Deciding to pursue an MBA degree (Master of Business Administration) is a big commitment, which can lead to the question: Should I get an MBA.? The process to apply and be accepted is both time-consuming and difficult, it requires a large financial investment and the amount of time it takes to complete the degree can be lengthy. On the other hand, the advantages of getting an MBA degree can possibly outweigh all of those things in the long run.
Should I get an MBA? The answer to that question is based on what you’re willing to give up in order to reach your long term goals. You have much to gain from an MBA degree, like developing essential management skills and a higher salary. You also have to make huge sacrifices in money, your personal and professional life and the amount of work you would be willing to complete.
What Can I Do with an MBA?
An MBA degree can benefit you professionally and personally. It can help you land a management position and increase your salary, develop a strong professional network and can lead to becoming your own boss as an entrepreneur. Here is the tip of the iceberg for what a Master of Business Administration degree can do for your career.
- Develop Essential Management Skills: Studying for an MBA degree forces you to learn new things about the business world and best management practices. Both variables can benefit young professionals in the workforce and experienced senior employees. Some of the skills you will learn include:
- How to handle company finances
- Gathering and interpreting industry data
- Public relations and keeping a positive image for the company
- Marketing and advertising for the company’s product
- Decision making in tough situations
- Hiring the right people and how to keep them
- Optimal company and department structure
- It’s Universal: Because you learn broad business information, an MBA can be applied to any field and any position. All of those management skills can benefit whatever company you decide to work for and can help you rise within the ranks. The MBA degree can be particularly useful if you’re not certain what industry you want to enter as the degree focuses on more general knowledge within certain areas, like finance and marketing.
- Enjoy a Higher Salary: One of the most important benefits of an MBA degree. The salary amount itself can depend on how prestigious the school you attended is, but on average, an MBA graduate’s income will be higher than an employee with a Bachelor’s degree or a regular Master’s degree.
Pay can also depend on the exact area of specialty you work in, such as finance or marketing. The average salaries of an MBA degree, regular Master’s degree and Bachelor’s degree are listed below.
- MBA degree: $86,000
- Regular Master’s degree: $71,000
- Bachelor’s degree: $61,000
The higher salary is also likely due to the fact that you put yourself in a better position to become part of management, which often comes with a higher salary. However, you don’t need an MBA to be an executive and you don’t need an MBA to be a manager as there are plenty of senior positions without the degree.
- Access a Large Business Network: You will meet people while attending school, such as professors and other students, but you will also have access to an extensive alumni network once your degree is finished. Both aspects can be invaluable when it comes time to continue working or when you look for a higher position within your field.
- Start Your Own Company: There is some debate about whether an MBA degree is necessary to become an entrepreneur. While the degree may not be vital, it can help would-be business owners learn how to run a company. It can help to gain knowledge on standard business practices as well as expand your current database of information on operations, strategy, accounting/finance, marketing and customer relations.
You have an idea of why you want to pursue an MBA degree, but you don’t feel knowledgeable enough on the matter to choose a path. Here are some points to consider when weighing the pros and cons of your decision.
Best Reasons to Get an MBA
It’s hard to say an MBA is worthless, but what is the lifetime value of an MBA? Exactly how do you know if you should get an MBA degree? Depending on what stage you are in your career, you could be asking yourself: Should I get an MBA right after undergrad? Or, should I get an MBA at 40? Here are the best reasons why you should go after the degree.
- You Want to be a Leader: MBA holders have more reasons than their educational knowledge to be part of management. They are generally considered to be proficient in making hard decisions, working under pressure and leading their team on the company’s mission. Those that complete an MBA usually prefer to assign tasks and delegate as opposed to being given tasks to follow the herd. Therefore, an MBA does help in leadership roles.
- You Have a Plan: You don’t need to have every month planned out for the next 5 years, but you know what your end goal is and markers to hit along the way. An MBA will open many doors but it also helps to be proactive. Think about your goals, subjects you want to learn, networks to join and relationships to build before enrolling. A plan will allow you to choose avenues that will best assist you as they arise and along the way to your degree.
- You Want to Own Your Own Business: As mentioned, you don’t have to get an MBA degree to be an entrepreneur and being a business owner doesn’t require an MBA. However, if you know you want to open a business and you’re not sure how to run it then the MBA can help you get a big picture of what’s involved and how to manage the day-to-day functions.
