on first attempt of a graduate course in the field you are looking to go into (take that past self!)
    -Gives you time to be the best student possible in that course to get a letter of recommendation from that faculty member.
    -Gives you a chance to prepare for the nightmare hellscape that is your social life while in graduate school.
    -Gives you a chance to feel the crushing economic burden as you pay for a graduate course without financial assistance.
    -Gives you a chance to learn just how frustrating enrolling last on the night before classes can be in actually getting into a course (and, often, not being able to do so).
    So it’s a mixed bag, per se. That said, it can be a solution to a goodly amount of problems. It can prepare you for the field, it can give you a chance to brush up on the basics. Before doing so, always check school policies. Many schools limit or prevent Non-Degree courses from counting towards a master’s or PhD program, so know the policies before you enroll and pay. For example, in my institution you can take 3 courses non-degree and count them towards a degree program, more than that and you have to retake (and re-pay for) one or more of the courses.
    Graduate Certificate Programs: A graduate certificate is generally a short, graduate level program (usually 4-7 classes) that covers about half of a master’s program and gets you a specific occupational-related skillset. They frequently do not require a GRE and have much lower entry requirements compared to more formal degree programs. Many of them also can be transferred all, or in part as with Non-Degree, into a related Master’s program they are built for. Like Non-Degree there are often problems with these, but in most* cases they are programs designed for working professionals with unrelated undergraduate degrees seeking to change fields and eventually (after completing the program) entering into a higher level degree.

    If one exists in your field, at the school you want to go to, and the Non-Degree situation sounds familiar to you. Take a close look. It might be worth it (especially as the faculty teaching these are usually also on the admissions committees for related programs).
    Different Graduate Programs & Philosophies: Graduate programs come in three flavors, more or less*, with different levels of admittance:
    -Vocational Programs: These are your MBA, Nursing, Public Admin, Education, Vocational Engineering, and other job-specific, non-arts masters programs designed to not necessarily prepare you for a doctoral level program but to enter a highly specialized workforce. These programs typically have very stringent admissions requirements, but meeting them often means admittance. Especially at public institutions, they are looking for reasons to take you in these programs as the institutional goal is to flood the marketplace with their majors so that, eventually, their school will be the dominant influence in the field (and, cynically, gain that sweet sweet alumni foundation money).
    -High-Rigor Research Programs: These are your sciences, most non-vocational STEM, Humanities, and Social Science programs that eventually lead to a doctoral program. They are often stringent in their application criteria, but in fact are waaaaay more stringent in their actual review process. A Masters in Clinical Psychology might say they need a 3.5 undergrad GPA, but in reality they only accept 3.8 or higher because they have 700 applications for a 20 seat student cohort and it’s a buyer’s market.
    -Professional Schools: Wanna be a Lawyer? A Doctor? Some forms of Nurse? Probably too bad if you are reading this post for advice because you probably are behind the game at this point to break in if you aren’t still in your freshman year. Reality for these professions right now are bleak for all but the most on-the-ball from day one.
    Application Deadlines and Why they exist: Graduate schools typically accept Fall applications in the Fall of the previous year. At the writing of this post it is March 2017. If I were planning to apply to most programs my schedule would start immediately in preparing for the GRE and ensuring I have my letters of rec prepared no later than August. Then I would apply in September 2017 to meet Fall Priority Deadlines for admission for the Fall 2018 cohort.

    Some schools have later application sessions for fall admissions, but don’t be fooled. These are by availability only and have no guarantee that applications haven’t already filled. Also, financial assistance (in graduate school this means being supported with a tuition waiver, GTA or GA position, or fellowship) are only given out to priority applications so you are often hurting your chances.

    Most schools have a fall-only admission to keep students in a cohort (a group of students at the same level). Ideally, this means the same 20-40 students will grow with you through the program making for a collaborative working experience. It rarely works so perfectly, but that is the model. Cohort, fall-only programs usually are more desirable from your perspective as a student as the faculty are looking at a quality-of-education based approach to their admissions. Don’t attend a High-rigor Research Program that isn’t cohort-based unless you are desperate (as research opportunities, lab quality, and other important needs are rarely well supported if they aren’t doing student support from day one).

    Rolling admission (summer, spring, and fall admissions) usually are from the Vocational Programs field above. Rolling admission in vocational programs makes sense, and is usually fine. You won’t likely be doing a research project that is faculty mentored in these programs anyhow.

    How can I go to Graduate School Affordably? Hahahahahahahaha!

    Oh, wait. You are serious.

    Ok, then. Well the most tried and true method is to be a 4.0, top-scoring GRE student with undergraduate research already published and a solid set of faculty backing you with glowing recommendations. In which case you probably already have been offered a GA position with a tuition waiver and are on the fast track to tenured employment in 7-9 years.

    For the rest of us, that means either getting your employer to pay for your schooling (such as by working at the institution, or at a public office that has a tuition support program).

