Everyone admires that person with an MBA degree. It means they’re smart, they’re committed, they’re on the road to achieving their goals. But what does an MBA mean for you? Is it really worth it? Nobody can be sure of what the future holds for them, but with studious research and planning, you can make a decision that makes the most sense for you.
Here, we’re going to take a look at the different types of MBAs, the benefits and costs, and what you may achieve with or without an MBA.
Benefits of Earning an MBA
First, let’s look at the benefits of earning an MBA. A high percentage of MBA graduates find placement within their career field quickly, and that trend is only gaining momentum. Statistics show that in 2019, 83.5% of those who earned their MBA found employment within three months of graduation, compared with 75% in 2010. Not only that, but the median starting salary of students who found employment at US companies in 2019 was $115,000, a better median salary than any of the previous graduating MBA classes.
What are the reasons behind this trend? Many MBA programs focus on a combination of hard and soft skills, such as working productively in a team, critical and creative thinking, and getting along well with others. Introducing new ways of thinking and implementing new policies are just two of the benefits of business school MBA graduates have reported.
MBAs with specialized health or tech options are, particularly in demand. However, tech expertise that can be applied across a variety of sectors is also a valuable trait. The best thing to do is take a look at the schools you are interested in and see what different streams and electives their MBA program offers. Make sure it will allow you to pursue the career of your choice successfully.
Career Prospects with an MBA
There is a wide variety of career choices available to MBA graduates. Although not all of the careers listed below explicitly require an MBA, being able to list one on your resume is always going to show your prospective employer that you are equipped with the diverse skills offered in MBA programs. Below we’ve listed just a few of the careers an MBA graduate can expect to be considered for.
- Marketing Manager
- Medical and Health Services Manager
- Financial Manager
- Database Administrator
- Business Operations Manager
- Computer and Information Systems Manager
- Chief Technology Officer
- Business Administration
This is often listed at the top of potential career choices for MBA graduates, and the reasons are this: any company is going to need to sell their service or product, whatever it may be, so there will always be a need for someone who can make that happen.
A marketing manager will need to be able to set prices, predict trends in the market, and develop product campaigns and client relationships. Depending on the company’s size, a marketing manager will also be responsible for team building and staff cohesiveness.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this position boasts a low unemployment rate at 2.6% and a high projected growth rate of 5%. The median pay for a marketing manager as of 2018 is $134,290.
Medical and Health Services Manager
A particularly challenging and rewarding career, Medical and Health Services Managers need to be meticulous about record-keeping and compliance. As the population ages, those with the specialized qualifications necessary for this position are in high demand.
The ability to meet growing health care needs while keeping costs low is just one of the responsibilities of this job. There is a high projected growth rate for this job, and the median salary sat at $99,730 in 2018 and is only expected to rise.
Financial Managers need to stay up-to-date on global financial trends and ensure that their company is on track. You’ll need to manage the budgets in every department and be decisive about investments in this position.
You may think that soft skills aren’t going to be as important, but you will be interacting with employees from all areas, making decisions based on the company budget. Financial Managers can expect a median pay of $127,990 and are rarely unemployed.
An Information Systems MBA is generally needed for this career choice. As online business grows, companies need someone to oversee all of the information flowing through their virtual doors. Design, troubleshooting, and security are all components of this role. This particular position had a 2018 unemployment rate of only 0.5% and a median salary of $90,070. The need for people to fill positions such as this is projected to grow.
Business Operations Manager
Maximizing the efficiency of the business as a whole is the main objective of a business operations manager. Managing deadlines, logistics, and supply chains can fall under the responsibility of this title. Overseeing all aspects of the company, depending on need, is the job of this person. Soft skills are going to make a huge difference in this position. The median salary is $100,780, with unemployment sitting at 1.8%
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Overseeing all of the hardware and software systems in a company as well as building internet sites and basic maintenance are in the spectrum of the information systems manager’s responsibility. Training and troubleshooting will also be expected of you if you decide this is the right career for you. Median pay falls at $146,360, and the unemployment rate is 2.8%
Chief Technology Officer
This is a broad title and plays an important executive role in any company. Management of technology and cybersecurity and a deep understanding of technology trends are part of the chief technology officer’s responsibilities. And it doesn’t stop there. Aligning product development with business goals, conducting technical reviews of products, and general leadership skills are all part of this role. According to salary.com, a CTO’s median salary is $248,372.
Average Price of an MBA
The cost of the MBA degree program can vary drastically, depending on where you go. If you choose a top-tiered school, you should expect to pay a top-tiered price.
The University of North Alabama published an MBA price at $12,580, while the prestigious Stanford University states their MBA degree program will run the student $149,412. A top-tiered school will definitely be more impressive on a resume, but is it an affordable option? Will the investment pay off?
