For aspiring businessmen and women, there’s a clear path to achieving a role in higher level management or even as an executive: the Master of Business Administration (MBA).
This degree is a graduate-level business degree, typically received after completion of a bachelor’s degree, though sometimes received as part of a combined, accelerated program.
A master’s degree in business administration sets you apart as a serious professional who has devoted themselves to the field. You’ll gain higher level knowledge and be prepared to take on leadership roles. But do you really need an MBA?
MBA programs are a significant investment. They aren’t cheap, or quick, or easy, but they could open doors to your future. How can you decide if an MBA is worth it for you? Here are three questions to ask yourself in order to make your final decision.
Can You Afford an MBA Degree?
The most important factor in deciding if an MBA is worth it for you will almost always be financial. Business schools are anything but a bargain, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some options that are more affordable than others. At top business schools, like the Wharton School of Business at UPenn, a single year of tuition and associated expenses can top $110,000. Full-time students can expect to spend two years completing the degree, and although there is no part-time option here, additional credit units come at a cost of $8,775 each.
These costs may seem extreme, but they are typical of top schools in business education. At Stanford, the cost of attendance for one year is nearly $120,000, while at Harvard Business School it’s just over $110,00.
Some graduate schools, like Villanova, offer online MBA programs, where more flexible enrollment options are available. Still, credits will cost you $1,350 each, and you’ll need 48 of them to graduate. Total cost of tuition there is just over $66,000.
Offset the Costs
There are ways to help mitigate the costs of an MBA degree. Scholarships and financial aid are a good starting point. You may also consider part-time options so that you can continue to work while earning your degree, rather than full-time MBA programs which don’t typically allow enough free time for a full-time job.
If you are currently working in the business field, it’s worth asking if your company has a cost-share program for MBA programs. Some employers, especially larger, successful corporations, will gladly contribute towards an advanced degree if it means they get a new, committed MBA graduate at the end.
Examine the Return on Investment
While an MBA is certainly an expensive investment, it pays off on the other end. Not only do you have deeper knowledge of your field, but you also have higher earning potential too.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, depending on which exact field of business you go into, your average salary will be between $20,000-$80,000 higher with a master’s degree.
Ultimately, deciding to invest in an MBA will be a personal decision. What is right for one person’s finances won’t necessarily be the best choice for another person, even if you are similarly situated. So is an MBA worth it for you financially? Consider both the long-term impact of these significant upfront costs and the long-term potential increased earnings.
Do You Need an MBA to Fulfill Your Professional Goals?
Once you know whether an MBA is within your financial means, you can start to consider if it will be worth it in other ways, including your intended career path.
When thinking about whether or not an MBA is worth it for you, you need to reflect honestly on your career goals. Do you intend to climb the corporate ladder? Would you like your career path to eventually lead to an executive level position? Do you want to work on Wall Street?
If you are aiming high, there’s a good chance that you might need a graduate degree to achieve some of those goals. Here are some of the positions that may require an MBA:
- Business Operations Manager
- Financial Controller
- Benefits Manager
- Investment Banker
- Investment Fund Manager
- Health Informatics Manager
- Chief Marketing Director
- Chief Technology Officer
- Chief Executive Officer
- Chief Operating Officer
- Chief Financial Officer
- Public Relations Director
Of course, the list doesn’t end here. Many other positions may either require an MBA or at least prefer job candidates who have one.
It’s also worth noting that many positions don’t require an MBA. If you are content with your bachelor’s degree and your future likely doesn’t contain a position for which a master’s degree would be necessary, you might be better off not pursuing an MBA and saving your time and energy.
Only you can judge your current work experience and gauge your potential career path. Still, it’s always a good idea to talk to your current employer about your potential for upward mobility and career goals first, then make a solid plan to get you there.
Do You Have Time To Get an MBA?
Pursuing an MBA isn’t just a financial commitment. It’s also an enormous commitment in terms of your time and energy. The time commitment begins before you even get into a business degree graduate program.
First, you’ll need to apply. This usually includes gathering references, writing essays, and studying for the dreaded Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). MBA applications can require a lot of work right out of the gate.
Once you’re accepted to a program, the workload only increases. Full-time MBA programs will last for two years, and you often won’t be able to hold down anything more than a part-time job during this period.
You’ll need to devote significant time to coursework and studying. MBA students typically spend about 20 hours per week in class, doing homework, or studying. One student at Leeds School of Business reported an average of 20-25 hours of school work and classes each week, on top of a part-time job where she worked 20 hours a week.
Of course, it’s possible to enroll in a part-time MBA program, and this will initially allow you more time to spend outside of your academic commitments, but it will also prolong the degree program. While full-time programs can typically be completed within two years, part-time programs could last three or four years, or even longer.
Before you decide to take the plunge into an MBA program, you’ll need to take a quick audit of your time commitments. Can you afford to dive into a full-time MBA program? Would a part-time program work better for you? Or are you so taxed as is that anything else would actually be a detriment? Think about the impact of this significant commitment on your schedule before you sign on.
Is an MBA Worth It? Only You Can Decide
There are lots of different angles to consider when you’re trying to decide if pursuing an MBA is the right choice for you.
Finances will be a significant consideration right away, but remember that this degree is an investment in your future. While the upfront costs may be significant, the long-term earning potential could make an MBA a logical financial decision for you.
You’ll also want to think about your MBA in the context of your intended career path. While some positions might actually require an MBA, others may just prefer it, and still others don’t care much one way or the other. Make sure an MBA is important to your intended path before you dive in head first.
Finally, make sure you have room in your life for this significant commitment. Think about the long-term implications of taking two years to complete a full-time program as compared with the three, four, or more years to complete a part-time program.
Once you’ve decided if pursuing an MBA program is worth it, set to work finding the program that will work best for you. Consider using sites like CollegeRank to take the guesswork out. Here, you can read rankings based on return on investment to see how your future degree might finally pay off.
To get started, check out some of the resources below:
- The 20 Best MBA in Entrepreneurship Degree Programs
- The Top 15 Masters in International Business Degree Programs
- Different Types of Business Degrees and the Best Schools for Each