For those that don’t know, I’m currently enrolled full-time in an MBA program. The most attentive readers of Money After Graduation probably saw this coming for ages, but I kept it on the down-low as best I could for a myriad of reasons, but I figured it was time to share the story here!
I decided I wanted to pursue an MBA while I was in Paris, France in May 2011. I had finished my undergraduate degree the year before and was trudging along unhappily in my MSc. facing dismal employment prospects an,d in all honesty, not that interested in science. I had been blogging about personal finance for nearly a year and felt I would be better suited to a career in business.
My options were to begin a second Bachelors degree that would take two years to complete, or go for the Masters degree in business. I decided I would prefer to do the MBA over a second Bachelors degree, for reasons ranging from legitimate (I want a career in management not accounting) to shallow (a Masters degree sounds more impressive than a Bachelors degree).
Most competitive MBA programs require at least 2 years of professional work experience to be admitted, so I knew I’d have to log some work hours before I could apply. I was cool with this because I also wanted to take care of my massive student debt from undergrad, as well as enjoy a break from school.
When I was 1.5 years into my job, the province announced major budget cuts that would affect my employer. I wasn’t at all concerned about being laid off, but I was worried about advancement and growing my career at the institution. I had a great job, but I knew it wouldn’t be great for me forever. Eventually, I would hit a wall in promotions and raises, and I would wind up feeling miserable and stuck as my career stagnated in my early thirties.
I bought a book and studied for the GMAT over the course of 4 weeks. Despite having lost all of the academic self-discipline I acquired in undergrad, I made it through the exam with an excellent score. I had graduated from my bachelors degree with a high GPA so that combined with my GMAT score gave me a lot of options for MBA programs across Canada. I did not consider any MBA programs in the US or abroad because, hello, cost!
After seriously considering Queens, Sauder, and Rotman, I settled on the Haskayne of Business at the University of Calgary for a number of reasons not the least of which are…:
- Affordability. At $20,000 per year, this is one of the cheapest MBA programs in Canada.
- Scholarships. I was wooed by a few schools, but Haskayne offered the most funding proportional to my tuition bill.
- High national and international rankings
- Calgary has the largest concentration of corporate offices in Canada, which translates to excellent post-graduation employment prospects.
- Calgary is the best place to live in Canada
- Close enough to my hometown to easily visit family
- Far away from my hometown to avoid people
- My cousin lives here and is amazing
- Calgary has a grossly disproportionate number of single men to single women
I received my acceptance in May 2013 and gave my notice at work the same day. I stayed in Edmonton until the end of August, before packing up and moving to Calgary to begin school the first week of September.
School is more or less what I expected, and I am more or less what I expected in school. I am grossly resentful of wearing a backpack, I miss collecting a biweekly paycheque, and my academic success depends wholly on the subject matter at hand. There are classes I love and classes I loathe, and I feel an immense amount of stress paying for all of them. Nevertheless, I am learning things, and the more weeks go by, the more certain I become that this was the right choice for me.
What am I going to do with an MBA?
I don’t know.
That answer is terrifying to everyone but me. I don’t know and I don’t really care right now. I’m not worried. I’ve never been worried about my career because I’m just going to do what I’m going to do, and I’m going to have a good time doing it, so there’s really no reason to make a fuss.
At this point, I’m interested in a whole bunch of different things and I’m still working out where my skills, talents, and interests are. I haven’t found what I’m supposed to do yet, but to quote Steve Jobs: “as with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it… So keep looking, don’t settle”.
I’m not striving for a particular title or salary, but I am looking for a role that is challenging and rewarding, with lots of opportunity for growth. My ideal role will be something in leadership that serves a strong, close-knit community, but what exactly that role is and how to get there remains to be seen. With just over 1.5 years to graduation, I’m not feeling any anxiety about my future career yet.
And that’s the story!
Getting my Master’s degree was one of the best things I did for myself in terms of personal growth. I’m sure I will have more opportunities because of it in the future, but if all I ever got from it was personal growth, it was still money well spent for me.
Best of luck with the MBA. It can really boost your career chances if you play the card right 😉
I have my MBA with an emphasis in Finance and I wouldn’t change a thing, even though I am self-employed now. And I agree with you, it’s also nice to say that I have my Masters! 🙂
I love that Steve Jobs quote too. Good luck with the MBA Bridget. The future looks bright for you. 🙂
I’m glad that you’re enjoying the program, at least.
I don’t think that picking an MBA over another undergrad is just a vanity thing, it makes complete sense!
Are any of those books good or would you recommend them outside of the context of an MBA? I read a lot of business books…
Just “How Will You Measure Your Life?” the rest, particularly the textbooks, are pretty blah. I try to avoid reading textbooks for the most part and just learn from class lectures, but if you’re looking for technical knowledge without a lecture I think they’re pretty good.
That is a lot of books. I don’t think I’ve gotten that many text books over the two years I’ve been working on my masters. Although I buy a kindle version if it exists to save some money. I understand the “shallow” desire of saying you have a masters. One of the reasons I choose to pursue mine is a masters commands a higher salary vs a 2nd bachelors degree.
Bridget, it’s great that you have such a peaceful attitude about the future. It can be really hard to enjoy the ride while others are freaking out for you. Congrats!
Good luck with that MBA 🙂 My greatest fear is to go BACK to school because of the exams. The rest I can handle.. the studying sucks.
Congrats and best of luck! Especially with the single men 😉
It’s cool to hear your perspective because I casually kick the idea of doing an MBA around every now and then as well. But even after being away from school for 2 years, I don’t really have excitement to get back into that life and that grind. Like you said, it’s so nice having a paycheque come in on a regular basis.
Good luck! This must be such an exciting time. I sometimes day-dream about going back to school, but it’s probably because now, in hindsight, I’ve romanticized my university days. Having to take exams again would probably suck. With that said, you have a whole new world of opportunity opening up. Plus, the social life aspect of being in school is pretty sweet.
I miss school, so I’m sorta jealous of you. I have two master’s including my MBA and a master’s in a specialized field. Right now, I’m not sure my MBA is any good really. But, I think in a couple of years, I’ll be glad I have it. It has become the new college degree. Everybody has it. I truly enjoyed school. Having a paycheck is nice though….
I love that quote from Steve Jobs. I am always going back and forth about going for my MBA. Right now isn’t the time, but I know I’ll eventually want to go for it! Not without researching my options of course 🙂
I graduate from business school next spring… it was SO expensive (I try not to think about exactly how much it cost… suffice to say I could afford a 20% down payment on a half-million dollar house with what was spent on my MBA), but I’ve made great friends and in large part because of the degree and the school, I was able to get an internship in my field and secure a full-time job offer. Best of luck with your program!