Shopping for Biz School

By Lina Badih
Staff Editor

David Purewal, 29, just quit his job with TD Bank and is now ready to give his career a booster shot: an MBA. With a BBA and five years of work experience under his belt, Purewal believes an MBA is sure to enhance his career: "It's a rubber stamp."

Whether it's expertise, a heftier salary or a career boost that they're seeking, prospective MBA students all seem to agree on one thing: experience alone is not enough if you want to accelerate your climb up the corporate ladder.

While an MBA doesn't necessarily help you skip a few steps up the ladder, it definitely opens doors. "Part of doing an MBA is to figure out what I enjoy doing, and it gives me an opportunity to make a career change or change industries," says Cheryl Goymour, 26, a senior product manager at CIBC.

"If I decide to stay in financial services, doing an MBA is certainly looked upon favourably in the industry, but if I decide to move to consumer package goods marketing, which also interests me at this point, an MBA would help direct me into that industry."

For those running their own business, an MBA provides the know-how, transferable soft skills and, of course, networking opportunities including alumni get-togethers, in addition to the hard-core academics. After all, it's in biz school that you're supposed to make lifelong contacts with future industry leaders.

Shaheen Mohamed, 32, who owns a Web-design company, is hoping to do just that with an MBA in technology. She would like to see her business grow but is not closing any doors. "An MBA will ultimately help with my company's growth, but I intend to explore all options, because that's what an MBA does: it opens other possibilities."

Focused on technology, Mohamed, who comes from a rather untraditional background for a prospective MBA student with education and work experience mainly in international affairs, is looking for "strong faculty, cutting-edge technology training, placements of former graduates and starting salaries." You should make sure, after all, that your investment will pay back in abundance.

In a fierce competition to attract students, an increasing number of schools are now tracking how much an MBA will raise a student's post-MBA salary. The salary increase, according to a survey conducted by Canadian Business magazine, varies from a minimum 33% to an astounding 183%.

Hefty tuition and hefty starting salaries usually go hand in hand. But many Canadian MBA programs still offer a decent bang for your buck when you consider how low their fees are, reports Canadian Business.

Money does not seem to be an issue for some who have been working for several years and have taken time out of their careers to do their MBAs.

"I couldn't care if I was making 40k or 80k. I want the qualifications so I can do something I'm interested in," says Purewal who is taking two years off to do his MBA.

But not everybody can quit their jobs to go to school. "I don't know how realistic it is to say that I'm going to quit my job and go back to school full-time. If I had the means to do it in two years, I would, but realistically, part-time is probably the option I'm going to go with," says Goymour.

Choosing a biz school is serious business. In essence, it boils down to finding a program that matches your individual needs. So take your time to research the schools and examine every aspect from faculty and ranking to financial aid and flexibility of class schedules. For starters, write a list of criteria, including location, schedule, tuition, etc. Next, log into and shop around for a program that caters to your own needs. At the end of the day, only you can judge which MBA is right for you.

Modified on April 23, 2009