A real student talks about how he strikes a balance between school and work
Everyday people just like you are going back to school to further their educations and are learning how to become nurses, computer technicians, and even teachers. One of the more popular degrees for adult students is an MBA, a Master of Business Administration. An MBA can help you become a successful manager, executive or even CEO.
Mike C., a Washington, D.C. native, is currently enrolled in business school and is on his way to receiving his MBA. We sat down with Mike to find out what it’s like to have a full-time job while you’re working toward your business degree.
Where are you attending business school?
George Washington University School of Business in Washington, D.C.
What business degree program are you in?
I’m in their Accelerated MBA program; GWU School of Business offers a few options for professional MBAs. Their flex program takes three years; the accelerated MBA program only takes two. It’s designed in the part-time format, but it’s pretty much a full-time curriculum. We’re completing 52.5 credit hours in about 22 months; anywhere between 9 and 11 credits per semester.
What do you do full time?
I work for an association management company; we are a full-service management company and consulting firms for associations. I work as an operations manager on multiple healthcare association clients.
What surprised you most about attending business school?
How hard it was to adjust back to being a student. I love to read, but I don’t love to read this much. Balancing all the assignments with work was very difficult, and several students even left the MBA program as a result. But once you get in the groove of it and figure out how to navigate the various courses and professors, it becomes like second nature.
What are some challenges of getting your business degree and working?
The same stuff everybody deals with all the time; work-life balance, just intensified. Finding time for your significant other (a wife, in my case), your family and friends, and yourself can be hard. It’s really difficult to make all of those things work, and you learn new prioritizing and multi-tasking skills. Stuff I had always put on my resume, but now I feel I actually earned those skills.
Is the business degree program affordable? If not, is financial aid offered?
GW is actually one of the most expensive undergrad programs in the country, but their professional MBA program is very affordable, comparably. Financial aid is offered, and the student loan process is very streamlined.
What do you like best about business school?
Meeting new people. The network I have made has already benefited my career; I got my foot in the door at my current job through somebody I met in the MBA program (I just started my current job in January). I’ve made friends who will last a lifetime. And of course, I’ve learned a substantial amount of skills and knowledge.
What is your least favorite thing about it?
The weekend classes; I miss weekend trips to New York and the mountains and beach. Those don’t happen anymore. But that was just the first year; I’m entering my second year now, where classes are just held on weeknights, so I’ll be overdosing on Manhattan and the Blue Ridge Mountains shortly.
What classes are you currently taking toward your business degree?
The first year taken as a cohort is all the core classes; that’s what I’ve finished so far. Finance, Accounting, Marketing, Operations, Statistics, etc. Right now I’m taking Business & Public Policy, Human Capital Management, and Entrepreneurship. I get to start taking electives soon, and will be taking courses with a business/government relations and international focus.
What do you hope to do with your business degree when you graduate?
I would love to get into international business, particularly a government relations type of job. Ideally, I’d work for a smaller consulting firm that works with international companies doing business in the states, or helping U.S. companies expand their business to emerging markets.
What was your undergrad major?
English! I couldn’t have strayed much further than this. I actually started in business school in undergrad, but didn’t like the program at JMU. Plus, I was 19; I wanted to work as little as possible.
Has any of your work experience helped you with school?
Absolutely. The MBA program is geared towards working professionals, so they model the classes around the fact that we have experience to bring to the table. There are some classes where my experience wouldn’t translate, such as statistics and finance. But there were finance professionals in those courses who had a lot to contribute. For operations, marketing, policy, and human resources, I was able to apply my work towards my schooling, and vice versa.
What should prospective business students know?
Be committed. You can’t go into an MBA program like this without a complete desire to make it through, regardless of the hurdles. Also, it takes time to adjust back to being a student; don’t rush it and don’t get frustrated. Most of the other MBA students are in the same boat.
Anything else you’d like to add?
It’s definitely an advantage to undertake a program like this with as little professional responsibility as possible; the younger students certainly benefit from not having demanding jobs. I waited until I was 30 to go back to school, so it’s a little different for me. That being said, I wouldn’t go back in time and start earlier if I could; I very much enjoyed my post-undergrad years, traveling and enjoying life. I just knew it was time to go back. So don’t force it, no matter what; you’ll know when it’s time to go, and you’ll be able to make it work. If you feel like waiting, wait. It worked for me.
Interested in getting your business degree, but not sure if you have the time? Online business degree programs offer flexible class schedules for working adults. Find a business degree program near you.