Last year, I started my MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and wrote here about why it is a better choice than studying in a full time programme. Full of enthusiasm, I said that you apply what you learn in class in your job, build your network and don’t have to give up an income while you study. A year has gone by and I am now in the middle of a very demanding programme and a very full time job. I am often asked if I would advise others to take the same path and the answer is nuanced. Working and studying full time has its benefits, but it is also very demanding. If you are thinking about this option, here are some points to consider:
Does your boss have an MBA? Doing an MBA and working full time will have an impact on your colleagues and your boss. You will have to take time off work to attend classes, which means that your colleagues will have to be accommodating to your needs. This will be a far easier process if your boss has an MBA and sees the value of the degree.
What do you want to get out of it? There will be times when all you want to do is relax in front of Netflix after a demanding day at work, but instead you will be sitting with your head in an accounting book or trying to figure out how to use your financial calculator. If you do not have a clear idea of why you need this degree, you are far more likely to decide it’s not worth it after all. You will have to give up friends’ parties, walks in the park and your hobbies. Make sure you really want this before you get on this road, otherwise you might end up doing an embarrassing and expensive U turn.
Remember you can’t have it all. You simply will not have enough hours in the day for work, study and life. This means that some things will not be done as well as they were before you started the MBA/work journey. Maybe you will be less healthy because you have no more time for the gym, maybe you will not get the most out of every lecture because you are tired. Don’t be disappointed if things are not perfect. You have to remember that sometimes just turning up is already winning half the battle.
What about your family? MBA courses are notorious for their divorce rates and have even been dubbed “divorce degrees” by some. If this is true for full time courses, where students have more free time, it is even more so for the Executive MBA. If you are in a relationship, plan what your life will be like on this journey with your partner. You will have less time and energy for your family, so make sure they are ready and supportive of your choice.
Be prepared for unexpected changes. The MBA should teach you more than just technical business skills, it should open you up to new opportunities and uncover talents and interests you did not know you had. This is an exciting and rewarding process, but it is also disruptive. Many Executive MBA students report going into the programme with one aim, which evolves to be something different. Maybe you will decide to leave your industry or move home. If you are starting a programme, don’t think that your attitude at the start will be the same when you graduate.
The Executive MBA is a great experience, which will give you skills, introduce you to new friends and open new career doors. However, it is not for the faint hearted and requires a serious long term commitment from you, your colleagues and your family. Make sure you’re prepared.
This post was originally posted on Forbes.com.