You’ve had all you can stand. You love your job, but you’re sick and tired of being stuck at your desk working overtime, dreaming of a future in which you’ll actually have enough money to start investing in stocks and buy that modest, two-story colonial house you’ve been eyeing. Meanwhile some of your more seasoned-that is, better paid-colleagues have portfolios worth more than triple your salary and own enough property to start a small realty company.
You’ve racked your brain for every possible way to increase your biweekly post-taxes, post-rent, post-utilities, post-401(k) cash flow. After deep introspection and some serious career planning, you’ve decided on a logical solution to your dilemma: business school.
Traditionally, corporate fast-trackers-those who wanted to climb further up the ladder or make more money in their current private-sector positions-sought after master’s degrees in business administration. In the ’80s, an M.B.A. was seen as the ticket to business career success. In the ’90s, mergers and acquisitions, and technology, among other things, brought about unprecedented changes in the way business was conducted. Necessarily, business schools mutated along with them.
The result was B-school options that reflected the new marketplace, and a new breed of M.B.A.’s looking to make their mark in areas outside the conventional finance, marketing and accounting tracks. Today’s M.B.A.’s aren’t all corporate heads. Some graduates are bypassing the private-sector grind to become venture capitalists, run their own start-ups or dive into the tech sector.
According to statistics from the International Association for Management Education, the number of M.B.A.’s awarded has grown steadily, from 54,484 in 1980 to 93,982 in 1996-an increase of 58%.
“Extensive statistical data on the increase of M.B.A. programs with newer concentrations [such as information technology] isn’t readily available,” says Rachel Edgington, information services coordinator at the Graduate Management Admission Council in McLean, Virginia. “But considering that programs proliferate due to market demand, it is accurate to say that there has been a definite increase in degrees conferred in these areas.”
Even U.S. News and World Report, whose ranking of the nation’s best B-schools has long been the recognized standard, has acknowledged this shift by expanding its listing of the top B-schools by program to include other, previously nonexistent concentrations such as entrepreneurship and nonprofit organizations.
Having more paths from which to choose has led people like Crystal German to become prospective M.B.A.’s. She is leaving behind her job as a corps member in AmeriCorps, the national service program dedicated to tackling community problems, in Atlanta, to study nonprofit management this fall. “I decided that it’s important to me that what I do also directly benefits the community. But when it comes down to it, everything boils down to business,” says German, 25. “An M.B.A. will enable me to get in the door of a nonprofit environment and put me in the position I want to be in after I graduate.”
While there are many advantages to having an M.B.A., including increased earning potential and more career flexibility, it will do you little good if it doesn’t fall in