So, you are considering applying to an MBA program this year but wonder whether the time, money, energy, and everything else involved in this endeavor is worthwhile. The easy answer is yes—go for it. Chances are high that you will make more money, have a better knowledge base that can propel your career forward, and make connections that will position you for future success. But an MBA is not for everyone, and especially not for anyone who is unsure what is driving them to pursue the degree. Before you dive in, think about why you want an MBA and where you want it to lead you.
If you are thinking about an MBA, then chances are, you are weighing the degree’s return on investment. You are certainly not alone. In fact, the Bloomberg Businessweek survey that informs the publication’s business school rankings revealed that in 2022, 73.3 % of the second-year student respondents at US programs indicated that increased compensation was one of the five primary factors behind their decision to earn an MBA. Well, the news is good on that front. That same survey found that in 2022, graduates gained a median of $85,000 in their first post-MBA role, compared with what they earned before entering business school. Getting an MBA also propels your salary higher than if you had merely a bachelor’s degree. A 2021 study conducted by data analytics company PaySpace for Poets&Quants found that graduates of the leading 50 U.S. business schools are expected to earn a median total of $5.7 million in cash compensation after 35 years of post-graduate work. That amount represents a premium of $2.3 million over what individuals who have only an undergraduate degree will earn.
In addition to boosting your earnings, an MBA can fuel your career trajectory. Learning to work in teams, solve complex problems, and strategically make decisions can translate into being an effective contributor—and hopefully, leader—in the workplace. Not only do you develop technical skills over the course of your MBA studies but you also learn the soft skills in management and leadership that can help you navigate complex challenges in dealing with people and projects. The professional development you gain through your MBA experience can last well beyond your initial roles after your graduate and extend throughout your entire career.
Attending business school helps you build your network, too. You meet students in classes, of course, but also during the significant amount of time you will spend on group work, volunteering, extracurriculars, study trips, and socializing. Given how global most MBA programs are these days—many have classes that are nearly 50% international—students are able to connect with classmates who come from different parts of the world, immediately expanding their global mind-set. In addition, business schools have vast alumni networks, allowing students to call upon such connections as needed throughout their career. Long after graduation, you might be invited to interview at a company, and a quick search of your school’s alumni database will give you the names of fellow graduates who work there. Bingo—you have contacts who can help you build your knowledge!
While these factors certainly play into why someone would want an MBA, you still have more to consider. Before applying to business school, really examine your career goals. The last thing you want to do is apply to a program that will not propel you to where you want to be after graduation. MBAs can generally be found working in every field, but doing some research to determine whether you will gain as much as you want from the degree for what you aspire to do professionally in the long term is definitely worth your time. Some things to look into are whether an MBA program has courses that relate to your area of interest and whether the school has any notable level of job placement in the industries you want to target. An MBA would not be worth the investment if you were to find yourself scrambling for work at graduation.
Another important factor to weigh is your finances. Sure, that median $85,000 gain in salary we noted at the beginning of this post sounds good, but not every industry or school will set you up for that kind of big number. Be real about your risk tolerance—are you in a position to take off two years for a full-time program, or would a part-time or Executive MBA program serve you better by allowing you to keep working? On the personal front, asking yourself whether now is the right time to go back to school is crucial. This question extends beyond just the financial aspect of pursuing the degree; ask yourself whether you have the time to dedicate to it as well.
As you consider whether an MBA is worth the time and other resources that earning it requires, do not be blinded by the potential gain in compensation. Think about what else the degree could change for you in the long term. If you feel that it will advance your career in terms of greater leadership abilities and potential, then you very well might be making the right choice about applying to business school.
If you have questions about your MBA application or wonder which schools you would be competitive at, sign up for a free 30-minute consultation with an mbaMission consultant.