A Masters in Business and Administration (MBA) is arguably one of the most sought after degrees in North America and around the world. Not only do many career opportunities become viable options for you upon completion, certain MBA programs will provide you with a comprehensive and diverse understanding of many different facets of business while still allowing you to specialize your studies. You emerge from these programs ready to follow your desired field, equipped with the knowledge as well as the transferable skills should you want to diversify down the road.

Before you apply for this degree however, there are a few things to consider. First, do you have enough work experience under your belt? Different programs have different work experience requirements, ranging from under 2 years to more than 2 years. Have you considered your references? Employers endorsing your candidacy is an important factor in many admission processes. And, how has your work experience shaped your goals and your decision to pursue your MBA? Make sure to include this in your statement of intent, a part of the application that demonstrates your passion and dedication to this endeavour.

Then, there are logistics to keep in mind, including application deadlines to your preferred schools as well as securing a date to take your GMAT exam. The GMAT is a standardized exam that helps to predict how a student will do academically in a business program. This exam is one of the main admission requirements for an MBA and every student needs to do well if they expect to get into a leading business school. A high score on the GMAT will put you at the top of the list, but you’ll only earn this mark if you plan ahead, prepare, and book in advance.

Furthermore, consider a program that will provide you with the options you’re looking for, especially if you want to diversify your portfolio. Which areas does the program allow you specialize in? Is there the potential for a double degree? The Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, for example, offers 10 specialization options, an MBA with a Co-Op placement, and even an MBA geared towards entrepreneurs.

If you’re concerned about leaving a well-paying job to pursue another degree, consider part-time study. It might even be in your employer’s best interest to subsidize your MBA, particularly if they see you remaining with their company or firm for a long time. A part-time MBA will allow you to remain in the job market, reduce your debts, network and gain immediate practical experience – using the core concepts you learn in school during the day at your job. If you’re working near Bay Street in Toronto, research which programs offer evening courses downtown to minimize travel time and maximize convenience.

Finally, while there are many reputable business schools out there, only the top programs have AACSB accreditation. AACSB accreditation represents the highest standard of achievement for business schools worldwide, with than 5% of the world’s 13,000 business programs earning this honour. AACSB-accredited schools produce graduates that are highly skilled and widely sought after as they launch their careers. This is something to consider if, for example, you are an international student who might not have an accredited business school in your country.

An MBA opens many doors – however you open the first one. The school you choose makes a big difference, as does the quality of your application. Take time to prepare, to research, and to apply to schools that are AACSB accredited and you will already be on your way towards a successful career.