When is the right time in your career to earn an MBA?

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When is the perfect time to get a Masters of Business Administration degree? Is it directly out of undergrad, or should you have a few years of work experience under your belt first? If you decided to enter the working world beforehand, is there such a thing as waiting too long to earn your MBA?

In truth, the best time to get an MBA degree is whenever you are ready, whether that’s before starting a long and fulfilling career or decades after your first day on the job. A person with years of work experience can be just as successful in graduate school as one who has just received their bachelor’s. Here are four signs it might be time for you to pursue a graduate degree:


1. When you reach a career plateau

Too often, people enter the career of their dreams only to hit a plateau. After a decade or so of work and a handful of promotions, there seems to be no room for growth—at least not for someone of their skill level. A job that once seemed so promising now stifles potential, and the lack of new skills to learn leaves employees increasingly disengaged. The less engaged a person is in the workplace, the more likely they are to leave their job.

Deloitte spotlighted this concept in its 2016 millennial survey. This generation is known for its job-hopping tendencies, and 66 percent of respondents said they expect to leave their current employer within five years. One commonly cited reason was that millennials are disappointed with the learning and professional development opportunities their employers provide. In fact, only 24 percent said they were satisfied with their training potential and possibility of advancement.

It should be noted that Deloitte’s assessment wasn’t of the millennial stereotype—that is, a young adult between 18 and 24 with few responsibilities. All of the 7,700 individuals surveyed were born after 1982, making them at least 33 when the survey was conducted between September and October 2015. All of them had acquired a post-secondary degree and worked full time, and most were employed in the private sector. Many were also current or soon-to-be parents.

These emotions are familiar to people of all ages, not just the younger set. If you’ve ever felt like this, it’s possible to freshen your career without moving up the ladder, but by finding new ways to redefine your position. However, without the opportunity to actually grow and learn new skills, you may still suffer a disengagement that worsens over time. At this point, it might be best to take matters into your own hands and find a new love within your current career by furthering your education.

An MBA provides an opportunity to further your education and potentially your career. The chance to learn and grow your skill set is invaluable, and you may graduate with a newfound appreciation for the world of business. Additionally, The Washington State University Carson College of Business offers a completely online MBA that allows students to obtain their degree in as few as 22-29 months. This gives you the flexibility to study while continuing to work, providing you the opportunity to apply the concepts you learn in school immediately. Upon graduation, not only will you be a more educated employee, which can translate into a better employee, but you may also have the skills necessary to transcend your career plateau. You may even come to better appreciate the daily tasks your immediate managers and bosses complete, and you’ll also be prepared to join them.

If you dream of a career at the executive level, the WSU Carson College of Business also offers a fully online Executive MBA. This program is designed to take you beyond the management level—the courses are structured to teach students C-suite problem-solving, administrative, and organizational skills, and assignments teach you to tackle concepts from a top-down, leadership perspective. Furthermore, all of our EMBA students and alumni are eligible to take part in our annual, three-day Leadership Conference. This is a great chance to hear from leading business experts and network with other EMBA students and alumni.


2. When you want a higher salary

The salary that provided for you in your early 20s will likely be inadequate as you move into your 30s and 40s due to changing priorities. Maybe you want to buy a house, have a child or need to care for an ailing family member. Or maybe you, like so many others, share the American dream of progress. No matter what your motivations, an MBA can open you up to a higher salary than an undergraduate degree.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found people with a graduate degree earn approximately $12,000 more than their bachelor’s-only counterparts. The wage premiums vary by occupation, but people in the business sector saw some of the highest variances. According to data from PayScale, marketing managers with an MBA can make upwards of $100,000 annually. A chief financial officer can make over $200,000.

The WSU Carson School of Business has programs for both levels. If you’d like a broader business education, you can choose our standard online MBA. If you wish for a fast track to the executive level, study in our EMBA program.

MBA graduates earn about $12,000 than employees with only a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS.


3. When you want to change careers

An MBA is one of the most versatile graduate degrees available. The general skills you learn—leadership, management, budgeting and more—apply to any industry. People with MBAs have successfully entered the worlds of commerce, finance, health care, software, government and even education.

If you know which aspect of the corporate world you’d like to enter, you can tailor your education accordingly. The Carson College offers four specialized concentrations in addition to a general MBA: hospitality business management, finance, marketing and international business.

  • With a concentration in hospitality business management, you’ll study how to navigate this rapidly changing landscape. The coursework provides an understanding the basics of operations, marketing, management and IT, giving you the foundation to provide a greater-than satisfactory experience for your future customers.
  • If your goals are to increase your cross-border business skills, a concentration in international business can teach you the ins and outs of global management. The coursework focuses on how the differences in politics, economics and culture affect business decisions and marketing strategies. Our special project/independent study offers the opportunity to study abroad for an out-of-classroom international experience.
  • The finance track provides the framework for a career as a financial director or senior analyst. The coursework focuses on how to structure a business to compete in global markets and how to make sound, secure investments.
  • The marketing concentration focuses on consumer behavior and the best strategies to promote new products. Students study theories regarding why and how consumers make the choices they do, as well as the importance of big data when conducting market research. As Forbes detailed, big data is changing the way businesses make decisions in tremendous ways.

Regardless of whether you choose a general MBA path or a specific concentration, the Carson College of Business can prepare you to tackle the upcoming changes and challenges in business. The world is rapidly shifting due to innovations like mobile technology and the sharing economy. To adapt, businesses need flexible, adaptable leaders who can make smart, informed decisions based on large amounts of data and international market trends.


4. When you have plenty of support

If your life is relatively stable—if you have a well-paying job, supportive friends and family and a healthy social life, for example—you might wonder why you should disrupt things by pursuing a master’s degree. After all, adding coursework to your life requires you to shift everything else around, and you’ll find yourself shorter on free time. In actuality, this might be the best time in your life to further your education. You’ll need a lot of support while juggling school, work and family. It’s good to have a network to rely on when you need someone to babysit your children, help with doctor’s appointments or even to grab a sandwich while you’re studying into the night.

It’s natural to have doubts about pursuing an MBA, especially if you’ve been working for several years. You might be afraid you’re too old, have too much experience or won’t learn anything new. In addition, while getting an education online is just as beneficial as attending classes on campus, you might have fears about how recruiters undervalue your degree.

Thankfully, as U.S. News & World Report documented, an increasing number of employers are realizing online degrees are as valid as the traditional option. Although they initially feared students wouldn’t learn skills like collaboration outside of a classroom—fears you might share—it quickly became evident that online courses focus on group work as much as traditional courses. What’s more, an increasing number of credible institutions like WSU are offering online MBA degrees. WSU has a proven educational track record, and employers know our graduates have all the skills necessary to lead a company.

Recommended Reading:


Payscale, Master of Business Administration Salary 

Federal Student Aid, Adult Student College Prep Checklist

IRS, Tax Benefits for Education

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Should I get a master’s degree?

Forbes, Ten Ways Big Data Is Revolutionizing Marketing And Sales

U.S. News, What Employers Think of Your Online MBA Degree