Ultimate Guide to Getting an MBA and Choosing the Best MBA Program

Jun 7, 2017
10 min read

If you're a medical professional considering getting an MBA, you'll need to understand what's involved how to choose the best MBA program.

Being an Optometrist is great.

We get to prescribe contact lenses, treat ocular disease, interact with patients, and play with all our fun gadgets and gizmos.

And although we graduated from Optometry school, the learning never really stopped. Between Continuing Education and the constant slew of new products, drugs, and technology on the market, there is always something fresh to keep our minds working.

But perhaps your mind is churning, and you are thinking of getting another degree – this time, your MBA.

Who ever thought you’d want to become a student again?

What is an MBA?

“MBA” stands for “Masters of Business Administration.” It is a Master’s Degree based on Management and is intended to boost one’s skills required for business. It is the most sought-after graduate degree in the US and is well-known throughout the world.

People get an MBA for all sorts of reasons. Most professionals want to move up in their career, and likely obtain a management position. An MBA teaches you leadership and management skills, gives you a widely-recognized business credential, and allows you access to a learning community and alumni network that can work wonders.

It is a degree for leaders, as well as those who want to make a career shift.

Reasons for Pursuing an MBA

There are a number of reasons why doctors, in particular, pursue an MBA degree.

Often, experienced ODs want to boost their business acumen to help grow their practice or pursue new ventures. Young doctors may want to supplement their medical training in order to start their own practice with more footing, or seek an alternative career path that combines both sets of skills.

At the end of the day, it’s important to clarify why you want another graduate degree. What is your end goal, and what do you hope to accomplish? Once you can answer these questions without hesitation, you’re ready to dive in and choose the best MBA program for your goals and desires.
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MBA Program Format

Getting your OD degree is fairly cut-and-dry, though there are mild variances. An OD degree (in North America) will take you four years, consist of largely Monday-Friday classes and clinics with business-hour instruction, and include additional responsibilities some nights and weekends as things progress.

However, an MBA program is not built the same way.

There is a myriad of program formats, since the degree is geared toward a larger audience with a broader range of needs and interests.

  • Traditional – A 2-year, in-person program with daytime instruction, usually Monday-Friday. There is little room to work during these two years, except for internships. Often three years of post-undergrad working experience is needed to apply, but many programs also accept students with none. Some schools offer an accelerated 1-year program as well.
  • Nights & Weekends – Longer classes are held in-person, after business hours, on weeknights and typically on Saturdays to accommodate professionals who want to get their degree while working. Prerequisite work experience varies, as well as other qualifications. These programs last from 2 to 6 years, often because a student determines his or her own pace.
  • Online – As the newest format, many people are turning to the internet to meet their educational needs. Online programs vary all across the board, with several being quite good and offered by prestigious schools. Instruction is (you guessed it) online, so students who need more support (or lack motivation) might find an online program difficult to complete. However, buyer beware: there are also ill-reputed programs online as well - shocking, I know. Program length is also within the 2 to 6-year window.
  • Executive – A hybrid program, EMBAs are usually for skilled professionals who have worked for many years, and function at a higher level due to life experience. These programs vary in timeframe, cost, and commitment level. Usually, the purpose here is to offer an expedited track for experienced professionals to get their MBA degree.

Things to Consider When Choosing the Best MBA Program For You

There are several important considerations to make when setting off on this new adventure. Many aspects are similar to Optometry school, but they are likely going to impact you differently as a working adult, now accustomed to a certain standard of living.

