Should I Get an MBA Degree? When It's Worth the Effort

Updated February 3, 2023

woman wearing graduation cap and gown

Pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) requires a significant investment of time and money. While there are many factors to consider, an MBA program is a life-changing decision with implications for your career aspirations, opportunities and finances. If you're trying to decide what might be the best professional development path to fit your needs, learning about an MBA degree may help you.

In this article, we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of an MBA degree, the types of MBA degrees available and common program requirements.

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Should I get an MBA?

It may help you to assess your reasons for wanting to obtain the degree to make sure you're ready to commit and that you choose the right area of specialization. The common reasons for considering an MBA degree include:

Wanting to earn a higher salary

An MBA can lead to a higher income, making it a useful objective for those who seek financial stability in their career. Completing an MBA may also help you make important networking connections that help you secure a high-paying job after finishing your education. It's also important to note you can supplement or replace an MBA with other factors to earn a higher income, including:

  • Work experience

  • Outstanding work performance

  • Professional certifications

Related: 8 Methods To Increase Your Salary

Preparing to start an entrepreneurial venture

An MBA can provide a good basis for developing a network, skills and knowledge to start a new business. Specifically, it can help you explore new business ideas and start a new venture with the support of your business school and fellow students. To determine whether an MBA might help you start your own business, test potential MBA programs using the following criteria:

  • Does the program provide the practical leadership and management training required for an entrepreneurial venture?

  • How do alumni benefit from this MBA?

  • Are there other alternatives that could hone the business skills you need?

Related: How To Be a Successful Entrepreneur: 32 Tips for Improvement

Hoping to advance to high-level positions

Regardless of your specific career path, an MBA might help prove your abilities and help you earn high-level jobs more quickly. This can particularly help people in careers that relate to business. Here are some factors to consider in choosing to do an MBA:

  • What industry are you working in, and in which industries may you want to work in the future?

  • Do you need an MBA for these industries?

  • How do the industries you're interested in view the MBAs you want to pursue?

  • Are there any alternative options to help you be a success in the industries you want to consider for a career?

Related: How To Climb the Corporate Ladder To Meet Your Goals

Benefits of getting an MBA

An MBA has several benefits, including:

It can improve your career opportunities

An MBA can strengthen your resume and improve the range of career opportunities available. Graduates' job opportunities may improve through networking with peers and professors. Alumni reviewing your application may prefer appointing a graduate from their business school. An MBA qualification is a good foundation for many careers, including:

  • Executive roles

  • Project management roles

  • Market research roles

Many employers may prefer to hire MBA graduates, so getting one can make a big difference in the interest of a potential employer in a candidate.

Related: 20 Career Development Opportunities

It can increase your income

An MBA can help you earn a higher salary or get a promotion. Often, base salaries are significantly higher for MBA graduates compared to those without an MBA. Earning an MBA may also qualify you for higher-paying jobs and help demonstrate your value as a candidate, increasing the probability that the employer considers your application seriously.

Related: 14 of the Highest-Paid MBA Majors (With Descriptions)

It broadens your knowledge

An MBA program can help you develop your skills in business-related subjects. These include:

  • Economics

  • Communication

  • Accounting

  • Management

  • Statistics

  • Entrepreneurship

Modern MBA programs may focus on business management, marketing and problem-solving, often through case studies. This focus makes it a valuable degree to have, as it can prepare you for a variety of career options.

Related: Tips for Choosing the Right Master's Degree Program

Drawbacks of getting an MBA

For some people, there may be better educational options than pursuing an MBA. Here are some reasons why:

It can be expensive

Getting an MBA degree can be an expensive experience. It may be challenging to afford, especially for recent graduates. An MBA can cost up to $200,000 with several of the top-rated business schools' MBA programs costing even more.

If the cost is a challenge for you, consider researching programs that offer scholarships or work-study opportunities that can help make the MBA more affordable. You can also focus on applying for top-rated business schools because these may be more likely to offer a high return on investment for the education you receive.

Related: Levels of College Degrees: How To Decide Between Types

You might have limited financing options

How you finance your MBA studies is important. If you've been working for a company for several years and the company's willing to pay for your studies, the decision to enroll may be easier. Otherwise, you can consider using a student loan. This may require a long-term commitment to paying it off and may affect your family or other areas of your life. While making the decision can be a challenge, the fact there are various options to consider might help you find a financing option that works for your needs.

Related: 3 Reasons a Business Degree is Worth It (Plus Types and Career Paths)

Employers might value other qualifications more

There are a few specific career paths where an MBA is essential. For example, you may become a successful CEO without an MBA degree. In fact, alternative qualifications may be better for specific careers, particularly those outside fields like finance or management. Many boards now find work experience more important for company transformation than education experience. This means that, in specific industries, especially, individuals with relevant work experience may be more likely to earn senior-level positions than individuals with an MBA.

If you're considering earning an MBA, think about whether the benefits are relevant to your career goals. If so, it may be worth the educational pursuit. Otherwise, you might choose to pursue alternate educational endeavors instead.

Related: Jobs for MBA Graduates: What Can I Do With My MBA?

Types of MBA degrees

After deciding whether to get an MBA, you might consider which type to pursue. Students can complete MBA studies part time or full time. Often, a full-time commitment is best for new graduates or other students whose finances allow them to focus on only their studies rather than splitting their time between school and another job.

The two types of part-time MBA programs are:

  • Executive MBAs (EMBAs): EMBAs are for students with several years of work experience in executive or leadership positions, often between 32 to 42 years of age. The student's employer normally pays for their studies.

  • Part-time MBA: These degrees are for full-time team members who aren't in leadership roles, often between 24 to 35 years old. Part-time studies offer classes in the evenings after work or on weekends.

Read more: MBA vs. Executive MBA: Which One Is Right for You?

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MBA program requirements

Many reputable MBA programs require a GPA of 3.5 or better. The highest-rated programs require an even higher GPA score. In addition, the top-rated business schools require a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score between 720 and 730 out of 800. Although excellent academic results offer a solid foundation for an MBA program, many business schools also value relevant work experience when considering candidates, especially for EMBA programs.

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