If you’ve ever expressed interest in getting a Master of Business Administration (MBA) years after earning your bachelor’s degree, you’re not alone. People consider going back to school after years in the workforce for a number of reasons. Some have work experience and believe continuing their education will help them move up the career ladder. Others want to make a complete career change but don’t want to start their education from scratch. In both cases, the versatility of an MBA can help them reach their goals.
Getting a master’s degree later in life presents its own set of challenges, and many people worry that it’s too late to go back to school or that they have too many responsibilities. If you’re thinking about returning for an MBA after being out of college for years, no doubt you’ve had similar thoughts. Thankfully, regardless of your circumstances, there’s a program out there that’s perfect for you. A degree such as the Online Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business may be just what you need to reach your professional goals.
What You Need to Know About Going Back to School
Returning for your MBA won’t be the same experience as undergrad, even from a logistical standpoint. If you had relevant work experience to pad your undergraduate education, you were the exception. Now, you’ll likely have a few years — perhaps even decades — of professional history under your belt. You might be afraid that this could compromise your candidacy, assuming the admissions office will put your application aside in favor of a younger student who needs help breaking into the professional world.
On the contrary, real-world experience helps rather than hinders your application. In fact, the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland highly recommends you have at least two years of work experience detailed on your résumé. A history of employment proves to both admissions staff and your future professors that you already have self-discipline and can stick to a schedule.
In addition to preparing a résumé, you should expect to compile a variety of information about yourself and your experience on your application, such as:
- Letters of Recommendation: Because of their years of work experience, returning students often have a number of people to choose from to endorse their applications.
- Record of Prior Education: To apply to an MBA program, applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree and may need to have a minimum grade-point average.
- Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)/Graduate Record Examinations (GRE): Not all programs require applicants to take standardized tests, but some expect applicants to submit GMAT or GRE scores.
- Fees and Tuition: Many programs require an application fee, and if accepted, students will be required to pay tuition. Luckily, for those seeking federal aid, there is no age limit to receive federal loans, and other options are also available to applicants.
While compiling these documents can seem intimidating after having taken time away from school, you have many resources to turn to, and colleges have entire departments dedicated to helping students through the application process. With the combined experience of an undergraduate degree and having joined the workforce, many graduate students find themselves well prepared to take on a master’s program and have the maturity to make the most of their return to education.
Going Back to School as an Adult
By the time many mature students are considering a return to school, they have a variety of responsibilities to prioritize, and the prospect of paying for an MBA can be daunting. To achieve a work-life balance while paying for school, many students turn to online or part-time programs that allow them to continue working.
Scholarships are another way to reduce the cost of education. Some are available to any student over 18, while others are geared toward those who are at least 25, 35 or even 60. In addition, you can apply for a federal income tax credit designed to help people who are saving or paying for college. These credits don’t go directly toward your tuition — rather, they reduce your income tax burden.
One advantage of joining the workforce and then going back to school as an adult is that many individuals can find a company that they want to grow with by continuing their education. Many companies are willing to help pay for an advanced degree, allowing students to maintain job security and making an MBA that much more achievable.
How Your Current Skills Can Help You Earn Your MBA
Many of the skills that apply to working in a company make strong and dedicated students, setting them up to make the most of their MBA experience.
Going back to school as an adult to earn an MBA will be hard. You’ll study difficult subjects, including data models, corporate finance, accounting and information systems, all while juggling your professional and personal obligations. When things get tough — and they most certainly will at times — packing up your books and leaving may be tempting.
If you ever consider dropping out, remind yourself why you decided to pursue an MBA in the first place. It could be an increase in salary. According to PayScale, Master of Business Administration graduates earned a median annual salary of approximately $91,000 as of September 2021, while those with a Bachelor of Arts in Business made around $62,000 per year.
Motivation is especially important when earning your degree online. This option is perfect for a more experienced student, as it allows flexibility to incorporate coursework into your busy schedule. At the same time, this also means no one is holding you accountable, so a healthy dash of self-discipline is key to staying on track.
This trait is crucial to succeeding in an MBA program. You already have numerous other obligations, including work, family, friends and bills. Some of these will have to take a back seat, but others will always remain a priority.
The best way to juggle all of your commitments is to remain organized. If you’re a working adult with a family, you’re likely already used to waking up, heading to the office and picking up children on time, so you’re ahead of most younger students in that regard. Adding classes to the mix means your life will shift dramatically, so you need to create a schedule. Plan out when you need to be at work, in class, completing homework and taking care of your personal life — and then stick to it.
Business isn’t all formulas and analytics. That data is important, but what a leader does with information determines a company’s success or failure. Throughout your studies and in your personal life, you’ll have to determine the most effective, efficient way to reach a particular goal. You’ll have to compromise, negotiate and think outside the box to reach your objective. Thinking critically allows you to make the best decisions possible.
A Collaborative Spirit
A business can’t succeed on the strength of one person alone. This is important to keep in mind when going back to school as an adult. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded students, experienced teachers and successful alumni, all of whom can be great resources to learn from. You’ll work with people of all ages once you graduate, if you haven’t already, and standing side by side with your younger peers provides unique insights to their generation. Most likely, you both will have a lot to learn from each other.
Plan for the Future with an MBA
The idea of going back to school after years away from higher education can be daunting, but for many graduates, pursuing an MBA opens up exciting new doors, making them eligible for supervisory roles, with more job responsibilities and higher salary.
With its online curriculum, dedicated staff and extensive alumni network, the Online Master of Business Administration from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland was designed to help you succeed. At UMD, we know that with the right help, it is never too late to go back to school and take the next step toward your goals. Discover what you can do with an MBA from UMD today.
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Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service, Tax Benefits for Education
Federal Student Aid, “Adult Student College Prep Checklist”
PayScale, Bachelor of Arts (BA), General Business Degree
PayScale, Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree
Turbotax, “Take Advantage of Two Education Tax Credits”
U.S. News & World Report, “What an Executive MBA Is and Reasons to Get One”