  • Timeline – Accelerated programs can take as little as one year and part-time programs up to 6 years (typically one class per semester). Consider how quickly you’d like to earn your degree, and how factors like work and family play into that decision.
  • Cost – The price tag for business school is much more variable than Optometry school. Some programs through local institutions and online can be quite inexpensive (relatively speaking), while big-name traditional programs like Harvard and Stanford often outpace Optometry school in per-year tuition. An MBA degree in total can cost in the range of $20,000-170,000 depending on the program. Also, many employers will cover the cost of an MBA degree through a yearly allowance for tuition – inquire about it!
  • Location – MBA programs are everywhere; there are likely several around your area you never even knew existed. Decide if getting your MBA is worth relocation, or if a program near you meets your needs. If you are looking to network, pick a program in the area you want to live – that’s where your connections will be made.
  • Facetime – An enormous focus of an MBA program is interaction with professors and peers, building your network, and learning how to work with a team – more so than in Optometry school, where facts and figures and treatment plans are the holy grail. You’ll get facetime in spades at most MBA programs, but consider the experience lost by pulling the trigger on an online degree without tangible in-person contact. Student age is a wide differential too, so you’re never too old or too young, and everyone has something to bring to the table.
  • Accreditation – There are various forms of accreditation for MBA programs. The “gold standard” is an AACSB accreditation, typically held by traditional programs, many state institutions, and fewer online programs. After this comes ACBSP and IACBE accreditations, which hold less weight and focus on different aspects of a program. Do your research – just because a school claims it is “accredited,” it might not be the accreditation you’re after. Think of how your school’s name and prestige will be perceived by others if you’re looking for a new job.
  • Concentration (optional) – Many programs offer a “concentration” (think of it like a college major) in areas such as Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Finance, and Healthcare Administration. Keep in mind that many tried-and-true programs do not offer concentrations, and the program is just a general MBA. That is, a program that lacks concentrations is not necessarily a bad program. Students from business backgrounds often desire a concentration to give direction to their MBA, but as an OD, it is arguable that you already have one: Healthcare.
  • GMAT – Remember the joys of standardized testing? The GMAT is a computerized exam that tests your critical thinking in writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative analysis, and reading comprehension. Many programs let you opt out of the GMAT if you have a number of years of work experience under your belt; however, scholarships can also be based on GMAT scores.
  • Prerequisite Courses – Some programs don’t require any, but it is common to see Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, and Statistics as prerequisite courses, to name a few. Expect that the more expensive the program and the closer to a traditional format it is, the more prereqs you may need.

Evaluating a Program's Curriculum

Just like in Optometry school, MBA programs have a core curriculum that most students follow. There is room for elective courses and concentrations on various subjects, but students need to pass typical subject matter in order to graduate. Courses can include:

  • Accounting – How to manage records of company money and property.
  • Finance – How to calculate costs and revenue at various points in time based on many factors.
  • Marketing – How to get the word out about your products or services to potential customers.
  • Operations and Supply Chain – How to manage products and services from their most basic building blocks all the way up to delivering the final version.
  • Communication – How to write and communicate effectively with other professionals.
  • Management/Human Resources – how to effectively build and manage teams, and basic business protocol in personnel issues and problem-solving.
  • Law & Ethics – Pretty self-explanatory.

I can hear a lot of you thinking “But I wasn’t a business major!”

To that, I have to say…don’t sweat it.

Many MBA students were, but many were not. They come from all different backgrounds and are looking to acquire the same skills you are. Sure, your new classmate who majored in Accounting is probably going to ace that class, but you’d be surprised what skills you’ve picked up that others haven’t.

This is where teamwork plays an integral part in your success.

A Whole New World

An MBA degree can help any professional, regardless of work background. As doctors, business isn’t necessarily our forte, and yet we do business every day.

Bolstering your knowledge base with some additional skills can help flesh out your professional repertoire, and an MBA degree is a great way to do that. Consider what program makes the most sense for your situation, grab the bull by the horns, and bring home the bacon.


  1. “A Whole New World.” Aladdin, Disney, 1992.
  2. Batista, Ed. “Should You Get an MBA?” Harvard Business Review, 4 Sept. 2014, https://hbr.org/2014/09/should-you-get-an-mba.
  3. Smith, Kalen. “What is an MBA Program and Why Get an MBA Degree in Business School?”   Money Crashers, http://www.moneycrashers.com/what-is-mba-why-get-mba-degree-business/. Accessed 8 April 2017.
  4. “What Are the Differences Between the Business Accreditation Agencies: AACSB, ACBSP and IACBE?” Business Management Degrees, business-management-degree.net/differences-comparisons-aacsb-acbsp-iacbe/. Accessed 26 January 2017.
  5. Wilinski, Eric. “Who Should Get an MBA – and Who Shouldn’t.” WetFeet, http://schools.wetfeet.com/advice-tools/career-planning/who-should-get-an-mbaand-who-shouldnt. Accessed 25 February 2017.
About Cory Hakanen, OD, MBA

Dr. Cory Hakanen is an Optometrist and business professional who works primarily in industry roles within eye care and greater healthcare. He resides in Silicon Valley where he is able to put both his OD and MBA degrees to use performing product development, medical writing, and clinical consulting.