- Earning Potential is Important to You: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median weekly earnings increase based on the level of education. The unemployment rate also drops the higher your education degree. While the MBA degree does eventually equate to higher earnings, it also takes more time and money to obtain. For that reason, an MBA degree may not be a good fit if you’re not fully invested in the long run of your career.
- Recognition is Important to You: There are many self-made businessmen and businesswomen who didn’t need an MBA to achieve their career goals. Even so, some individuals feel it is important to have the credentials to prove their skill set. An MBA degree signals a certain degree of prestige, intelligence and advanced business knowledge to potential employers and future colleagues.
- Your Current Career Path is Stale: An MBA is not just for those starting their career journey. It is also a good choice for those who are experienced professionals that are looking for a change. Those individuals could be looking to work in a different area or want to expand their professional potential within their field. Completing an MBA allows employees to pivot careers into other areas because the degree is universal and so respected by employers.
- Your Dream Job Wants an MBA: There has been an influx of Bachelor’s degree holders entering the workforce. Which means if you want to stand out and have higher aspirations, you may want to consider an advanced degree. For example, finance and brokering are two fields that may be limited without an MBA.
- You Want to Work Globally: Fortunately, the MBA is a globally recognized credential. The degree can help you land a position if you’re interested in working anywhere outside of your country of origin. Thousands of international students complete their degrees in the United States and that can mean an advantage in international networking as well.
- You Have the Right Mindset For It: Just as some people are better suited to handle the challenges of working in the business field, some are better equipped to complete an MBA degree. The ability to network, work through difficult, real-life situations and having a solid work ethic are all important when getting an MBA degree.
Individuals who don’t have the right mindset will struggle with the coursework and projects required for the degree. It’s in your best interest to do a thorough self-examination before starting a program to determine if your natural strengths, weaknesses and interests align with an MBA path.
Should I Get an MBA: Is an MBA Worth It?
There are many things you can do with an MBA, and there are many reasons to get an MBA, but is it worth all of the time, money and effort that is necessary to complete the degree? We’ve covered the advantages but now let’s consider the disadvantages associated with an MBA degree.
- The Financial Cost: The biggest and most glaring reason to not pursue an advanced degree is the amount of money you will have to spend. The average cost of a Master’s degree can range from $30k to $120k so you’ll be committing at least $30k for the degree. That’s not counting the top schools either, like Harvard Business School, which can cost up to $155k.
The cost is especially significant if you plan on not working while in school. Some choose to take time off in order to focus on their education, so you won’t have an income while you’re also racking up debt. You can choose to do a part-time MBA program while working and possibly pay as you go, but that means a standard 2-year program could take much longer to finish, possibly up to 5 years.
- The Time: A traditional MBA program takes around 2 years to complete if you’re a full-time student. Some schools offer accelerated programs that will take less than 2 years but those programs make it very difficult to work at the same time. You will have a large amount of coursework to complete in a short period of time so it’s probable that if you try to do both, your work life will suffer or your quality of school work will suffer.
Not only are you dedicating years to finish getting the degree, but you’ll also be giving up many nights and weekends to put towards school work. You will have less time for friends, family and any hobbies you normally enjoy. An MBA degree requires a major sacrifice in your social, personal and professional life. Make sure you’re willing to adjust your schedule accordingly before committing any money to a program.
- You May Not Really Need It: An MBA can certainly help you advance in your career, but it may not be needed. Unlike a JD or MD, an MBA is not mandatory for specific fields or professions. A Master’s degree focuses on standard business skills and valuable skills like critical thinking and analytical ability. Learning about accounting, finance, operations and marketing will definitely help a would-be manager.
However, some industries and companies value experience and specialized knowledge over education. First, understand what is more important in your field and what upper management is looking for in a higher-level position. Then decide if the degree, along with the time and money, would really help you in the long run.
- You May Be Considered Overqualified by Hiring Managers: Overqualified and MBA should not be paired together but it is an unfortunate and ironic reality. You spent countless hours on your degree, accumulated student loans and labored away to get your coveted diploma but now your degree is stopping you from getting hired. Your goal was to pave new roads for your career but now you’re finding that the degree is limiting you professionally.
The frustrating truth is that employers can view an MBA as a liability. Employers want to hire employees who are low-risk: they transition easily into the company, don’t get bored quickly, are happy with their income and will stay with the company for the long-term.
