A business degree opens up a wide array of high paying careers, while an MBA allows many to move into a variety of leadership positions. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re ready to earn a business degree. Nor does it mean that the school you’re considering is a good choice. A lot of people have a romantic idea of what it’s like to study business or work in the field, but you need to be realistic before you start looking at schools and programs. You also have to make sure that you have the qualities to thrive in that field. Here are 7 questions you need to ask yourself before you pursue a business degree.

Why Do I Want a Business Degree?

Don’t earn a business degree because you think it is less challenging than other programs. Also, don’t get a business degree because other people told you to do so. Some people pick business simply because they don’t know what they really want to do and it’s a convenient choice for them. 

Before you start, you have to be able to explain how the business degree could benefit you. Perhaps it’s the in-depth business knowledge you need to start your own business. Or, maybe it allows you to work in accounting or marketing – the field you’ve always wanted to enter.

Being able to answer this question allows you to choose a school that offers you the content you want, whether it is a degree focusing on entrepreneurship or economics. You’ll also be able to choose the right major, be it international business, human resources, management, marketing, or economics. While dual degrees are becoming popular, don’t waste extra time and money switching majors or earning two degrees because one doesn’t cut it.

Is the School Accredited?

If the program isn’t accredited, employers may not recognize it. Furthermore, unaccredited schools may simply take your money without teaching you anything of value. 

On the other hand, accreditation simply sets a floor for academic quality. You can determine how strong the academics are by asking questions, but asking about accreditation comes first. Being recognized by the Department of Education is a good first step.

If you want an example of an accredited online MBA check out this page. A program like this will allow you to gain invaluable theoretical and hands-on experience while preparing you for the workforce. You want to look for a program that is accredited by the AACSB or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This accreditation proves that they enforce quality standards in their business and accounting programs.

Is the University a Fit for Me?

Find out if the school is a match for your career goals, your values, and your expectations. Talk to the professors and current students and see if you fit with the campus culture. Don’t fall in love with the buildings or the tour guide. Find out what the professors’ teaching styles are and the academic expectations, and determine if this is something that works for you. Be careful of committing to a program that requires time you don’t have.

Also, make sure to read plenty of online reviews of the campus. Do they offer clubs that help you explore your interests? Do they provide opportunities to expand your skill sets while still on campus? Are the professors effective educators? For example, not all professors are good at teaching online classes though they may be great in the classroom. This is again where choosing an accredited program from a reputable school is essential.

What Are the Prerequisites and Requirements for Their Degree?

Read the list of courses that every student must take to graduate with the degree. Do they allow you to take electives you want as part of the main program, or will there be additional classes you have to take? The ideal school will teach you the skills you want without requiring you to pay for extra classes.

On the flip side, do you have the necessary math, science, and other courses in your transcripts? Or will you have to take catch-up classes before you can move on to core courses? These are all things you’ll need to answer before you make your choice.

Does the School Offer Career Assistance?

Does the school help students to find internships while they’re in school, giving them an invaluable understanding of the professional world before they graduate? Do they provide work-integrated learning, so that you understand how your theoretical knowledge applies in the real world? Does the school help people find jobs in the industry after they graduate? While an alumni network and on-campus career fairs help, it is better to choose a school that helps you find a job after graduation.

Research their job placement rate. The ideal school has a track record for finding new graduates relevant jobs upon graduation. The best schools have salary data that lets you verify the value their degree provides, whether it is bachelor’s degree holders getting good jobs or MBA graduates securing promotions and pay raises. Find out if the college’s reputation carries over into the business world, such that holding a degree from that school makes you a preferred candidate.

What Does It Cost?

Consider the total cost of the degree program. Tuition is only part of it. If you’re attending class in person, you need to budget for time and travel. You may need to buy a new computer, whether you are taking classes on campus or online. What kind of fees does the school tack onto the bill? You may have to pay technology fees and buy textbooks every semester, so pay special attention to that.

Your current life situation could also affect how much you’ll have to spend. Will you need to pay for childcare while you take classes? If you can’t work while taking the classes, how will you pay for room and board? You’ll need to have a clear idea of the total costs of not only school but dealing with a possibly limited income.

Another thing you should do is research the availability of financial aid. Don’t assume you’ll get scholarships or loans. Also, look for ways that you could lower the cost. You might be able to save money by taking classes online, though this depends on the online program having the same quality as classes held in their brick and mortar buildings.

Suppose you’re considering their online program due to the lower cost, greater convenience, or the ability to continue working. Ask yourself if the program is as good as the traditional one and if the online degree is equally valued by employers. The best way to know this is to look at the school rankings. Employers have no way of telling how someone got their degree; all they know is from which school and program you graduated. So, you must get this information before you make your pick.

Does Their Schedule Fit Mine?

If you want to enroll at a given school, make sure the classes are available when you are. Learn when professors are available for questions and when study groups meet. Know how much time you’ll have to spend doing homework, projects, and research papers every week. Find out their key dates from applying for final exams.

This is again where online programs shine. If you feel like you have the discipline for it, you could take asynchronous courses on your own time. If you need more structure, you can take your classes on a fixed schedule. You can shorten or lengthen the course of your studies, or take classes after work once you get home.

Do I Have the Skills to Make it?

But, most important of all, do you have what it takes to make it in business? The idea and reality of business are two completely different things. It can be stressful. You also have to be ready to work long hours. The stress could come from meeting production objectives, PR blunders, or facing sanctions that could ruin a company. Unless you have a strong tolerance to stress and can work under pressure, things will be very difficult for you in a corporate setting.

You also need to have strong communication skills, be able to process vast amounts of data fast, have strong problem-solving skills, and be creative as well. Those who are creative are those who can find new ways to solve old problems and aren’t afraid to change outdated or inefficient processes.

Social skills are another very important part of business. There might be some introverts here or there that were able to make it, but for the most part, you’ll need to have a strong personality, be able to bring different groups together, and have a certain dose of assertiveness. Negotiation skills will also be important, whether it’s when trying to change culture in a company, orchestrating mergers, or working with different partners.

Business is the most popular college degree in the United States because of how many opportunities it opens up. However, you need to do your homework to verify that a given program is going to help you achieve your dreams and know if the field is actually for you.