Beyond the MBA: Alternative Options for Career Advancement

RL08-25-2015Many professionals in all stages of their careers want to know what the next step is. Maybe you have an eye on an executive position at your company, or you may even desire owning your own business in the not-so-distant future. Either way, taking that next step in your career can sometimes require assistance. In the case of desiring change, the old idiom rings true—if you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.

Is the MBA the Holy Grail of Leadership?

One of the most common resolutions that comes to mind when deciphering what changes need to be made to push your career to the next level is attaining a Master of Business Administration (MBA). The MBA has become a fix-all solution to some who are struggling with a glass ceiling or dead-end job. The benefits are obvious—the program offers overall training to help manage employees in all facets of business, including accounting, financing, marketing, and operations. However, the cost of an MBA has been steadily growing in recent years. According to the most recent study from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the average cost of MBA tuition has risen exponentially from $32,473 in 2007 to $44,476 in 2012. Moreover, the average cost of an MBA among private schools has jumped 27% to $55,451. And while some schools offer flexible schedules, it can be extremely difficult to maintain current employment during the education process. So, professionals have to weigh not just the cost of tuition, but also the cost in lost earnings over the duration of the MBA program.

Thinking Outside the MBA

The overall cost and time requirements associated with an MBA make this a career option that may not be suitable for everyone. But fret not, there are plenty of other options that can elevate your career and help you achieve your goals in business. Before you decide which option is best, first answer these questions:

  • What job/position am I trying to land?
  • What are the skills/requirements to have that position?
  • What are some outside-the-box ways to achieve those skills/requirements?

Having a specific goal is imperative to knowing what changes are needed to achieve that position. The job you are looking at may not even require an MBA, but just a few skills that you don’t have yet. Though an MBA is great to get a broad education on business administration, a company may rather have a niche-type professional for the position you want. After you answer the first two questions, then you can start to think of ways to achieve those skills or requirements for the job. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Trade School – Also known as vo-tech or career-tech school, trade school is a great way to take classes for specific positions you will be managing once you get to the next level in your career. While an MBA offers guidance in many of these fields, night school would be great to hone in on particular skills your employees will use.

In-house Employee Development – Many companies offer employee development programs to those wanting to better themselves. These programs could range from offering cross-training among departments or simply paying for a percentage of schooling. This is a great place to start.

Part-time/Freelance Work – If you want to gain more overall experience in a certain field, it may behoove you to work the specific jobs you would be managing. Part-time and freelance work can show your determination to better understand the ins and outs of a company, as well as your ability to work with different individuals.

Certifications –Professional certifications are becoming a popular alternative to an MBA. They are accessible to individuals in all fields, and options include Project Management Professional, Certified Marketing Professionals, and Certified Public Accountant, among others. The great aspect of this option is it’s job specific and shows that you are an expert in a particular field.

Weighing Your Options

Though it may seem you’ve hit a glass ceiling while scaling the corporate ladder or you’ve hit a dead end at your current company, going back to school to get an MBA isn’t the only option you have. If you do your homework to find specific skills and experience needed for the promotion you have your eyes on, you may find that your dream is just a step or two away.

What are some alternative training programs you’ve done in lieu of an MBA? How has foregoing grad school for a professional certification helped your career? Let us know in the comments section below!

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