I am 53 years old and want to start my MBA next Fall at 54. Am I crazy?

“I am 53 years old and want to start my MBA next Fall at 54.  Am I crazy?  I have a B.S. in Business and work as an Administrative Assistant at a local community college.  I would like to teach part-time and the school requires an MBA in order to teach.  Do you think this is worth it at my age. I plan to just take one class to ease my way in and the school will probably pay for it.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you, Debbie M.”

The Harvard MBA says:

The question of when to go for your MBA is a common one.  Back when I was considering going to business school, I remember talking with a friend of mine (a Stanford MBA) who told me, “What do you want to maximize–the number of years before you get an MBA, or the number of years afterwards?”  That was a pretty convincing argument, and I started filling out applications right after that.

53 is older than most students, but to me, your situation warrants the investigation.

1) You have a specific objective that obtaining your MBA will allow you to achieve (teaching part-time).

2) Your school is supportive (to the extent of being willing to pay for your first class), from which I infer that if you get your MBA, you will be given an opportunity to teach.

3) You have a background in both business and academics, which means you have a good foundation for this quest.

According to the Social Security actuarial life table, the average 53-year-old woman can expect to live another 30 years.  Given the current state of Social Security, you can probably expect to keep working at least another 20 of those years, which means that your MBA could be helping you for most of that time.

Besides, if you take the first class and find the schedule too taxing or the work boring, you can always decide not to pursue the MBA full time.  Your iterative approach strikes me as wise and effective.

Ultimately, the decision to get an MBA is emotional and practical.  You should ask yourself, will it help me live a happier life?

You asked me, “Am I crazy?”

Is it crazy to want to fulfill a long-held desire to teach?  To take advantage of a supportive employer who encourages those desires?  To better position yourself for the remaining 20 years of your career?

No, I don’t think you’re crazy.  Good luck, Debbie!

2 Comments

  1. Debbie Montgomery
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Dear Harvard MBA,

    Thank you so much for responding to my email! And, I can’t believe you made my question the “question of the week!” Thanks to you, I don’t think I’m crazy and I will go ahead and take the one MBA class next Fall. You’re right, if I’m healthy, I could work another 20 years! I might as well shoot for the stars rather than stay “stagnant.” You may have just turned my life around! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Sincerely, Debbie M.

  2. a
    Posted March 3, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    If you can get into a top 5 (Stanford, Penn, Harvard, Chicago, MIT or something similar), it is definitely worth it. Top 6-16, maybe worth it. After that, move on. Consider exec MBA.

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