When Is an MBA Worth It?

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Degree-seekers interested in business can pursue masters of business administration (MBA) degrees regardless of their undergraduate majors. Earning an MBA can lead to leadership roles in finance, information systems, or human resources.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), management occupations earned a median annual salary of $109,760 in 2020.

While prospective students may worry about the financial investment of graduate school, an MBA can yield a good return on investment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), management occupations earned a median annual salary of $109,760 in 2020.

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Admission | Cost | Value | FAQs

Preparing for an MBA Program

Like other degrees, students must invest time and money into their MBA studies. Researching program requirements can help degree-seekers decide whether an MBA degree aligns with their goals.

Admission requirements indicate whether a student qualifies for a particular program or degree. Concentrations allow learners to pursue specific knowledge in business. Students who research program details and requirements can make informed decisions about their education.

Admission Requirements

MBA admission requirements vary among schools. These requirements differ depending on if a program focuses on business newcomers or seasoned professionals. Many schools welcome students of all academic backgrounds.

An MBA applicant should hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Degree-holders from any major can pursue MBAs. Some programs prefer or require prerequisite courses in accounting, economics, and statistics. Many programs allow learners to complete prerequisite courses during the program.

The minimum GPA requirement is typically 2.75. Some schools may only require standardized tests for applicants whose GPAs fall below this minimum. Candidates may also need to submit scores for either the GMAT or GRE. Some programs may require 3-5 years of professional work experience, though others accept recent graduates.

Additional application requirements may include a resume, recommendation letters, and an interview.

Prep for business school exams:

Business School Entrance Exams: GMAT vs. GRE Prep for the GMAT

Concentration Options

MBA enrollees can choose from many specialization options. Students looking to pursue specific fields or industries can consider adding concentrations to their MBAs. An MBA specialization usually shares a core curriculum with the general MBA. These core courses may include accounting, business strategy, finance, marketing, and operations.

Concentrations allow students to apply business foundations to focus areas. Degree-seekers may take 4-6 courses in the concentration to explore subjects like marketing, entrepreneurship, healthcare administration, or cybersecurity.

Prospective students should look for practical experiences like capstones or internships in their concentration. They may also want to ask whether coursework covers industry-specific tools. Finally, prospective students should speak with alumni to ask whether the concentration helped them land jobs after graduation.


The ROI of an MBA

Prospective students may wonder, “Is an MBA worth it?” or “Will an MBA help me secure a high-paying job after graduating?” Calculating the return on investment (ROI) helps compare the benefits of earning a degree with its costs.

To determine ROI, degree-seekers need to consider their unique situation. How much debt will they need to take on, and how much interest will accumulate? Review school records to find average salaries for program graduates and explore salary data through the BLS and PayScale.

Remember to take location and experience level into account when evaluating salary information.

Comparing debt or direct tuition payments against potential salaries can help students determine the ROI of an MBA. An MBA can open doors to jobs across industries. Individuals hoping to advance to corporate leadership positions, such as chief executive officers, may need the degree to secure their dream jobs.

How Much Does an MBA Cost?

Tuition plays an important part in calculating MBA ROI. Students might choose a program like John Brown University, where the full degree costs $21,600-$27,000, depending on the track. Alternatively, students might opt for a school like New York University, where a single fall semester costs $33,855.

Choosing an online program can sometimes reduce the cost of tuition. Many online programs allow out-of-state students to pay in-state or reduced fees. Online programs match the rigor of in-person programs.

Students should also consider factors like living expenses and materials when calculating total costs.

How Can You Pay for an MBA?

By completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), prospective students can qualify for federal grants and low-interest loans. FAFSA also qualifies students for work-study programs. Degree-seekers can also research scholarships through professional organizations and local foundations.

Employers recognize the value of an MBA and often provide financial assistance to employees who pursue these degrees. Many MBA programs provide pathways that allow students to maintain their current jobs.

Online enrollees can participate in real-time, synchronous classes from anywhere. Asynchronous online structures offer even more flexibility, as learners can access materials on their schedules. Similarly, part-time programs and evening classes cater to working professionals.

