How to know when you're ready for an MBA

By Eileen Jacob

If you’ve been considering whether now is the right time for an MBA, you’ve probably thought about timing, family, career path, your partner—the list goes on.

Because there’s never just one thing happening in life, and the question, “Am I ready for an MBA?” can produce varied, if not conflicting, answers. Many Berkeley MBA students have asked this question and considered the same factors.

Read how students from each of the three Berkeley-Haas programs (Full-time MBA, Evening & Weekend MBA, MBA for Executives) knew they were ready.

Executive MBA student Alejandro Maldonado, founder and CEO of Flow Studios, realized pursuing an MBA was essential to advancing his company. As an entrepreneur and CEO, he knew that an MBA would be good not only for himself, but also for his business.

“I have been running my company for eight years. I didn’t have a formal business education, and I knew that scaling would be challenging with our B2B service. I knew an MBA would help me be better prepared to make the best possible decisions for my company and further develop my entrepreneurial career,” he recalls.

Plus, Alejandro knew the EMBA program’s class schedule would allow him the freedom to keep running his company while getting his degree. As it turns out, business school grew not only his skills, but also his network.

“I quickly found that all the classmates and alumni are really tightly connected, and are some of the most amazing people you will get to know. It’s pretty easy to find your next co-founder inside your cohort!”

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Full-time MBA grad George James and familySimilarly, full-time student George James knew it was time to get an MBA when he felt he’d plateaued in his role at an oil and gas company and wanted to explore other industries.

“The company was doing well and I had been successful in accomplishing several initiatives, like creating an inventory control system, developing and implementing an export strategy, and revamping overall operations. But I had peaked and wasn’t feeling fulfilled by the industry. I knew I wanted to work on bigger projects [in tech] that touched the lives of millions,” he says.

George also has a wife and three children, so his family situation contributed to his decision to pursue an MBA. “When I started the program we had an 18-month-old and a new born who were young enough to not miss me if I was busy studying a lot,” he says.

Sydnie ReedSydnie Reed of the full-time MBA program also knew the time for an MBA had come when she needed more from her career—and a new place to call home. “I felt I needed the skills and knowledge that an MBA could provide, particularly with regards to understanding all aspects of a business, from HR to accounting to financial reporting and how that affects your ability to execute on strategic priorities identified within different parts of the organization.”

Plus, she continues, “I was also living abroad before coming to Haas, and going back to school was an excellent way to ‘re-enter’ the US.”

EWMBA grad Rob KazmarekRobert Kazmarek of the Evening & Weekend MBA Program, who relocated from an abroad position in Japan, decided it was time for an MBA after getting inspired by the UC Berkeley executive education classes he took. 

Timing and a lack of fulfillment in his job also moved him to make the leap. “I realized my growth, which I am so passionate about and dedicated to, was on the wrong end of the S-curve. I had always aspired to join the Berkeley-Haas community, and, as is the case in many aspects of my life if I find something that attracts or interests me, I don’t often challenge that feeling—instead, I run towards it.” 

Anca PopviciStill, not everyone knows when they’re ready for an MBA, like evening and weekend MBA student Anca Popovici, senior manager of global demand generation for RES Software. “For me, being ready for the next big challenge is usually mental; it's the difference between being prepared and being ready,” says Anca.

“I was waiting for the 'right' time and was lucky to have someone in my life who helped me see the opportunity ahead,” she says. “In this case, it was my manager. He recognized that the timing was in fact right for the next big challenge.

“His trust helped me understand that waiting was not good enough for me anymore, and I had to play my cards or else I would regret not trying. And he was right. The Berkeley MBA allowed me to grow professionally without pressing ‘pause’ on life.”

Is it the right time for you? If you are considering all the factors in your life and want more guidance, download our free e-book, Five Signs You're Ready for an MBA.

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And, if you know you're ready and are in search of MBA application tips, see our guide to crafting your best MBA application.

Posted on June 17, 2016
Themes: Applying
Eileen Jacob
Eileen was Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals from 2017-2019. She enjoyed meeting prospective students and helping them explore the benefits of an MBA, and hopes these blog posts provide valuable insight into the Berkeley MBA experience.