For the people wanting to steer their careers toward economics and finance, a huge question appears very often…..Should I get an MBA?
Then, for those wanting to steer their careers toward economics and finance AND applying to SIPA, a similar question appears……Should I get an MBA OR an MIA/MPA and concentrate in IFEP?
Now while I can’t make the decision for you on which degree to pursue, I can walk you through how I and a fellow SIPA classmate, Laila Fouad went about our decision to get a MIA/MPA in IFEP instead of an MBA. We’ll also be joined by another SIPA classmate, Leslie Conner-Warren who is also a dual degree MIA/MBA student.
Did you want to go business school and if so, why?
Steven: For me, foreign affairs/diplomacy/global policy have been fields that I have wanted to build a career in so that put automatically put my mind towards an international affairs school. I did think about going to business school but only for a couple of days. The idea of an MBA never really interested me. The material that was covered in an MBA program is useful and definitely interesting but I wanted to learn some of that but apply it in a policy context and learn more political economy.
Laila: Even though I had worked in a more corporate field before, I was never interested in getting an MBA. I wanted a degree that had a solid academic and theoretical aspect, as well as practical implications. At the same time, I was more interested in policy and world affairs, since that is more closely linked to what I want to do after graduation. I also wanted more focus on economics and analytical skills, and so thought the MPA was a better choice.
Leslie: I actually didn’t start out as a dual degree student. During my first year at SIPA I grew an interest in the technology industry, especially in tech policy, and I thought an MBA would be a beneficial added perspective in pursuing that as a career after SIPA. I applied to CBS during my second semester at SIPA, and completed my first semester at CBS this fall.
How is business school different from SIPA?
Leslie: There are lots of differences, and pros and cons between the two. Firstly, I think the business school core curriculum is very structured. At SIPA, you are able to choose which courses fulfill certain core requirements, but at CBS there is just one course per core requirement, although the topics are similar between the two. I think for those interested more in the policy making side, the SIPA Economics core would serve you better, but for those interested in the more technical business skills the Finance and Accounting courses at CBS are very beneficial. Socially, the MBA program is structured more around “clusters” which are cohorts, whereas at SIPA the social scene is more structured around student organizations.
Steven: Being a native New Yorker, I always wanted to come back home. I also wanted to improve my economic analysis skills while have the flexibility to pursue courses in other areas such as security and energy. Along with this, SIPA has a good balance of coursework that focuses on hard skills and other coursework that focuses on soft skills. Also, I had heard great feedback about the alumni network and the students here and wanted to be a part of that. With all of this combined, I had to choose SIPA.
Leslie: For me, growing up attending little Model UN conferences in a small state, this was exactly how I pictured what I wanted from my education. A school where you can learn about and from people from every corner of the globe has been an absolute gift in my life.
Laila: SIPA provides a good balance of theoretical and practical. At the same time, the course offering is so diverse that you can tailor your degree any way you like. I have been able to take a good balance of advanced economics and quantitative courses, as well as more applied courses in financial policy or emerging markets. The faculty is also excellent, and was a motivating factor behind choosing SIPA at the end.
What do you believe an MIA/MPA degree can give you that an MBA can’t or vice versa?
Steven: I believe it that a MIA/MPA degree gives me more flexibility in terms of being able to go into private or public industry. This is not to say that one can’t go into public with a MBA but for me, there was no desire for me to get an MBA. I wanted to get a deeper understanding of policy and SIPA was a better fit for me for that.
Leslie: SIPA offers an incredible opportunity to examine the issues of any industry or public policy field in a completely unique way. In my business courses, I am often able to contribute perspectives from the political and regulatory sphere to our discussions, and many of my MBA classmates want to join the discussions and student group events at SIPA for this reason.
Laila: More focus on the public sector and policy sphere. I also think courses at SIPA help you understand the key concepts behind some of the world’s most pressing economic, financial, and institutional issues, whereas an MBA would more likely take them at face value.
Steven: No, I’m happy with the choice I made. I got a good balance of policy and business skills such as fundamental accounting, corporate finance and budgeting. If there is any other business skills I want to learn, I can always go to Lynda. In terms of SIPA, I would’ve taken some more time in my first semester trying to plan classes but everything worked out fine.
Leslie: Absolutely not! The dual degree is a great way to get two perspectives and double the number of interesting people you can meet at Columbia. An extra year felt like a huge mental barrier for me in the beginning, but I know it will be worth it in the long run.
Laila: Not planning out my courses from Day 1! I had a general idea of what I wanted to take and figured it out at the beginning of each semester. Totally fine, but a more comprehensive plan from the beginning may have given me better direction. Also, more networking!
Look, if you are a prospective applicant of SIPA and you still can’t make a choice, feel free to call or drop by the Admissions office and talk to a current student or Admissions Officer.
Y no te preocupes (and don’t worry), if you decide that you want both an MPA/MIA and a MBA, you can also apply for a SIPA/Business School dual degree. For more information, you can take a look at the website here.