Should I get an MBA to get a great finance job?

An MBA is still one of the most respected and the most traditional degree to help you get promoted in the world of finance (and/or switch careers within or into finance). How important the MBA truly is, however, depends largely on what type of career you are looking for on the Street. For example, while an MBA isn't the only advanced degree that will help you move up in investment banking, it is what the vast majority of analysts aim for and the most common path along the road from analyst to associate. However, for many traders and hedge fund managers, the MBA is less useful and some of these firms may even look down on the degree.

Why Get an MBA

Clearly, the industry you are most interested in plays an important role in whether or not you should attend business school. Are you interested in investment banking or want to try and accelerate your promotional track in private equity? Do you want to switch careers into another area of finance? Do you want that coveted corporate strategy position> If you answered "yes", then an MBA might be right for you. Are you more interested in trading, hedge funds and being closer to the markets? Then you might want to do more research on the subject. In these last cases, an MBA from a top school still makes sense, but it is very specific to the individual and firm. If you are already in the finance industry, going to business school may help you move up the ladder, switch to a different firm, switch industries or break into the buy side. If you are in another industry such as consulting or marketing, going to a top MBA program is the best way to switch to an industry such as investment banking and vice versa.

Importance of Ranking

Going to a top business school (think Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, etc) won't guarantee you a spot anywhere, but it will make the job search a lot easier. Coming from a lower level business school (think outside of the top 20, or a b-school that's not strong regionally), you will be facing a far more difficult battle than your undergraduate counterparts. If you can't get into a strong business school, whether nationally or regionally, it might be a good idea to get a couple more years of work experience and then try applying again.

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