College students and young professionals often wonder whether attending a top graduate business school will set them up for career success.
An MBA degree is a popular stepping stone to C-suite jobs at large corporations, and it is also an asset for budding entrepreneurs. It's a credential that appears on the resumes of numerous Fortune 500 executives, including Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, who earned his MBA at the University of Tulsa, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, an MBA alumna of Harvard Business School.
But while many prominent business executives hold an MBA, the degree isn't a golden ticket to fame or fortune. According to MBA experts, excelling in business requires initiative, creativity and effort, regardless of someone's academic pedigree.
"There's nothing about getting an MBA that doesn't require initiative from that point all the way through your career," says Elissa Sangster, executive director of the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on encouraging women to attend MBA programs and pursue ambitious career goals. Sangster says an MBA degree from a quality business school can help people break into certain highly competitive business sectors such as Silicon Valley tech companies or the Wall Street finance industry. She adds that prospective MBA students who have dreams of working in major cities far from home can often benefit from earning their MBA at a nonlocal school.
"When you think about business school, there are so many great choices that are going to require you to pack up your apartment or your home and move across the country," she says. However, Sangster acknowledges that MBA hopefuls who have family commitments or want to stay at their current company may not want or need to attend a national B-school if that means moving across the country. She says career enhancers who are more focused on gaining skills than adding cachet to their resume can benefit from attending a regional B-school.
If you're intrigued by the possibility of earning an MBA degree but wonder whether the degree is a good fit for you, here's an outline of what you can expect to get out of an MBA program.