That doesn’t just apply to an upper-level position, it also pertains to entry-level positions. The MBA holder may seem like the ideal candidate, but they are still considered a risky choice. There are ways to combat this road-block but nevertheless, it can still be a challenge for MBA job seekers.
- You Can Change Career Directions Without It: There are other ways to advance your career that are less expensive and time-consuming. It is possible to build your professional skill set without an MBA by using free online programs or courses, learning from a manager or coworkers or attending a conference or seminar in your field.
MBA degree holders are valued for their critical thinking and problem-solving skills and it is possible to build that skillset without a Master’s degree. Your employer may even offer assistance or reimbursement for a course or seminar if it is directed related to your field. Using other resources allows you to gain invaluable professional skills without the financial cost and stress that accompany an MBA degree.
- You Don’t Need an MBA to Network: Students cite professional networking as one of the key benefits from completing an MBA but, as above, there are other ways to network within your field. You can use undergrad alumni networks, events within your city or community and professional networking organizations. Many networking events are free or charge a small fee, making it a cost-effective method.
- It’s the Most Popular Post-Grad Degree: This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that you will have the most competition if you’re comparing types of degrees. Master’s Program Guide ranks the top 50 most popular post-grad degrees and the MBA is ranked No. 1 on the list.
This could mean that employers may target top tier MBA programs if they’re looking to hire an MBA holder, as the school itself separates the quality of the MBA (or so they believe). Some companies may think the value of an MBA in today’s market has diminished due to the influx of degrees and if this is a concern to you, there are other avenues to take.
One alternative to the MBA in this instance is to look into a specialized program that is related to your career aspirations. This doesn’t necessarily mean another degree but could be a professional certification. A certificate that is tailored to your exact goal could set you apart from others who have a more broad MBA degree.
Additional Points for How to Know if You Should Get an MBA
Deciding to start a program for a Master’s degree is a major life decision that should not be taken lightly. It is a huge commitment and requires major changes and adjustments in your personal and professional life. Here are some additional thoughts to consider in the process.
- How Long Have You Been in the Workforce? Some programs require at least three years of work experience in the professional world to be considered as the coursework and group projects are based on real-world scenarios. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the graduate management admission council won’t approve you with less time but you may have a hard time understanding the overall importance of certain topics and class subjects without a frame of reference.
- Do You have Intrinsic Motivation? A Master’s program is not a degree to go into haphazardly or half-heartedly. Sure, you may want the degree to increase your pay but is that reason enough to get you through graduate school with all of the work that is required?
Your motivation has to get you through weeknights of homework, weekends of projects, hours writing papers, patience in group assignments and the ongoing stress of exams. You may fizzle out at some point if you don’t have a strong reason for getting the degree and then you’re stuck with student loans for a degree that don’t want to finish.
- The School May Matter to Some, but Not to Everyone: The school’s ranking can make a difference in your post MBA school career path, especially in some fields. However, an MBA degree is still a Master’s degree that companies will find value in. Some people cannot relocate for school and may have limited options if they want to get an MBA degree, like an online MBA program.
At the end of the day, a Master’s degree is still a post-graduate degree that can raise your stock in the job market and at your place of employment. Completing the degree is a major accomplishment on its own and employers can recognize the amount of effort and dedication it took to get the diploma.
- It’s Your Decision: You are the one who should be making the ultimate decision of whether or not to go after the degree. Family, friends, manager and coworkers will probably all give their 2 cents but you’re the one who will be the MBA student doing all of the work. If you’re vacillating on your decision, try out this Should Iget an MBA quiz to see if it helps steer your way.
An MBA is a long-term investment, meaning it takes many years to reap the full rewards and benefits of the program. You should carefully consider if you’re willing to make the full commitment it takes to complete a program before making a final decision. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to not pursue an MBA degree or postpone starting a program until you feel the time is right.
Graduating with a Master’s of Business Administration degree is both a milestone to accomplish and a springboard for your career but it’s not for everyone. Should I get an MBA? There are many factors that contribute to whether or not an MBA works for your situation. Take feedback at work and consider this when making a career change. You have to decide if the payoff will be worth the effort because after all, no one wants to put themselves through a Master’s program if the outcome doesn’t yield the desired reward.