Not only do MBA graduates seem to find work quickly, but the return on the investment can also be quite high. This means that with solid financial planning, however you’ve financed your education, you can pay it off in a reasonable amount of time. Speaking of which, on to our next topic:
Financing Your MBA
Ideally, your employer will pay for the cost of your MBA. But this only happens in a very small percentage of cases. A 2017 study showed that only 10% of MBA students were expecting their employer to pay for all or a portion of the cost of their schooling and tuition. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask, but chances are high you will have to look down different avenues if you decide that an MBA is the way to go. Contact your HR department to see if they have any resources you can investigate.
Alternately, you may have savings dedicated to paying for your MBA, especially if this is a mid-career decision. Most financial advisors will tell you that 20% of your income should go towards long-term goals such as continuing education. However, if you’re a recent post-secondary or high school graduate, you may not have any finances available for investing in an MBA program.
Look closely at the schools you’re thinking of applying to. Do they offer scholarships, fellowships, or grant programs? The easiest way to guarantee a solid return on your investment in an MBA program is to get yourself some free money. Apply for as many scholarships as possible to finance as much of the cost as possible. The rest will be up to you in the form of savings, earnings, and student loans.
Student loans can be tricky. Recent studies have shown that today’s post-graduates have crippling student debt compared to previous generations. It’s important to look at what type of loan you’re getting and if interest relief, refinancing, or other types of financial relief are available.
Read the fine print. Know what you’re getting into. Are you borrowing from the government or a private loan company? From the school itself? Do your research and make sure that whichever option you choose is the best one for you, and you will be able to repay it.
Many students benefit from a work-study program. This can be either through the government or through the school itself. University of Toronto’s Rotman School, the top-ranking business school in Canada, boasts an 80-90% paid employment placement rate for full-time students during one of three work terms averaging over $5000 a month. Additionally, Research and Teaching Assistant placement programs are available for second-year MBA students.
A government work-study program could be another route. These are generally needs-based instead of merit-based and will often have generous scheduling options for midterms and other high-workload times. These provide both on and off-campus work and are often community-based. More information can be obtained through your school of choice’s financial aid office.
Whether or not you qualify for one of the above financial aid programs, Earning an MBA can still be a huge financial drain. Top-tier schools are more expensive, but there is a definite payoff when you can add that prestigious name to your resume.
Business schools will be upfront about the costs, including living expenses, in their literature. This is a huge investment with possible life-changing results, so take your time and read through any information you can find regarding your school and city of choice.
You can also consider looking for an affordable online MBA program.
Salary Expectations Without an MBA
You can gain tons of wonderful experience and skills earning your MBA, but it’s definitely an investment of time and money. Can you achieve the same career goals without going to Business School? Below is a list of some of the career choices you can have with a BA.
- Financial Planner
- Management Analyst
- Market Research Analyst
- Marketing Manager
The BLS projects the employer demand for this career posting to rise 14% from 2016 to 2026. To become a financial planner, you need a BA, and you will always have the option to become a certified financial planner (CFP).
Financial planning can be a very satisfying job. Helping people strategize for their financial future and managing debt and investments are all included in the skills necessary for this job. The median salary for financial planners was $87,850 in 2018.
A management analyst, or consultant, is expected to give up-to-date, expert advice to companies regarding market trends and how to implement maximum profitability and efficiency. This job is all about reputation, achievement, and accountability. The BLS predicts a 12% employment increase from 2016 to 2026, with a median pay of $85,660 in 2018.
To become an accountant, you will need a BA. You may choose to become a certified public accountant or CPA. As an accountant, high attention to detail is a must. You will be crunching numbers all day, and people will look to you as the problem-solver for all things number-related.
It will be your job to make sure all the amounts add up for taxes, payroll, expenditures, and payments. Projected growth is forecasted at 10% between 2016 and 2026, and median pay was $71,550 in 2018.
Market Research Analyst
As a market research analyst, you will be expected to gather and interpret data regarding market trends and the consumer base and how sales can be generated from that information. Policy creation, implementation, and management may also be part of your responsibility. There is an expected job growth of 23% between 2016 and 2026, and the median salary is $63,790.
This job is as varied as there are companies, products, and services. As stated above, a marketing manager needs to be market trend-savvy, as they will be responsible for determining the direction of the company’s sales.
Whether or not you will need an MBA for this job is entirely dependant on the company you are interested in working for. Additionally, the average salary range is going to be quite wide. The BLS predicts a 9% growth through 2026, and you can expect to make anywhere between $54,000-$110,000.
Earning Your Executive MBA
While both an MBA and an executive or EMBA will cover many of the same areas, an EMBA is part-time, designed specifically so that the student can continue their work and pursue their educational goals in the mornings, evenings, and weekends. There will be a definite strain on your time, as you will have the full expectations of your career to fulfill and achieve your educational goals.
