Is an MBA worth it? 5 things to consider
You’re not one to back down from your goals—you know what you want out of life and you have plenty of ambition. In fact, your drive for success has you thinking about earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. After all, the MBA has long been considered the gold standard of business credentials. Who wouldn’t want those coveted three letters behind their name on a business card?
But you may still be wondering if the time and money spent on an MBA program will be worth it in the end. As you do your research, it can be helpful to hear from those who have walked a similar path before you.
We spoke with several graduates from MBA programs across the country as well as Dr. Helen Eckmann, associate professor in the School of Business and Professional Studies at Brandman University, to hear their thoughts on the matter. Their insights can help you start to think about whether earning an MBA degree is the right choice for you.
What is the true value of an MBA? 5 things to keep in mind
Deciding if an MBA is worth the investment is a very personal decision. There is no universal answer. You’ll want to take these considerations to heart to make the best decision for your future.
1. Your long-term career aspirations
If you’re thinking about going back to school to earn an MBA, you first need to consider your long-term career goals. Does having an MBA align with the type of career you desire? And will it give you the advantage you need to get there?
“An MBA gives you instant credibility when you walk into the room,” Dr. Eckmann says. She goes on to explain this prestigious credential is typically associated with individuals who have more authority and influence throughout their careers.
If you’d like to take on more responsibility and drive strategic business decisions, earning an MBA may be the right move for you. However, don’t think of it as a quick career fix—it’s a long-term investment in your future.
“People should not go back to school as a sabbatical,” says Michael Roub, MBA and Managing Partner at Inflection 360. “Rather, it should be to enrich their current experience or enable them to make a desired career move.”
Start by identifying the types of job titles you might be interested in pursuing throughout your career. To help you understand the available options, we analyzed job postings seeking candidates with an MBA from the past year.* These were some of the top job titles:
- Marketing manager
- Financial analyst
- Business analyst
- Director of marketing
- Account manager
- Director of finance
- Accounting manager
- Product manager
- Sales manager
- Program manager
- Director of sales
2. The increased earning potential and cost of tuition
As with any degree, you’ll need to examine whether the cost of an MBA is something you’re comfortable taking on financially. You’ll also want to take other factors into consideration, such as the increased earning potential you’ll experience after graduating.
The average cost of a two-year MBA program exceeds $60,000, but it's important to keep in mind that tuition can run higher or lower based on the institution. For example, MBAs at many private business schools can cost more than $100,000. Meanwhile, the tuition cost of Brandman University’s MBA program ranges from about $23,000 to $33,000, depending on the student and their previous credits. As for timing, a standard MBA program runs two years, but program length will vary based on the school or credit requirements.
Be sure to research your options for funding your MBA as well. Employers may offer a continued education incentive that you may be able to take advantage of. “Sometimes employers pay a portion of, or all, higher education expenses as part of their employee benefit packages,” explains Bill Hughes, Talent Director of Patina Solutions.
Walmart, for example, has rolled out a college education benefit program that allows its employees to earn an online degree from one of six nonprofit institutions—including Brandman University—for just $1 per day. Employers like Disney and Discover boast similar offerings.
If the cost of tuition gives you pause, remember that MBA degree holders typically have a higher earning potential. The Financial Times reports the average salary of an MBA graduate three or more years after completing their degree was $142,000 in 2017, compared to the reported pre-MBA salary that was closer to $72,000. Findings also suggest the post-MBA salary will continue to climb to $150,000 this year.
It’s important to keep in mind that those figures are averages and don’t account for years of experience, specialty, industry or geographic location.
3. Your desire to break into a new field
If you’re seeking to change careers or break into a new field, an MBA can help you acquire the knowledge and skills needed for a fresh start.
“For me, getting an MBA was definitely worth it,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn, MBA and founder of Mavens & Moguls. “I went into finance right after college and realized I wanted to switch career tracks. Going back to school allowed me to rebrand myself, try a new area as a summer intern in marketing, gain new skills, and build my confidence.”
Arnof-Fenn says her MBA eased the transition from finance to marketing and added credibility to her resume. Most importantly, it helped her find work that she truly enjoys. MBA degrees can also provide valuable business acumen for professionals from other backgrounds like CEO Cristian Rennella, who went from a computer engineering undergraduate degree to an MBA.
“MBA knowledge plays a key role in providing the administrative and economic vision that, unfortunately, people focused purely on technology lack,” Renella shares.
For those with limited business education or experience, an MBA will provide them with an array of training in many areas across the business world, such as marketing, finance and leadership. Dr. Eckmann says these subjects are all critical to understanding the cross-functional workings of a business.
4. Your professional network
Whether you are a natural networker or not, many consider the connections that come with an MBA program to be one of its biggest perks. The bonds you form with classmates can serve you and your career aspirations well.
“Students in my MBA classes create their own networks,” Dr. Eckmann says. “People here help each other.”
Not only will your classmates and professors help you expand your professional network, but your school’s alumni base can also provide valuable career connections for years to come.
“Prospective students should look at the types of jobs graduates take and how strong the alumni network is for jobs down the road,” advises Arnof-Fenn.
If expanding your professional network is important to you, then an MBA program could be worth it. You never know when one of your contacts could connect you to a top organization—or the job of your dreams.
5. The time and effort it takes to earn an MBA
If you’re still wondering if an MBA is worth it, you need to consider the time and effort that go into earning such a prestigious degree. Most MBA programs take about two years—and they’re time-intensive. You’ll need to juggle work, school and family responsibilities. It’s tough, but by no means impossible.
“I don’t want to sugar-coat it, earning an MBA is hard,” Dr. Eckmann acknowledges. “But you come out a changed person in the end.”
While earning a degree takes time and dedication, it may not be as intimidating as you imagine. Dr. Eckmann recommends the “chunking” method of time management. With this technique, students study 45 minutes each day, Monday through Friday, and three to four hours on Saturday and Sunday. Setting aside dedicated time slots helps students stay consistent—a key to academic success.
So, is an MBA worth it?
An MBA degree can certainly be worth it if you’re earning one for the right reasons. You’ll need to carefully determine your decision based on the career outcomes you seek. And should you decide that earning an MBA is the right choice for you, you’ll want to select a program that will work with you—and for you.
Not sure where to start? Visit the Brandman University MBA degree page to learn how this program could provide you the boost you need to achieve your career aspirations.
*Source: Burning-Glass.com (Analysis of 389,911 job postings seeking MBA degree holders from September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2018).
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