Wants and Needs: Why Get an MBA Degree? | TopMBA.com

Wants and Needs: Why Get an MBA Degree?

By QS Contributor

Updated May 31, 2016 Updated May 31, 2016

Jacqueline Brito, MBA admissions dean shares advice on how to figure out the wants and needs of earning your MBA degree

At the close of an executive MBA information luncheon, I asked the attendees to think about whether they wanted to pursue an MBA in terms of wants and needs.  I was befuddled by the abrupt changes in their facial expressions – contorted – and their posture.  Subsequently, during an admissions interview with one of the attendees, my previous observations were validated by her response to the question, “What is your motivation for pursuing this degree?”  She acknowledged that when I first posed the question during the luncheon she thought it was odd, but found herself consumed by it for several days. 

Like most of the executive candidates I have interviewed over the years, she had convinced herself that she needed an MBA degree in order to advance in her career and workplace.  It wasn’t until she began to analyze her career successes and how her hard work and dedication led to each position that she discovered her primary motivation for pursuing an MBA was personal – she wanted the degree for herself.  Her professional need to have the MBA degree became her secondary motivation.  What an epiphany! 

The Wants and Needs of a Future MBA Student

As the assistant dean of admissions for the Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business, I meet with prospective students each and every day speaking with them about their wants and needs.  Undoubtedly, the most important question I can ask a prospective MBA student is, “What is your motivation for pursuing this degree?” 

Oftentimes, their initial answer centers around how badly they need the degree supported by their long laundry list of reasons. This is frequently the case with candidates who have jobs, but feel that achieving an MBA could give them a competitive advantage over others.  These individuals don’t express that they want an MBA until questioned.  For example, during an interview with one executive, after listening to his verbal needs analysis, I popped the question “Do you want this degree?” He was completely startled.  “Of course!” he exclaimed. 

An MBA Degree for College Graduates?

Contrary to the above, when I meet with a prospective MBA student fresh from their undergraduate experience, the need for an advanced degree is not their main motivation.  At age twenty-two, these traditional candidates with no full-time work experience simply stress how much they want the MBA degree.  Since these applicants don’t have full-time jobs, business school is often just a natural progression after undergraduate or a step that their parents are encouraging them to take while their opportunity cost is low.  There is, however, a small demographic who feel they need the degree in order to compete – both for the right position and salary - in this tough labor market.  Our full-time traditional students change their wants and needs from simply wanting a degree to needing it after getting their feet wet in the business world.  After completing a summer internship, they often change their motivations and begin to really see the degree as something they need in order to advance in their careers. Regardless of an applicant’s path to a successful business school journey, it’s important to strike a balance between wants and needs for an MBA degree.

The sagest advice I can give to encourage establishing such a balance in the wants and needs of a prospective MBA student is to start early.  A plethora of professional associations cater to high school students; it’s imperative that parents encourage their children to get involved before they even begin developing a short-list of colleges to consider.

Emerging executives also need to find that balance – simply dreaming of a promotion is not enough. Often when I meet with these applicants and ask whether they want or need the MBA degree, the question seems difficult to answer. At first, most ‘underemployed’ executives think they only need the degree for job growth, but after some consideration the ready-applicant will mention that they want the degree for intrinsic reasons. Without that internal want, it’s easier to drop out of an MBA program when work or family priorities get in the way. You must also want to achieve your degree; whether it’s because you are a first-generation graduate in your family and want the sense of accomplishment or just to be able to say you worked hard and earned it.

Finding that balance can’t happen overnight; it’s important to fully evaluate why you want to get your MBA and what it means to you both extrinsically and intrinsically. A balanced motivation, one in which your passion is aligned with your determination, can only produce an amazing work ethic and a successful MBA student and graduate.

By Jacqueline Brito

Jacqueline Brito, SPHR, is assistant dean at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business where she oversees recruiting, marketing, and admissions for the school’s MBA programs. She brings many years of corporate experience to Rollins, including key roles at the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando International Airport.

This article was originally published in December 2013 . It was last updated in May 2016

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