It was the spring of 2011. Just a few months prior, I had gotten married and started a new job working as a marketing manager for a major financial institution in the Baltimore area. While my husband had just received his master’s degree, I personally had no plan to go back to school; in my mind, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree and was well on my way to an exciting and successful career.

That was until my manager recommended that I go back to school to pursue my MBA (Master of Business Administration). I took his comment as an insightful nudge that it would be a good long-term career move, so I spoke with a number of colleagues who were either in the midst of pursuing their MBA or had already graduated in order to gain a more in-depth understanding regarding the application process, the workload, its impact on their personal and professional lives and how having an MBA impacted their career path.

The message was clear and consistent: It was hard work, but it was worth it. And what I found to be most interesting was that the people I questioned firmly believed that what they had learned in the classroom could be applied to everyday business situations.

My interest had been sparked, so I started researching local MBA programs. I didn’t have to look far as there were a handful of highly regarded programs in the area to choose from. After going through the enrollment process, I was accepted into Loyola’s Professional MBA (PMBA) program starting in September 2011.

Having been in the program for almost four years, I can honestly say that the advice my colleagues gave me prior to enrolling was absolutely accurate. Earning an MBA is hard work and very time-consuming; however, I know that what I am learning in the classroom is valuable in that I can apply it to my job in so many ways.

I can attend meetings with clients and understand the language that is being spoken; I can sit in leadership meetings and contribute to the conversation; I can participate in brainstorming sessions and put valuable ideas on the table; and I can look at project budgets and assess our financial standing.

While my bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing was an important stepping stone, I truly believe that my MBA journey has played, and continues to play, a critical role in my gaining a better understanding of the business world. I know that some of the successes I have achieved to date can be partially attributed to the knowledge I have gained in the PMBA program. With an anticipated graduation date in summer 2016, I am excited to see what future opportunities are in store for me.

Laurie Baker is an account supervisor at Renegade and student at Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business and Management, which has a campus in Columbia.