How to Transition to a New Career: Why an MBA Is The Answer

Throughout an MBA program, change is the one constant students can count on. Returning to school is a major adjustment for adult learners, of course, but one of the most profound changes students experience involves their careers. In fact, changing jobs and industries is one of the main reasons people pursue an MBA.

A 2015 report by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants found that 20 percent of men and women expected to start a business after earning their MBAs. And, in 2012, 70 percent of MBA students indicated they were planning to switch careers, according to a survey conducted by Veritas Prep, a provider of GMAT preparation services.

Stephanie Grant is one of those students — except she changed gears even before getting her MBA. Thanks to dual business programs at Florida Atlantic University, she went from teaching chemistry to working as an analyst for a hedge fund. "I wanted to go into finance, but didn't know how I was going to get there," says Grant, who completed FAU's Financial Analyst Program last May and will complete her Executive MBA in the spring.

For her, the FA program opened the door to the financial world and her EMBA will further broaden her prospects. Along with her education, Grant credits Dr. Rainford Knight, who leads FAU's FA program, as the catalyst who made her new career possible. Knight brings executives into the classroom, which gave Grant a taste of the different opportunities that awaited her and ultimately helped her choose the right path.

Knight says that the MBA allows for big career changes because of its versatility. "The MBA touches on different business disciplines," Knight says. "As a result, it prepares the student to better adjust to a new job role or a new career."

What's more, there's not only one type of MBA. At FAU, the options run the gamut from an Executive MBA, which prepares graduates for leadership roles, to an MBA in Sport Management. One popular track, the MBA in Hospitality Management, gives students entry into one of South Florida's hottest and fastest growing industries. (In Florida alone, close to 100 million tourists visit annually.) "For every 85 to 100 additional visitors, one direct or indirect hospitality and tourism job is created in the state," says Dr. Peter Ricci, a clinical associate professor and director of FAU's Hospitality Management programs.

But FAU's MBA program is beneficial even if a student doesn't have a clear sense of the change they hope to make. Erci Moisa, who graduated from FAU with an EMBA in 2012 and a Financial Analyst degree in 2013, knew he wanted out of the computer science world, but not much else. After his first semester, however, pieces started falling into place. "That's when I said, 'Wow.' The gap I was trying to close, the satisfaction, it was all there."

Moisa entered the field of healthcare finance, a specialized discipline within another booming South Florida industry. One way he was able to smoothly make such a major change was by drawing on his past experience and knowledge. Even though he didn't want to work in computer science, he learned that his former career could complement his new education, which helped bolster his confidence.

"I had a skill set that allowed me to transfer careers," he says. "You have to know about healthcare law but you also have to know how to work with the numbers. That's where my computer science background came in, and blending all that with finance is perfect."

Like Grant, Moisa says Knight was a crucial figure in his career transition. "Dr. Knight has a way of teaching where he takes a newspaper article from The Wall Street Journal and asks, 'How does this apply?' He's a fantastic professor, and the one who had a definite influence on what I'm doing."

Moisa and Grant are just two out of scores of FAU alumni who say the university's programs do more than prepare students to change careers or move into new professional roles: They help make it happen.