The MBA is popular. In fact, business has surpassed education as the field of study with the most advanced degrees conferred nationwide. Since the beginning of the new millennium, graduates with advanced diplomas in business have represented about 25% of all master’s degrees awarded annually in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

What has caused this shift? One reason may be found in the wide recognition and prestige associated with the Master of Business Administration degree, and its general acceptance by employers.

The MBA has a reputation for providing a solid return on investment (ROI), including financial stability and career advancement. A 2015 survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that 9 out of 10 business school alumni credit their graduate management education with boosting their earning potential.

But is it always a smart move to get an MBA? Evaluating your goals before enrolling in an MBA degree program is imperative. Ask yourself these six questions:

1. Do you have specific goals that align with earning an MBA?

If earning a Master of Business Administration degree will help you attain your career goals, then this decision makes sense. An MBA can also provide advantages when transitioning to a new career or industry, as well as in making you more marketable in a variety of fields.

2. Is there another way to accomplish your goals?

MBAs are not the only way to succeed, but they can provide graduates with a higher level of business expertise that can help in solving complex industry issues. You may be able to attain the quantitative and technical skills elsewhere, but don’t forget the leadership attributes, interpersonal skills and peer knowledge that can be gained from an MBA program.

What you learn – and the connections and networks you build – while earning your MBA can make you a valued asset as a team member and leader.

3. Is the timing right from a career and personal perspective?

From a career perspective, the MBA can help you make the jump from a mid-level position to management. From a financial perspective, though, quitting your job is not always possible, especially if you have to take care of your family.

If you need to stay in the workplace while advancing your education, consider the flexibility and convenience of an MBA program offered 100% online.

4. How is an MBA perceived in your professional field?

MBAs are seen as a valuable credential across a variety of industries, whether in the private sector or the government or nonprofit arenas. In some organizations, an MBA may be a requirement for career advancement. Even in companies that don’t require upper-level candidates to have a graduate business degree, the know-how and soft skills attained through an MBA program can be the difference-maker when it comes to securing a sought-after promotion.

5. What is the MBA program’s reputation?

The reputation of the school is a key factor in determining the eventual ROI of earning a graduate business degree. Is the university regionally accredited? Are the MBA degree programs accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)?

Does the university offer specializations within the MBA program, such as in Finance, Healthcare Management, Marketing or Information Technology Management?

How about the quality of instruction? Do faculty members bring real-life business experience to their teaching? Is additional support available to students? Have the program’s alumni enjoyed career success?

6. Why do you want an MBA?         

Your motivation for earning an MBA will likely be the crucial factor in calculating whether it is the right move at the right time for you.

Some of the “right” reasons to pursue an MBA include a desire to: increase your business knowledge, such as how to manage people and build competitive advantage; expand your professional connections and business network; and open doors to new opportunities.

Remember: An MBA doesn’t guarantee success. However, attaining an MBA from a respected and reputable university can provide you with the specialized knowledge and skills necessary for advancing your career.

As the GMAC found in its 2015 survey, individuals with MBAs or other graduate-level business degrees “consistently rise to higher professional levels, earn more and give high marks to the value of their education.”

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