    There isn’t much in the way of financial support from federal, state, or private grants for graduate school. Usually it’s about loans. Something to do before you apply to graduate school is to go to a job research index, my favorite is onetonline.org, to research the pay of the jobs you want to get in your area, what the average educational level is in those jobs, and then compare that to your projected student loan cost before applying. OnetOnline also can show you if the field is growing or shrinking, and compare that to national averages.

    It’s a pretty cool site, and you want to know the details before you devote 3-7 years and likely $30,000-80,000 on an investment that may or may not pan out.


    ======================-Accreditation & Online Education-======================

    Yo, do you know who the accreditation agency is for your school?
    FIND OUT: https://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/agencies.aspx

    Then go to that agency and look up the school. Infractions, probation, all that shit is posted. Often including things like Title IX violations and other problems. Find out of the school is accredited, then find out if their online programs are also covered by their accreditation. Often University of Birdname's face to face programs might be accredited while their rather sinister online school might not be. Know before you buy!

    Online schools are a mixed bag. Certainly their convenience is useful, but they almost always are self-directed and minimally beneficial compared to their face to face counterparts. A good rule of thumb here is to put yourself into a CEO's position when reviewing the program and ask the all important question: If I had this candidate, and one from a face to face program, as my final applicants, which would I choose?

    You lose both skill, opportunities, and especially networking abilities in online programs. You get the credential, but often that is ~maybe~ 50% of the value of your degree. Networking with your fellow students and faculty and taking advantage of the professional development opportunities on the school grounds are way more worthwhile.

    Also a good number of public universities offer their graduate courses after 6:00 pm to help with work scheduling, which is nice!


    ======================-Anything else?-======================

    Probably. But this is more than enough for now. Good luck!
    And now the disclaimer:

    *Most means most I am familiar with, which includes the big state-wide systems of Florida, California, Texas, and SUNY. Every school, even ones in these states, are precious snowflakes with their own horrific system of bureaucratic policies. Know them. Or know people who work at them. Office Staff at universities can be a graduate student’s best friend, get to know them and they will help you find opportunities that you would miss in terms of employment, funding, and course availability.

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    BucketmanBucketman Call me SkraggRegistered User regular
    Oh hello. As someone who followed this advice recently and am waiting to hear back from my school of choice, I highly recommend giving this advice your full attention

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    CauldCauld Registered User regular
    just finished my MBA. Personally, I would start with looking into the admissions criteria of the schools you're interested in. You could even call to ask them. I went to a school with less than helpful admin staff, but the website was pretty accurate. From there get some GMAT prep info and see where you're at.

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    lunchbox12682lunchbox12682 MinnesotaRegistered User regular
    One note on the online piece, more traditional schools (Univ of Minnesota, Purdue, Penn State... I know about the Big Ten, can you tell?) are beginning to have more or full online offerings for MBAs and other programs. Unless you are going for executive MBAs (a whole other can of worms, and probably not what you are looking at), then online can be a valid option.
    My, in progress, MBA is about 1/3 online classes, but they seem to be adding more each term.
    Of course, how much an individual learns from or values an online learning system is very individual specific, so YMMV.
    Good luck.

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    mtsmts Dr. Robot King Registered User regular
    I didn't really all the advice but would add ithat a lot of schools put a much heavier emphasis on gre scores over GPA since it is standard across the board whereas GPA is dependent on too many things.

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    Edith_Bagot-DixEdith_Bagot-Dix Registered User regular
    I'm another MBA here on the forums. My undergrad was in computer science and all my experience was in software development up until I did the MBA in my early 30s. The program I did had a 2 month "boot camp" on some core business subjects and that was plenty to get me up to speed. Went on to work in a number of front office roles in capital markets, currently work at a quantitative hedge fund. My two bits on the subjects:

    1) Getting a full undergrad degree before going for an MBA is probably not in your best interests, for a few reasons. The first is that many of your early MBA courses will be a rehash of a business/commerce undergrad. The second is that a good MBA should cover the material you need to know anyway (this was the original purpose of these programs). The third is that the MBA involves taking some time out of your career. I don't know your age, but if you have some experience in finance, you are taking a couple of "earning years" off to get the MBA. Your best bet is to make any time spent at school as valuable as possible.

    2) When I applied, GMAT was a much bigger deal than undergrad scores. I'm told this varies based on your work experience.

    3) Most MBA programs have some online courses, but I'd be wary of an entirely online MBA. One of the aspects that really changed my outlook was the importance of networking and socializing. Like many people in tech fields, I'm naturally introverted and my mentality going in was that grades and knowledge were more important than soft skills and networks of colleagues. Probably my biggest lesson from the MBA is that this isn't true. I almost certainly never would have got my foot in the door in finance without the benefit of alumni networks. Online only programs tend to be weaker in this area.



    Also on Steam and PSN: twobadcats
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