This is a particularly difficult decision, as you may have financial and personal responsibilities other than those that a recent graduate would have. This is where you have to take a serious look at your resources and decide if an EMBA will advance your career. What have you achieved so far? What do you hope to achieve? Will your employer help pay for it?
Some larger companies will have a program that helps pay for some or all of your EMBA. There will definitely be requirements tied to their financial commitment. Some companies make demands on your GPA or which electives you choose, and others will understandably require that you commit to a certain amount of time with them.
But what will you gain with an EMBA? Well, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Some post-grads have found that not only have they gained a deeper understanding of the business world, but they have learned an invaluable amount of soft skills simply by working with other students and professors.
Fresh ideas and a new mindset can be acquired during your EMBA journey. This can make you an invaluable asset to your team. Learning problem-solving skills and methodology with your fellow students will only serve to enrich your time at any company. Below is a list of some of the soft skills and how they have enhanced EMBA graduates’ careers.
- Networking: Having a list of fellow alumni at the ready is a precious resource that will be readily available to you post-graduation. Being able to become your company’s go-to for problem-solving because you have the minds and abilities of so many other business-intelligent people at your fingertips will make you invaluable.
- Global Business Understanding: Is something your company could benefit from? Electives are an important part of any MBA degree, and learning about the globalization of business may improve your hireability and earning potential.
- Teamwork: This has been mentioned before, but the value of working well with your peers is beyond measure. The healthy exchange of ideas contributes to problem-solving and innovation more than any other soft skill.
- Exchange of Knowledge: This has been touted as one of the most valuable aspects of business school. Just having the time to listen to other students who are on the same path and, of course, professors have allowed EMBA graduates to strengthen their business and peer-relationship savvy.
You will be able to apply these skills to your career as you are learning them can make earning your EMBA worth it. Whether or not your employer is investing financially in your education, you definitely need to ensure they are on board with your pursuit of more education. There is a good chance there will be demands on your time that may not fit in with your work schedule.
Is an Online MBA worth it?
With constraints on our time, and especially now with Covid-19 in our midst, an online MBA program may be the best choice to add value to your career. As you would need to do if you were attending an MBA program in person, you will need to research your school to make sure you will get the most out of your investment.
MBA Today recommends making sure the online MBA program you are considering is accredited with one of the following international bodies: AACSB, AMBA, EQUIS, ACBSP, and IACBE. But is an online MBA worth it?
Many big-name business schools are turning some programs into a completely online platform. In fact, the availability of online MBA programs has increased by 83% in the last five years. Recent tech advancements mean that online MBA students can access interactive programs, enriching their learning experience.
Traditionally, the money spent versus the reward, the MBA salary, has been seen as “not worth it” for online MBA programs. But recent data suggest that the online MBA student is older and not expecting a dramatic jump in average salary that a young MBA graduate would receive. Instead, career advancement and knowledge enrichment are the goals of these students.
Online MBA programs are generally less expensive than their in-person counterparts and provide flexible learning options with many of the same benefits you would receive on campus. Here are some top-ranked, accredited online MBA schools in America:
- Indiana University, Bloomington (Kelley)
- University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)
- Carnegie-Mellon University (Tepper)
- University of Florida (Hough)
- University of Southern California (Marshall)
- Pennsylvania State University (World Campus)
- University of Mississippi
- University of Texas – Dallas
- Villanova University
- Arizona State University (Carey)
Can You Get a Free MBA?
It can seem too good to be true. But some schools offer an MBA program that is either completely free or close to it. This can eliminate the stress of attempting to earn your MBA. You won’t need a co-signer, and you won’t have to focus on paying back your student loan straight after graduating, so you can take your time and find the job that is truly right for you.
There may be need-based or merit-based requirements to some of these programs, but if you are considering earning your MBA, these are options you may want to check out.
- Quantic School of Business and Technology
- University of the People
- University New York of Business and Technology
- Georgia Southwestern State University
Is It Really Worth It?
Ultimately, you will need to weigh the benefits and the MBA cost in your personal situation. Some of the elements to consider are the cost of the program, living expenses including food and rent if applicable, transportation costs, and any possible incidental costs that aren’t included in your school of choice’s literature.
Can you spend the time necessary to earn your MBA? Will your career and salary prospects be enhanced by earning your MBA? What financing options are available to you to become an MBA grad?
Not everyone will have the same answers to these questions. As with any huge life decision, lots of thought and research needs to go into deciding what is the best course of action for you.
Thankfully, there are many different ways to pursue earning your MBA, and hopefully, after considering all the options, you will find the right path for you.