How to Know When to Pursue an MBA

For many adults, hitting the graduate school trail — especially if it's been some time since earning a bachelor's degree — can be intimidating. Some, like Bret Borshell, see the MBA track as an obvious choice, a chance to advance in his career. But how can you know when it's the right time?

Borshell, who works as food and beverage director at the Kensington Golf & Country Club in Naples, wanted to get his MBA before turning 50. (He's 46 now.) He did quite a bit of research, looking at about a half dozen programs, including three in the Sunshine State.

Then he checked out Florida Atlantic University, and he knew: "I'd found the right program."

For Borshell, finding the right place made it the right time. Today, he's a first-year MBA student at FAU.

Every MBA has a different story to tell about getting in the game. But Borshell's experience shows how, for just about any student, right MBA program takes trepidation out of the equation, letting a candidate focus on one of the toughest hurdles of all: just getting started.

Overcoming inertia, filling out forms, writing essays, visiting the campus — it's a lot of work if you're holding down a job and raising a family. Yet an increasing number of people are making the leap to get that MBA.

U.S. Department of Education statistics show that for 2011 and 2012, nearly 192,000 students graduated with advanced business degrees. That accounts for one in four master's degrees — more than any other discipline — and also marks a 31% increase from 2005 to 2006, when slightly more than 146,000 degrees were conferred.

For many, an MBA was the next logical step in their careers because they'd reached the limit in terms of how far they could go.

"In some cases, promotions are being blocked because of written or unwritten requirements for more education," said Ken Johnson, Ph.D., professor and associate dean of graduate programs at Florida Atlantic University's College of Business.

Some prospective students see an MBA as a ticket to higher pay. "You're probably looking at a salary increase of $15,000 to $20,000 per year" with an MBA, Johnson said. "Some people will make way more money. But more importantly, it's going to open up lots of lifetime opportunities, especially if you're seeking other challenging options for yourself."

That's what lured Erci Moisa to make a sharp turn in his life and pursue an MBA.

"I always saw myself as having a goal, but when I completed my bachelor's in computer science I felt a void," said Moisa, a recent MBA graduate at FAU. He finished the financial analyst program in 2013 and now works in healthcare finance in Delray Beach.

"I thought, "˜I'm done with that. Now what I do?' Then someone I knew said, "˜What about getting an MBA?'" Moisa wrestled with whether it was time to get the MBA until he started his first classes at FAU — and found his calling.

"I didn't know what to expect or what I'd get out of the MBA," he recalled. "But after the first semester of taking finance that's when I said, "˜Wow.' The gap I was trying to close, the satisfaction, it was all there. And looking back, I can see that it was perfect. Two to three years ago I was working in a completely unrelated field. Now I have a skill set that's allowed me to transfer."

For Moisa, newfound skills in handling complex sets of numbers are complemented by something harder to quantify: satisfaction. And though he's much earlier in the process, Borshell can relate.

"I encourage students of all ages to go for it regarding the MBA program," he said. "I'm so glad I'm in the program. The classes are a challenge and I have learned a tremendous amount. And I can't say enough how wonderful my instructors have been."