Is Earning an MBA Worth It?
In a troubled economy, going back to school for a graduate degree in business can look like a sound decision—allowing you to spend down time between jobs networking with future business leaders, learning valuable new skills, and adding a key credential to your resume. But with total costs for a two-year MBA at a top school reaching upwards of $70,000 these days, is an MBA worth the heavy debt load—on top of whatever undergraduate debt you currently have?
Earning an online MBA isn’t right for everyone. It doesn’t guarantee a good job, and many people who earn MBA’s don’t go on to business success. With the heavy price tag, it’s important to really consider whether an MBA will move your career forward or not—before you sign on the dotted line. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before committing to an MBA program.
Do you need it to move forward in your career?
Are the people in leadership positions in your company or industry MBA graduates? Has your boss told you that to get to that corner office, you need an MBA? If so, earning an MBA could be a very smart decision. But if you take a look at the backgrounds of people who have the careers you want—and none of them has an MBA—then maybe you don’t need one as much as you think.
Can you get these skills another way?
True, an MBA can give you skills that will prove valuable in business. But an online MBA degree can’t make you into a strong manager, a visionary leader, or a successful entrepreneur. Do you really need an MBA, or can you get the skills you need another way—through reading business books and publications, studying the biographies of successful business people, talking to mentors, and most of all through experience? An MBA imparts useful business skills, true—but so does running your own business.
Will the school’s name recognition make a difference?
If you go to Harvard, Yale or Wharton, you’ll have a powerful Ivy-league credential on your resume. But will it really make a difference? Are the people in your industry typically impressed by big-name schools? Most importantly, are all the people you’re competing with for jobs coming from those schools? If so, maybe an MBA from a top school would be a good idea. But it’s not a passport to success—for every success story you hear, there are hundreds or even thousands who never succeeded at their career goals.
Can you earn your MBA while working full-time
You don’t just take a financial hit from the loans you take out to pay tuition. You also take a hit from being out of the workforce for two years, and having to take out more loans to pay living expenses during this time. Can you reduce the impact by working full-time while you go to school?
Will your employer help with tuition?
If you already have a job, your employer may be willing to fund part or all of your tuition for business school—usually if you sign an agreement saying you will stay at the company for a certain amount of time. This can be a huge help to business school students, and even make it possible for you to leave business school with no debt. If your employer is willing to make a significant contribution to your tuition, it could definitely change the equation.
Are you likely to earn more?
In some industries, particularly banking and finance, recent graduates of high-level MBA programs tend to be offered higher starting salaries than those from lower-tier business schools. To some industries, the pre-screening done by top schools—for potential, intelligence, and background—makes the candidate more valuable. Do some research to see if your industry is likely to offer you more or value you more if you have a top MBA degree.
It’s tough to say if an MBA is worth it—each person’s situation is different. There are definitely situations where an MBA can be of enormous help, and where the skills learned are invaluable. But not every career path requires one. Do some research and consider your own goals—and what you really need to make those goals a reality—and you’ll be able to decide if an MBA is right for you.
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