An MBA gives you instant credibility within your organization and on your resume. It indicates that you have expertise and a broad working knowledge of many business functions, giving you a leg up on other candidates who lack that level of experience. There are three primary ways to earn your MBA — in a full-time on-campus program, online, or part-time in the evenings.
Most people associate the full-time option with the classic MBA graduate. But especially over the past decade, it has become harder for many potential students to leave their jobs for two years, no matter what may be waiting for them at the end. Meanwhile, online programs have exploded in popularity, but there are many different online delivery methods and, of course, some less-than-stellar offerings in that area. But evening MBA programs continue to thrive, and it may be your best option, too. Here are five reasons most students choose to return to school part-time.
1. Earn a degree while you work
For most working professionals a few years into their careers, leaving their job for two years is not a practical solution. Whether it’s a matter of paying the rent or providing for a family, making the decision to go back to school full-time just isn’t an option for everyone. A evening MBA will allow you to structure your work and your degree around each other.
There’s no question that an MBA workload requires a lot of time and focus, so programs like the W. P. Carey Evening MBA at Arizona State University meet two nights a week — usually on a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule — allowing you to plan for study time and class projects on other evenings and weekends.
2. Bring new knowledge to your organization
As you embark on an MBA program, you will obviously pick up new ways of thinking about problems and solutions and learn and build new strengths that can help you long-term. But don’t overlook the immediate value your MBA can have for you and for your organization. Taking a deep dive in finance, marketing, economics, information systems, and supply chain can have a big impact right away — you can take what you learn in the classroom and put it into practice on the job the next day.
The instant return of being exposed to leading-edge MBA curriculum, coupled with the long-term payoff of the degree, is a principal reason many organizations invest in their students’ graduate education. If you’re considering returning to school for your MBA, find out if your company has a policy on employer-paid education. You should also put together a business plan for how an MBA would help your company not only in the near future but over the course of many years and discuss it with your supervisor, not only to let the company know you’re interested in taking the next step but that you’re committed to helping them along the way.
3. Advance more quickly
While it’s true that full-time MBA students tend to embark on new careers post-graduation, if you’re in an industry or company you enjoy, an evening MBA can not only keep you moving forward it may open new doors just by virtue of the fact that you’re in an MBA program. Many students report promotions or raises as a result of what they’re able to bring to the table while in an MBA program.
4. Discover new disciplines and hone your skills
If you’ve worked in the finance field for a few years, odds are you’ll have a better level of applied knowledge in an MBA-level finance class than someone who comes from a consulting or IT background. And while an evening MBA will let you refresh your knowledge in your area of interest, it will also lead you down other paths to explore marketing, supply chain managements, or other fields. Developing new perspectives on how other functions in the organization operate can only help you as your career progresses.
5. Build a larger, stronger professional network
Thanks to tools like LinkedIn, it’s become easier and easier to find new angles to advance your career. And by spending two years in classes with hard-working, career-minded classmates — with whom you’ll work on team projects, give presentations, and rely on to fill gaps in your own knowledge — the opportunities to strengthen your professional network will dramatically increase. And that’s a two-way street: You might find yourself in a position to assist a classmate with their career first, which can pay off for you further down the road.