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When having an MBA is Important

By Beth Braccio Hering,
MBAs may not be required for some jobs, but the degree can open the door to more opportunities, say experts.
MBAs may not be required for some jobs, but the degree can open the door to more opportunities, say experts.
  • In a tough economy, an MBA can open doors for a new job.
  • An MBA can get you to a job faster than just having a bachelor's degree.
  • Jobs in investment banking or corporate finance may expect an MBA.
  • An MBA can fill in gaps in one's education.

( -- Some people view an MBA degree the same way that Charlie thought about his Golden Ticket in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory": They believe a piece of paper can magically transport you to a place you only imagined.

But can this addition to your résumé really be your dream ticket? Yes. No. Maybe.

There are no simple answers, but here are ways that an MBA might help you.

MBA could get you hired in a tough economy

Let's face it: If you had your pick between two candidates -- one with a BBA and one with an MBA -- who were both qualified for a job, wouldn't you take the one with the higher degree?

Because of the recession's affect on employment, many companies have a wealth of talent to pick from at the moment and some can afford to be choosy in their hiring. Candidates need to score every point possible, and a graduate degree may give that extra edge.

Read students trying to get a job in the tough economy

"A category of jobs that begins to show up more in a recession is one that says MBA desired or preferred versus MBA required," says Dennis Grindle, director of the SMU Cox School of Business MBA Career Management Center in Dallas, Tex. "These jobs tend to pay somewhere in between a BBA and an MBA. This allows an MBA to get into what they want to do by taking a step back to hopefully go forward later when economic times get better."

MBA may get you where you want to go faster

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"Having an MBA -- as opposed to just a bachelor's degree in business -- is sort of like traveling someplace by plane instead of taking the train. With either business degree, you may eventually wind up at your final 'destination' -- but the MBA will get you there faster," says Elizabeth Freedman, author of "The MBA Student's Job-Seeking Bible" and "Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace Without Hanging Yourself."

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Some of the opportunities an MBA degree may jump-start include:

• Managing larger teams
• Running meetings
• Greater interaction with clients
• More decision-making power
• Representing the company at events
• "Choicer" projects
• Responsibility for your own set of clients/projects

MBA is sometimes expected

"In certain organizations (top-tier consulting firms, for instance), having an MBA or an advanced degree is practically a requirement for certain positions," Freedman notes. "It's hard to move up without that credential, no matter how talented."

In this situation, the degree basically becomes a minimum qualification -- not your ace in the hole. To land the position, you are then expected to bring what Grindle calls "an A+ game" to the table, meaning that you have everything the employer is looking for and then some.

Grindle notes that whether a function requires an MBA or not may vary by company size, industry, state of the economy, and even geographical location. Still, there are fields that commonly utilize MBAs, including:

• Consumer Brand Marketing
• Corporation Finance
• Venture Capital
• Investment Banking
• Commercial Banking
• Production/Operations Management
• New Product Development
• Management Consulting
• Private Equity
• Strategic Planning/Business Development

MBA can round out an education

Some workers hold undergraduate degrees in fields other than business. By seeking an MBA, these employees can fill in possible gaps in their education as well as show their commitment to their field. Likewise, a person who already holds an undergraduate business degree but perhaps has been working in a different area can update his skills by seeking a graduate degree.

The decision whether or not to pursue an MBA is a tough one. It involves serious thought about money, time and career goals. But for those who decide that getting an MBA is the path they wish to take, the degree might open up a whole new world of possibilities.

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