Is an MBA Worth It?

Updated Dec 21, 20223 min
Is an MBA Worth It?

Is an MBA Worth It?

Caroline BantonUpdated Dec 21, 20223 min
Is an MBA Worth It?

The question should not be is studying for a master of business administration (MBA) worth it, but is the individual worth the MBA? You see, the value of an MBA is like icing on a cake. It makes a perfectly baked sponge even tastier. However, if the cake is dry and tasteless, no amount of icing can disguise it.

In other words, if a person is not already a seasoned professional with significant industry experience, an MBA is unlikely to improve the end product.

What Is an MBA?

To explain, let’s look at the concept of an MBA degree. An MBA is unlike other graduate degrees like a master's in education or a master's in biology.  A regular master's degree teaches the ins and outs of a certain field, the theories, and the science. An MBA, on the other hand, teaches how to think strategically and manage complex business operations.

There are MBA programs with industry concentrations, for example, finance or marketing, but they only delve so far into the weeds and the technicalities. For example, an MBA with a concentration in technology will not teach how to code at any deep level. 

Rather, the goal of the MBA is to give people the tools they need and just enough business education in technology so that they can operate at the C-suite level of a company, where strategic decisions are made. 

Who Is a Good Candidate for an MBA?

The best MBA students have substantial work experience under their belt. Experienced professionals can then apply what they learn through their MBA to the complexities and practicalities of their field whether it be finance, business analytics, healthcare, or logistics.

If a person has worked extensively in healthcare and seen the types of challenges and issues that have come up, their MBA training might show them tools to solve those problems. With a strong foundation in a business sector, the MBA complements a person’s existing knowledge and adds the finishing touch.  

What Are the Different Types of MBAs?

Depending on your career path and how quickly you want to progress along that path, you can choose an intense MBA program or one that extends over a longer time frame.

An MBA does not have to be a full-time commitment for two years. There are Executive MBAs designed for people who work full time and want to gain hands-on industry experience at the same time.

Most MBA programs require years of work experience, particular skill sets, and a certain score on the GMAT exam developed and administered by GMAC. According to GMAT, the programs include finance, marketing, operations management, economics, human resources management, global management, strategy, leadership, technology management, accounting, business management, entrepreneurship, and case studies.

There are also MBA programs with specializations. For example, see the list below provided by GMAT.

MBA in Entrepreneurship

MBA in Consulting

MBA in Finance

MBA in Marketing

MBA in Human Resources

MBA in Operation Management

MBA in Business Analytics

MBA in Supply Chain Management

MBA in Healthcare

The MBA programs below accommodate those who work or who want to study for an MBA either online or in person, or who want to complete the accreditation within a certain time frame.

One-year Full-Time MBA Programs

These programs are usually completed within sixteen months. They are intense because they are so compressed, and the MBA admissions requirements can be strict. Candidates are usually already experienced professionals in a specific industry, and they seek a fast, immersive course. The coursework may not include an internship because the candidates are already experienced. Examples of this program are the INSEAD 1-Year MBA Program, the Oxford – Saïd Business School 1-Year MBA, and the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA Program.

Two-Year Full-time MBA Programs

Two-year full-time programs typically last four semesters spread out over two academic years. The first year is spent on general course requirements and developing your core skills. The second year focuses on a specific discipline. 

Candidates often have at least three years of work experience as business professionals, and these programs also include internships. Examples are Harvard Business School MBA, Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA, University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School of Business

Executive MBA Programs

Most Executive MBA programs are completed in two years or less. They are focused on leadership skills, and prospective students might have eight or more years of experience. Some employers provide financial assistance for executive MBA programs for employees on a leadership track.

Some of the top Executive MBA programs are INSEAD Global Executive MBA Program, Kellogg Executive MBA Program, and Chicago Booth Executive MBA Program

Part-time MBA Programs

Part-time MBA programs run year-round in many business schools, with classes scheduled outside of normal business hours to accommodate candidates' current jobs. Students can choose how many classes to take each semester, and most take one or two and complete the program within four or five years.

The following are some part-time MBA programs: University of California Berkeley Part-Time MBA Program, University of Chicago Booth School of Business Part-Time MBA, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management Part-Time MBA Program

Online MBA Programs

Online MBA Programs allow you to take classes at your own pace and spread the cost and time over longer periods. Course formats include recorded lectures and live web conference courses.

The following are some online MBA programs: Carnegie Mellon – Tepper School of Business Online MBA, Indiana University – Kelley School of Business Online MBA, University of North Carolina – Kenan Flagler Business School Online MBA

Is an MBA Worth it Financially?

Earning an MBA at a business or private business school can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $160,000 in tuition alone. Add in the opportunity cost of two years’ of salary and you could be looking at the cost of an average home.

However, if you are experienced in your field, enrollment in an MBA program may be just what you need to take you to the next level in your career, particularly if you can attend a top-level business school where recruiters will come to you. As a graduate from a leading business school, you will be able to command a higher salary, have broad job opportunities, and see ample return on investment.

Some of the top schools according to GMAT rankings are the following:

Stanford GSB 

 Harvard Business School

 Wharton School 


 Columbia Business School 

 Kellogg School of Management

 MIT Sloan School of Management

 UCLA Anderson 

 NYU Stern  

 London Business School

The other advantage of attending a business school is the opportunity to join an alumni network of business leaders that will pay dividends in the future.

Earning Prospects for MBAs

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, with respect to finances, MBA graduates carry an average of $66,300 in student loan debt. The National Association of Colleges and Employers projected the average MBA grad in 2020 would earn an average salary starting around $80,000, $20,000 higher than bachelor’s degree graduates. 

Those numbers imply that the degree will pay for itself within about three years. MBAs in highly competitive sectors, like finance, can earn an MBA starting salary three times that much, particularly if they end up working on Wall Street.

Any certification or credential that you earn can never be taken away from you, nor can your professional network. Whether your goal is to work for a startup or a nonprofit institution, there are plenty of options for studying for an MBA that can accommodate your lifestyle and career goals. 

Ultimately, investing in an MBA is expensive, but if you already have an undergraduate degree and substantial experience in the business world, the payoff from earning an MBA will allow you to have your cake and eat it too!

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications

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