How an MBA Can Help Your Career

After earning MBAs, graduates can pursue higher salaries by changing jobs, securing promotions, or advancing to higher-level positions in other companies. The career benefits of pursuing an MBA include:

  • Salary Potential: According to the BLS, management salaries rank higher than any other occupational group, with a median annual wage of $109,760. Many MBA graduates qualify for jobs that pay even more. For example, advertising and marketing managers make a median salary of $141,490 as of May 2020, while computer and information systems managers earn a median salary of $151,150.
  • Advancement Opportunities: With an MBA, graduates hone their business skills and demonstrate their dedication to the field. Employers often seek MBA degree-holders for leadership roles. Chief executives, medical and health services managers, and industrial production managers often obtain master’s-level degrees.
  • Experience: MBA students gain valuable experience by completing hands-on projects. These programs help students find internships and often pair learners with local businesses for capstone projects. Students may also complete a portfolio and obtain valuable professional connections.
  • Resume Boost: Employers may prefer to hire MBA graduates for management positions. An MBA indicates that a candidate possesses business knowledge, experience in professional situations, and leadership potential.

How much can I earn with a business degree?

The Value of an MBA Beyond Your Salary

Some MBA benefits are more difficult to quantify than salary alone. This credential can help graduates in searching for jobs, overcoming career obstacles, and boosting confidence in their abilities.

  • Networking: Getting to know peers and professionals can ease the job search after graduation. Networking allows people to share industry knowledge, troubleshoot roadblocks, and grow as business professionals.
  • Skill Development: With an MBA, learners can take their skills to the next level or learn what they need to enter the field. Students develop skills in accounting, marketing, and business analytics that enables them to pursue leadership positions after graduation.
  • Knowledge: MBA graduates have a solid understanding of business that employers value. Whether pursuing jobs in technology, entrepreneurship, or marketing, an MBA degree-holder understands the role of a department within the organization as a whole.
  • Confidence: MBA programs emphasize leadership development, which can help increase students’ belief in their abilities. Enrollees receive experience through internships and capstone projects to develop confidence in real-world scenarios.

Should I Get an MBA?

Students should consider more factors than ROI alone when selecting an MBA program. Accreditation is a crucial component of the school selection process. Learners should always determine their prospective schools’ accreditation status before enrolling.

Regional and national accreditation apply to entire institutions. Generally, employers and other colleges recognize regional accreditation as the more rigorous of the two forms. Degree-seekers can also look for programmatic accreditation from organizations like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Prospective students may also want to ask about schools’ resources. Access to active career centers and alumni networks can help with the job search process. Learners should determine whether the institution provides any extracurricular activities like clubs or networking events.

Prospective students should also consider program structure. Online MBA programs come in many varieties. Some require in-person residencies or optional experiences, such as international trips. Others operate entirely online through real-time class meetings or asynchronous coursework.

Ultimately, an MBA’s ROI depends on each student’s unique situation. Degree-seekers should consider their career goals, experience level, and financial status before committing to an MBA program.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why should I get an MBA?

    With an MBA, graduates can qualify for lucrative jobs in marketing, accounting, technology, and executive leadership. Prospective students might choose MBAs when changing careers or pursuing promotions.

  • What is the ROI of an MBA?

    MBA ROI depends on the individual student. Learners can determine the potential ROI by comparing their estimated debt against school employment records and salary potential.

  • Is an online MBA worth it?

    Online MBAs allow learners to engage with a more flexible course structure than on-campus programs. Enrollees can often keep their jobs while studying.

  • How much does an MBA raise your salary?

    A Graduate Management Admission Council survey reports a median salary of $115,000 for MBA graduates as of 2021 — 75% higher than the median salary for bachelor’s degree-holders.

  • Is an MBA better than other master's degrees?

    The best master’s degree depends on the student’s goals. If a degree-seeker wants a solid foundation of business knowledge and the potential to pair their education with a more specialized concentration, an MBA may offer the right choice.


Featured Image: Shannon Fagan / The Image Bank / Getty Images

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