When Floyd Hall enrolled in one of the nation’s most successful MBA programs at Columbia University, he was looking to change careers and strike out on his own. The Morehouse College and Georgia Institute of Technology graduate knew that going back to school for his master’s in business administration would be a great way to do it.

Hall’s decision to seek an advanced degree in business mirrors that of many minorities looking to take a few giant steps to the top. For most, certification of mastery in fields ranging from health care to finance provides a leg up on the competition in markets that have become overwhelmingly discriminatory in dire economic times.

Those enrolled in competitive programs gain top-notch training from respected leaders within each sector; networking opportunities among classmates and through various memberships and private functions; are more easily employed and placed in top ranking positions than those who don’t have advanced degrees; and while figures have declined, MBAs continue to assume the highest salaries.

Graduates of Howard University’s MBA program are typically offered salaries in the low six-figures. Across the board, most graduates can look forward to doubling their previous income. And even those looking forward to entrepreneurial ventures can safely assume that lenders will be more likely to approve a loan and investors are more inclined to ink a deal with an entrepreneur with a strong institution backing up his name on the business proposal.

Still, while these benefits likely outweigh the financial, social and even personal risks professionals take on when deciding to pack up what they’ve made of their lives and go back to school, industry insiders say it’s wise to make such a decision after considering various factors including the school’s reputation, the desired post-MBA role, location, pre-MBA experience and the total cost of the degree (including living expenses and student loans).

“I was focused on the media industry, but I also wanted the best understanding of the financial institutions that affect the international economy,” recalls Hall of his decision to apply to Columbia. “With New York City as the perfect backdrop for media and business, Columbia was the ideal blend of location and education with a global, forward-thinking network.”

Getting to graduate school is only half of the battle. Hall agrees that once getting there, what one leaves with depends upon how aggressively he or she pursues the best laid plan. Moreover, it’s necessary to treat the experience like a business venture with an outcome in mind. Recruits should develop a solid network of supporters and visionaries, get an internship in their desired field, and find and maintain a relationship with a respected mentor who knows and intends to support their goal.

For Hall, a mix of vision and steady preparation has led to fabulous results. After graduating from Columbia, he founded The G Café (thegcafe.com), an Internet-based news and social networking site that features unique profiles and stories from media outlets around the world.

“As our ‘normal’ world continues to be disrupted by innovation and uncertainty, new media centers like Atlanta are developing the key ingredients to foster transformative business collaborations; I want The G Cafe to successfully reflect that,” he says. “Columbia prepared me for this path in a way very few schools could.”
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Photo credit: John Stephens of JAS Photo

A novelist and essayist, Calaya Michelle Reid is a creative writing professor in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned a doctorate in English at Georgia State University. She has published ten novels under the pen name Grace Octavia with Kensington and Harlequin. Instagram: @blackwritergonerogue