Team working at a start up
alvarez—Getty Images/Vetta
By Levo League
September 21, 2014

This post originally appeared on Levo.com.

Today’s job market is increasingly competitive. Young professionals in the workforce are faced with a mountain of educational debt and the decision to continue with their career, or go back to school. While an MBA might be the right career move for someone in the financial sector, it might not be the right move for everyone.

In 2012, Forbes reported that an alternative MBA, in the form of a startup school, may be better than an actual MBA. This perspective has shifted the focus from a traditional post-graduate education to a more innovative one.

In the past 2 years, startup schools have been popping up across the country, touting themselves as the MBA alternative. Offering full and part-time classes in sales and business development, marketing and analytics, product and design, and web development, these classes are taught in the context of educating students for a job at a startup without the hefty price tag of a formal MBA.

So, how do you know if these programs are right for you, and what exactly can you get out of them? Here are some things to consider:

Who should enroll in an MBA alternative program?

MBA alternative programs serve a variety of student’s needs, including individuals who want to work in a startup environment as well as budding entrepreneurs.

(MORE: To Pursue an MBA or Not to Pursue an MBA)

Where are programs located?

In-person MBA alternative programs like Startup Institute, General Assembly, and Dev Bootcamp currently exist in New York City, Boston, Denver, Austin, Chicago, San Francisco, London, and other global locations. Online programs are available through websites like Coursera, Code Academy, and Women’s Coding Collective.

What do the programs offer?

The focus of MBA alternative programs varies widely between organizations. Some programs are marketed for professionals who are currently employed and want to gain more skills on a part-time basis. Part-time programs are often more instruction focused, which, if you’re looking for only hard skills, is a great option.

Full-time programs may be better suited for individuals just out of school or looking to change their career. A full-time program might have a more in-depth approach, focusing on classroom instruction, personal goals, and networking. If you’re new to the startup scene, a full-time program may be best.

How much does it cost?

Full-time programs are more expensive than part-time programs and range from $1k to almost $12k. It might be expensive, but it’s cheaper than an MBA, which can cost $140k.

Some programs offer scholarships to qualified individuals. Here is list of development bootcamps that offer scholarships to women. Scholarships might not be advertised, so make sure to ask the program director before writing off an MBA alternative program for cost. Most offer financing options as well.

What will you get out of the program?

Like anything in life, what you get out of an MBA alternative program depends on what you put into it. You will get to put the program on your resume, but unlike an actual MBA, there are no degrees awarded.

Are jobs guaranteed?

Nothing in life is guaranteed. If a job is promised, be suspicious. However, many of these MBA alternative programs have hiring partners who actively look to hire out of the class. This doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a job right away, but networking with people in the startup scene will increase your chances of finding employment at the completion of the program.

How big is the alumni network?

Just like with a regular MBA program, a strong alumni network will be invaluable upon graduating from a startup school. These are the people who will connect you to others and hopefully help you with job hunting. Keep in mind that some of the newer programs won’t have as large of a community, so it’s really important to pick the one that’s right for you.

Before enrolling in any program, do your research and talk to alumni in order to make an informed decision. Alternative MBA programs are a great option and may be just the right move for your career.

(MORE: The 5 Best Jobs to Get After an MBA)

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