Is an MBA worth it? 5 things to consider
You’re not one to back down from your goals—you’re focused and have plenty of ambition. In fact, your drive for success has you thinking about earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. After all, it has long been considered the gold standard of business credentials.
But knowing all of the time and money you’d be investing, it’s normal to have some questions. How long does it take to get an MBA? What can you expect for a typical MBA salary? Is an MBA worth it in the long run?
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 gather their thoughts on the matter. These insights can help you start to think about the value of an MBA and if it’s worth it for you and your career.
What is the true value of an MBA? 5 things to keep in mind
Deciding if the cost 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 considering going back to school, you first need to define your long-term career goals. Does your degree 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 worth it 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 this credential from the past year.* These were some of the top job titles for MBA holders:
- Senior financial analyst
- Product manager
- Chief financial officer
- Business analyst
- Finance manager
- Accounting manager
- Senior accountant
- General manager
- Senior product manager
- Human resources manager
- Business development manager
For anyone hoping to land one of these positions or a similar one, it’s likely that earning an MBA is worth it.
2. The increased earning potential and cost of tuition
When evaluating the value of an MBA, it’s natural to think about the money. You’ll want to examine whether the cost of tuition is something you’re comfortable taking on financially. You’ll also want to take other factors into consideration, such as the typical MBA degree salary range you can expect in return.
The average cost of an MBA degree exceeds $60,000, but it’s important to keep in mind that tuition rates can vary quite a bit based on the institution. For example, MBAs at many private business schools can cost more than $100,000. Meanwhile, the cost of an MBA at Brandman University ranges from about $24,000 to $33,000, depending on the student and their previous credits.
Be sure to research your funding options as well. Some organizations offer a continued education incentive for employees to earn their degrees. “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, implemented a college education benefit program that allows its employees to earn an online degree from one of six nonprofit institutions—including UMass Global—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 salary estimates are reliably higher compared to a bachelor’s degree. According to a 2021 salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), annual salaries for MBA recipients are projected at nearly $30,000 more than individuals with a bachelor’s degree.
Keep in mind that these estimates are averages and don’t account for years of experience, specialties, industries or geographic locations. But even so, there is solid evidence to suggest the cost of an MBA will be offset by the earning potential on the back end.
3. Your desire to break into a new field
If you’re seeking to change careers or break into a new field, this master’s degree 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 earning her degree eased the transition from finance to marketing and added instant credibility to her resume. Most importantly, it helped her find work that she truly enjoys.
Part of the value of an MBA is that it provides business acumen for professionals from other backgrounds. This was the case for 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 is worth it for the 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 believe one of the biggest benefits of an MBA is the connections that come with completing a program. The bonds you form with classmates can serve you and your career aspirations well.
“Students in my 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,” Arnof-Fenn advises.
The opportunity to expand your professional network is just another example of how the cost of an MBA is an investment in your future. 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’ve read this far, you’re likely intrigued but still wondering, “How long does it take to get an MBA?” A typical MBA program can be completed in two years, but program length will vary based on the school or credit requirements. You’ll need to juggle work, school and family responsibilities. It’s challenging 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.
Weighing the value of an MBA
It takes effort, planning and dedication to earn a master’s in business administration, especially for adult learners going back to school. Before you decide, make sure you define your reasons and motivations for furthering your education, and consider the adjacent benefits of an MBA aside from the diploma:
- Guidance and support from instructors who are seasoned experts
- Access to an expanded network of peers and alumni
- Exposure to new perspectives from classmates with diverse backgrounds and experiences
Need some more inspiration to prove it’s possible? Check out these success stories from some of our proud alumni.
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 make your decision based on the personal goals and career outcomes you desire. And should you decide that the value of an MBA is worth the investment for you, you’ll want to select a program that will work with you—and for you.
Not sure where to start? Learn more about Brandman University’s MBA degree to learn how this program could provide you the boost you need. Customize your degree to achieve your career goals by choosing from multiple emphasis options: Accounting, Business Intelligence and Data Analytics, e-Business Strategic Management, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Health Administration, Human Resources, International Business, Marketing, Organizational Leadership and Public Administration.
*Source: Burning-Glass.com (Analysis of 488,028 job postings seeking MBA degree holders 04/01/2020 - 03/31/2021)
*This article was originally published in 2019 and was last updated April 27 2021.
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