I am an '06 graduate of Parsons product design. After two years of experience and one promotion, I realized that I wanted to be more involved in the business side of the process. I eventually wanted to be more in control of the marketing strategies. So I decided to go for an MBA in fall '09. I don’t want to sound nerdy but I would really like to shoot high for an ivy league. I am sure there are plenty of Designers out there with a BFA+MBA combo. I personally do not know any and was wondering if anybody can give me advice on how to prepare for school. Should I take some courses business/finance related to help me? I haven’t taken the GMAT yet so how should I prepare for that?

i’ve actually been thinking along the same line. you want to start with the gmat. the score you get will condition for the most part the schools you will be able to apply/get admitted to.

at the same time start researching what schools have the programs you are most interested in. i know quite a few ppl from different backgrounds that have gone the mba route and most suggest doing a more general curriculum then specializing as you will be more “marketable”.

let me know how it goes.

Getting an MBA is different than a BFA or anyother degree for that matter. An MBA is more like buying a luxury car for status points.

YOU ARE BUYING A NAME. or line on your resume (sorry for yelling).

it is true that the reputation of your school CAN be very important, but again it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t do well for yourself from and 2nd tier or even 3rd tied b-school.

you will learn a lot getting an MBA contrary to the impression i’m getting from carton. but more so than in other programs, what you put in will determine by far what you get out. and don’t minimize the importance of networking with your piers… statistically, most of the business contact you use later in your career were initiated in business school…

again i’m not speaking from experience except from what i’ve heard and talked with my MBA friends

I think I was suggesting something more along the lines that you get about the same from different schools assuming the amount you would put in is constant. So you had may as well get the name with the pretty standard education. There are some exceptions, such as Northwestern and their new program linking business, design and engineering.

Think for a moment about the comment about one of the main benefits being contacts, I think you may end up more successful with elitest contacts from name brand schools.

Why not start by getting the Kaplan GMAT self-teaching course and take the first sample test?

i actually bought the kaplan a couple weeks ago and began looking through it. carton and mad hero had great points on building that network. I can’t hear that enough from everyone. Northwestern was one of my choices, but I did not know about there new program carton mentioned. That’s very interesting. I am originally from chicago and i love it! good reason to go back. Is Chicago a good area in the product design industry? only because my next question would be whether i go full time or part time. Thanks for the replies

yea Chicago is pretty decent for ID. but so is Boston, or NY and Cali too - so you might consider seeing where you get accepted, defer for a year while you get a job and relocate. Then you can go part time or full time while picking up some freelance…
Or after getting accepted, just move asap and start freelancing…

“…be more in control of the marketing strategies…”

So I would think you would want to focus on Marketing since a general MBA will only get you a few basic marketing courses. So think about Michigan, Northwestern/Kellogg - both MBA programs known for marketing. Other more focused options - but without as much MBA/Ivy status - are Integrated Marketing Communications or some British inspired programs (UK, Australia, etc.) that result in a Master of Science or Master of Marketing. (google) Rotman in Canada sounds like an interesting MBA program for someone with a design background, but I don’t know their marketing credentials.

Yeah, just take a sample GMAT test to see where you stand. Major schools publish avg. GMAT scores of accepted entrants. Keep in mind that if you are so inclined, months and years of study may significantly increase your score - that’s what you’ll be competing with at top tier schools. And of course the sample tests are indications only, actual scores will differ.

As for that status and connections thing, I too think it can be important - not only for outside perceptions, but for your own development. Do you want to be surrounded by students who are generally intelligent, curious, and hoping for some career/salary improvement (standard MBA program), or do you want to be surrounded by students (and some professors) who are brilliant, focused, confident, driven, connected, and expect no less than near-future leadership of the business world (top 10 MBA program)? Yes, throw in arrogant, annoying, and privileged as well - hard to get the positive without the negative!

And kudos to you for thinking of going straight to a business/marketing program - will be a more difficult path (fish out of water), but if “control of the marketing strategies” is really your goal, then an MBA or degree from a biz school will get you more credit in the business world/marketing HR than a design management degree from a school with the word “design,” “art,” or “creative” in it! (am I starting a fight?)

Finally, given your 2 years of experience, I don’t think there is any rush. I notice a huge difference between MBA students with 2yrs vs. 6yrs or so - you will be more focused, more critical, and better able to assess professors, choose your electives, network with a group of interest/experience, and apply learnings when you have more career experience. It can be the difference between maximizing a real world experience for yourself or having the school and your classmates push and pull you through random academic exercises.

thanks tixe for that very informative response. you had some good points. do you have an mba? you almost sound like you teach. =) I began to think last night about whether I am ready for school or not. To your point, a couple more years of work experience may better equip me for discussions and projects in class. By any chance do you know the average age of an mba student? Are there really any pros or cons of going this early? Most companies see an MBA as an accomplishment but at the same time rely more on your actual work experience. Am I wrong?

From what I’ve seen, average age for full-time is around 26 - meaning average work experience is 4 years. But this differs by program. Check Businessweek and U.S. News - both have online and print resources which will cover this, and most schools have this on their sites as well. Here is Northwestern full time info - age 28 with 5.3 yrs. experience: (and average GMAT of 704!)

I already touched on some of the pros and cons of later vs. earlier. Of course there are cons of going too late as well - after young 30s with 10yrs pro experience or more, it may not be as useful to you personally, you’ll build less of a network (assuming you are running home to spouse and kids while others head for pub or all night study session), and 30+ will be an issue at recruiting time - and of course the recruiting opportunities are one of the main reasons you might consider a top tier program.

As for work vs. degree - obviously, if you are younger, they are going to focus more on the degree and judge you by your academic performance, energy level/motivation, and perceived potential based on tough interviews. And there are plenty of 23, 24 year olds in various programs, so some companies are set up to accept them and “build from scratch.” The more experience you have, the more they will factor that in - but mostly if the experience is with a known company and it relates well to your chosen major and the company you are interviewing for. Ex. If you are sketching shoes for 6 years for a no-name brand, then do a marketing MBA, then apply at a major B2B tech services company in Silicon Valley, your previous work experience is going to amount to less. So, think about how it will all connect and appear to others sooner rather than later - how will you “spin” your current work experience to get proper “credit” for it later?

Good luck and get working on that 704!

Thanks tixe. It was helpful to get a feeling for how the schools weigh your academic vs. work experience. Time to get cracking on that GMAT!

You may want to check out the Triple M and MPD programs at Northwestern as well.


I was wanting to go the same route but wanted to take a more management approach. I’ve got 2.5 years of corporate ID experience and started this past fall at Penn State in their Masters of Project Management degree. I looked at alot of options for MBA’s but what I noticed most about designers is few have much management experience other than what they have learned on the job. This program is basically an MBA degree with less focus on financial classes and more on team/people/project management concepts.
Also, the big motivation for me to go back was the fact that when most people see “designer” as a title, they automatically assume the person has no business ability because they are a designer. Although I still have basically the same poisition, I have changed my title during my last promotion to a more business sounding title in hopes that in the future, it will get a better look as I pursue higher design management roles.

As Cav stated. Those are the reasons I’m going for an MBA. I however had to focus on some different parameters. I went for a school that fit within my scheduale. I also believe in class time is important so I had to look at local programs. I was also interested in a program that focused on a team dynamic as opposed to financial. So between all the local options I went for Coles College of Business @ KSU.

Have you read the book: “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink. Worth the time,will give another perspective.


hi, im a parsons student in the position, peter could you please throw some light on how you managed to get into a business school ayer product designing?