Getting an MBA is a big decision. But the question as to when you should get it is also a major part of deciding to pursue that educational path. Going for the degree too quickly or too late can have a detrimental impact on your long-term professional goals. Doing it too soon may leave you woefully unprepared to thrive at some of the best business schools in the country. Pulling the trigger too late may hold you back from the success that could have been earned years prior. So when is the best time to get an MBA? We’re going to look at some of the important factors to consider before you apply to schools.

Straight Out of College

Many students feel like they need to jump right into an MBA program shortly after they graduate. They want to get started on their careers as quickly as possible and having a business degree will position them to find the best possible job at one of the prestigious companies. But that’s the old way of thinking and things have changed in today’s marketplace.

These days more employers are putting a greater emphasis on the professional experience a candidate has earned in addition to whether or not they’ve gotten their business degree. That’s why going straight to pursuing a degree could actually hinder instead of help your chances of getting that top position you’re seeking.

Lastly, the idea of going directly to business school after you graduate isn’t entirely realistic because it’s incredibly tough to get accepted to the best institutions right after you get out of school. Putting a little bit of time between your commencement ceremony and applying to the schools of your choice will increase your chances of getting into the program you want the most.

Experience is Important

It’s not just potential employers who are looking for years of experience on your resume. The top business schools in the country are more likely to accept applicants who have a few years of on the job training. For most MBA students, it’s about three to five years of experience with schools as diverse as Harvard to Wharton to UC Santa Barbara accepting students who are well into their mid-20’s by the time they’re taking courses to get an MBA.

It’s not just any old experience either. Many schools want to see that applicants have held leadership roles in their prior positions before deciding to attend business school. You won’t have that type of previous experience without being in the workforce for at least three to five years.

Know Before You Go

The type of career you want may not actually require you to hold an MBA. So do a little research first, once you know what kind of career path you wish to pursue, find out if you should pursue a degree or just go after the job you want. Many schools have different degrees for different specialties, for example, Maryville offers an MBA in supply chain management, so find out if your particular niche comes with a degree requirement before you start applying. You may not need to take this extra step on the path to success.

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