For me, the answer is yes! I didn’t always feel my MBA degree was worth it. Especially those late nights at the kitchen table finishing up 20-page papers. The case can be argued for foregoing education for experience, but I went for both in my case.
When I lost out on my dream job to a peer without an MBA degree, I wondered if it was worth it. As time has gone by, I’ve landed some great jobs and am currently doing work I love. I can say my MBA has been instrumental in helping me carve out a career as a writer. I love the work I’m doing, and I have all the family time I need, sometimes more than I need.
Benefits of an MBA
Going to business school may not be on your career path, but a business education can be used in various fields and industries. My undergraduate degree was a bachelor’s of arts in business administration with an emphasis in Marketing.
On average, having an MBA degree will earn 20-30% more than a worker without an MBA. Annual income will differ based on the field of work, geographic location, and years of experience. Still, people who hold an MBA degree can expect to earn at least six figures.
You can get a general salary range for specific positions on sites like glassdoor or salary.com. I’ve found many of the clients that I interview also have an MBA degree and prefer candidates with MBA degrees or some time in business school.
This should probably be called “networking” but for me, that is too informal. In my case, I gained three life-long friends. We argued about how to tackle projects until the wee hours of the night sometimes. I’ve enjoyed seeing them grow in their careers, communities, and in their personal lives. I know I can call on them when I need advice and hopefully they feel the same.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak with people from all over the world, learn about different cultures, and work with teams in various time zones. These experiences have helped me to be more understanding and adaptable. I’ve also been able to work with some fantastic clients and on some incredible projects. The skills that I’ve gained from my MBA have been invaluable. I learned about business, how to think critically, solve problems, and manage people. These skills I learned in business school are skills I now use every day.
The experience I gained from my MBA wasn’t realized until a few years after graduating. Much like Daniel LaRusso, complaining about sanding the floor and painting the fence, I complained that it was a waste of time and eventually forgot I had one. Once I started looking for work again, I found that my MBA was a valuable credential that helped me stand out from the competition.
All that writing I had done in college had started to pay off as I won several contracts quickly. I was making a better living as a writer than when I had a full-time job. Not to mention, I’m making my own hours, able to help with the kiddos, and I’m feeling healthier than I have in years. Many organizations require an MBA degree for positions that didn’t 10 years ago. And of those that don’t require an MBA degree, many prefer candidates who have one or have at least attended business school.
You don’t have to hold an MBA in Business Administration from Harvard Business School for credibility. If you choose to pursue an MBA degree, be sure your master of business administration is an accredited program. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and The International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) are two of the more common accrediting services.
Who is an MBA degree for?
Although historically, MBA students worked for companies in finance or consultancy, the typical MBA class now consists of various professionals. These students include: technology, manufacturing, health, nonprofits, media and military, finance, and consultancy.
Types of MBA programs
MBA programs today come in various shapes and delivery formats. Business schools provide different kinds of MBA programs that suit different student types. Students can choose between executive MBA programs, accelerated MBA programs, part-time MBA programs, full-time MBA programs, online, or hybrid. Here’s a more in-depth list of MBA programs to help you choose.
A full-time MBA program is a fully integrated on-campus experience designed for mid-career and early college students. I would not want to attempt a full-time program while working full-time and raising a family. Part-time MBA programs were ideal for my situation. I worked a full-time job, had three young kids, and one was on the way, so I opted for a part-time MBA program instead of a full-time MBA program. The part-time MBA program allowed me to space out my classes and prevented me from getting overwhelmed mentally or financially. This worked out great for us, as I ended up paying next to nothing for my MBA.
Executive MBA programs are designed for senior-level executives and business leaders who want to gain additional skills without taking a career break. These programs are usually part-time or hybrid and can last up to three years. If you have a business school picked out, talk to admissions or counseling to see what program best suits you.
What can you do with an MBA?
Almost everything. An MBA prepares you for working in various industries and positions. Typical MBA jobs include consulting, leadership, or owning your own business. MBA alumni can often work for multinationals and start-ups or firms of their choice among these sectors.
MBA graduates will typically find themselves in management consulting, investment banking, corporate finance, and marketing. Other areas that are less frequently chosen by MBA students, but are nonetheless viable career options, include: operations, human resources, information technology, and supply chain management.
In recent years there has been an increase in MBA graduates working for nonprofit organizations and government agencies. These roles are often in leadership, strategic planning, and budgeting.
MBA graduates can also work in various other industries such as healthcare, technology, media, and retail. MBA holders often find themselves in management roles or working as consultants.
The Expense of an MBA
Getting an MBA is expensive, so I decided not to pay for mine. No, I didn’t default on any loans. What would have cost me north of $50,000 only cost me about $200. No, I didn’t miss a comma or a 0. The $200 I paid was a timing issue, and I still kick myself for it.
