9 to 5ish: Dean Erika James

Published on: Aug 18, 2021fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round

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We heard from a lot of you that you have questions about whether to pursue your MBA or another business degree. So we asked an expert. Erika James is the dean of the Wharton School at UPenn, the oldest business school in the country. So she’s got tips on how to know if you’re ready to get that degree - and how to know if an MBA isn’t the right path for you. Plus: she tells us the do’s and dont’s of the application process. 

On How To Know If You’re Ready To Get an MBA

Dean James: I think the first question is: why are you even considering this? What do you know about the MBA degree and what do you think it will do to facilitate some aspect of your life? And I think, you know, the MBA degree is quite popular. So people know of it. There is a perception that it creates a certain type of professional in the world. And so I think people make choices based on that perception without really asking themselves, "What is it that I want to gain or learn from a business education?" So I think that's an important foundation. 

On How To Know If You Aren’t Ready

Dean James: If they can't articulate their understanding of what the degree is, they're probably not ready. If they cannot articulate why they want the degree and identify a pathway about how this degree will help advance some set of goals that they want to achieve, then they're probably not ready. Might they be ready later? Yes, absolutely. Because we all evolve and grow and mature and learn different things. But I wouldn't necessarily advise everyone to automatically assume that once you graduate from college, you do the prerequisite 3, 4, 5 years of work experience and then automatically go back to an MBA because it's not a degree for everyone.

On Thinking Through The $$$

Dean James: I think it's the same as thinking about the financial cost of any investment you're making in yourself, right? So if you were considering higher education and it was not the MBA, but it was a Masters in Fine Arts or Masters in Fashion Design...there's still a cost associated with that. And you've got to look to determine whether or not the cost of that, both in terms of the financial cost, but also in terms of your time and the opportunity costs of what you could be doing in lieu of earning that advanced degree. So that argument applies regardless of which degree you're looking to pursue.

Skimm'd by Alex Carr and Andrew Callaway


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