Many companies offer tuition reimbursement of up to $5,200 per year. Reimbursement programs will differ depending on the organization. Still, the last I checked; the IRS only allows an organization to offer an employee $5,200 a year. Any more than that, and Uncle Sam gets involved. I’ve found it’s always better to just leave that guy out. Grades also play a factor in reimbursement. In my case, this allowed me to take 3-4 business school classes per year with nothing coming out of my pocket.
In addition, many organizations have partnerships with local colleges or universities, offering tuition discounts. You guessed it, I took advantage of that as well. Undergraduate programs are more lenient than graduate programs. Typically for reimbursement in undergraduate studies, students need a C or better. In contrast, reimbursement for graduate programs may require a B or higher.
Paying for MBA
If you are thinking about pursuing a master of business administration degree and your company doesn’t currently have a tuition reimbursement program, ask them if they will pay for some, if not all, of your education. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Organizations also require the field of study related to current or future work opportunities. So if you are working for a technology company and want to go to culinary school, it is likely that your organization won’t reimburse you.
Making the Most of Your Degree
Have you ever purchased some fitness equipment or kitchen equipment that would whip you into shape or turn you into an Etsy tycoon? A few months later, the fitness equipment is only used as a reminder of failure. Ok, that’s a little harsh, but you need to be intentional about putting your degree to work.
There is still work to be done after you graduate so employers may not be busting down your doors to hire you just because you have an MBA. I mean you don’t even get a super cool new title like Dr. or Professor. There are a lot of MBA degree holders out there, so find a way to differentiate yourself, build your network, and put yourself in the best position to grow your career.
- Volunteer – Volunteering your knowledge in business administration is a great way to showcase your skills and make you more marketable. There are tons of small businesses, churches, and nonprofits that would love the help.
- Mentor and be Mentored – I like having a mentor, but I love mentoring people. I find it more enjoyable helping people achieve their own goals as opposed to achieving my own.
- Diversify – When I think about my own career journey, one thing I would have done differently would be to try different career fields. You can do this at your current job by volunteering for projects or volunteering outside of work.
My Thoughts on Student Loans
This is obviously a sensitive subject for many. It sucks being under the lion’s paw of debt, and if you can’t make up the ground, I see the frustration. I think the system fails in quite a few areas. Before signing any loans, talk to someone good with money that can be trusted. After that, talk to someone else. This isn’t one of those “I’ll figure it out later” decisions.
What is a Student Loan
A student loan is not the same as a grant. A student loan is a financial obligation the student or guardian agrees to in exchange for money. Before signing anything, you can do a simple cost/benefit analysis on your degree to see what you will be paying and for how long. In this case, MBA students are making an investment in themselves by pursuing MBA degrees.
Cost of degree/Amount needed to borrow/Expected additional annual income = Expected payoff
The teaching career path is a great example of this. God bless our teachers! Yes, they are underpaid by a ton! Trust me, I homeschool 4 kids, and if this were a paid position, I’d be asking for a minimum of six figures, and I still want summers off.
A teacher’s starting salary is between $30,000 – and $50,000 per year. This pay range doesn’t allow for much spending outside of the cost of living. Teachers don’t typically pursue an MBA or attend business school, but this example points out the disincentivizing of pursuing a teaching degree.
$100,000/$80,000/$1,000 = Not in your lifetime!
It may be worth it to switch careers and get an MBA. For example, the supply chain field is a hot field, desperate for talent. If you previously attended business school, an MBA in Supply Chain Management Program may pay for itself quickly or be covered by your employer. My advice would always be to follow your heart and not the money.
When I finished my undergraduate degree, I was being paid to go to business school. I had a full tuition waiver and a book stipend. I was also working full time while going to business school. Grants are an awesome way to lessen the burden of paying for your education.
These often take time to apply for, which means a lot of people don’t apply for them. Out hustle the lazy people and get yourself some free money.
Save your receipts! You can deduct the interest you paid on your student loans for the year. At tax time, you’ll be glad you did.
I know this was a long read, but there are some things we just need to be honest about. My MBA was not a waste of time or money; it was an investment. And like all investments, there is risk involved. But if you are strategic about it, the MBA can be a great way to accelerate your career.
Do your research, speak with other MBA alumni, and decide whether or not pursuing an MBA is right for you.
The bottom line
Earning an MBA can make you more marketable, enhance your career, and provide an advantage in finding a good-paying job. Generally, though, the expense is compensated only when a degree is acquired through an accredited business school, and you leverage the degree to your advantage.
Shortly after I earned my MBA, my mom’s health turned south. We were able to load up all the kids and drive across the country to spend time with her. She was always very supportive no matter what I decided to do or the path I chose to take. She saw more in me than I ever did, and having someone like that in your life is worth more than any degree. She told me to follow my dreams, and I did. I can’t wait to tell her all about it someday.
Thank you for reading!