Why Get an MBA? Top 10 Reasons
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Editor & Writer
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- MBA graduates bring in higher starting salaries than graduates with only bachelor's degrees, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.
- Business schools are increasingly offering online MBA programs, which allow students more flexible and affordable learning options.
- Many business schools are embracing emerging fields like AI, sustainability, and cybersecurity in their curricula.
- MBA programs also offer benefits that are hard to quantify, like networking opportunities.
If you're deciding whether to earn a master of business administration (MBA) degree, you probably want to know the bottom line: Does an MBA pay off?
It turns out an MBA may have both financial and psychological benefits. A recent Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) report found that Gen Z students see graduate management education as a way to "enhance their life and develop their potential."
"Jobs and income are only part of what Gen Z want to hear about in terms of their possible outcomes," the report reads. "They want to be able to balance their professional and personal responsibilities. They want to feel valued and fulfilled."
An MBA can mean better earnings and a host of career opportunities. Although an MBA can be a major investment, with an average cost of $43,400 per year for a full-time, in-person program, the degree often leads to higher-paying jobs: The average MBA degree-holder salary was $95,000 in April 2023.
Business schools are also increasingly moving toward flexible, asynchronous learning formats and embracing emerging technologies to keep the MBA degree relevant.
Here are 10 reasons to get an MBA.
1. MBAs Often Mean Higher Earnings
Starting salaries for MBA graduates are between 22% and 40% higher than those offered to bachelor's graduates, according to GMAC's 2022 Corporate Recruits survey, and the median bonus that corporate recruiters said they planned to offer new hires was $10,500.
The median starting salary being offered to MBA new hires in the U.S. last year was $115,000, according to the same GMAC survey, although steady salaries coupled with inflation meant a relative decline in earnings, according to the report.
That potential for an increased starting salary can mean a decent return on investment, with BestColleges reporting that the average total cost of an MBA is roughly $55,200 for a two-year program.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also projects that management occupations will grow by 8% between 2021 and 2031, with the median annual wage for those occupations being $102,450 as of May 2021.
2. An MBA Can Boost Your Job Prospects
With a robust network of fellow MBA grads and specialized coursework to help professionals find their niche, MBA graduates are well positioned to land jobs once they earn their degrees.
The vast majority of corporate recruits and staffing firms surveyed in the Graduate Management Admission Council's 2022 Corporate Recruiters survey said they planned to hire new MBA graduates.
That commitment translates into real-world results: 86% of 2022 business graduates had landed a job at the time of their graduation, according to another GMAC survey, up from 80% in 2021.
"With the volatile economic conditions and organizational challenges brought on by the pandemic, well-rounded and prepared business leaders and managers are especially in demand in the current job market," Matt Hazenbush, director of research analysis and communications at GMAC, said in a release at the time.
"As the survey findings suggest, graduate management education provides students with a powerful leg up for their career."
3. MBA Graduates Climb the Corporate Ladder
Graduate business degree alumni overwhelmingly said in a 2021 GMAC survey that their degree increased their employability and earning power — and said their degree was "a catalyst for reaching their specific career outcomes."
MBA programs often focus on managerial and leadership skills in their core content. Students are trained in how to manage employees and boost outcomes for businesses, which are key skills that can unlock paths toward a wide range of leadership roles.
One survey of MBA graduates by the Association of MBAs found that 88% of graduates said they had gained "substantially" more skills to help them do business better as part of their education.
More than a third of MBA graduates said in that survey that they were able to accelerate their careers faster than they otherwise would have been.
Top MBA jobs include chief executives, general managers, project managers, and other high-paying leadership positions. Although an MBA isn't a requirement for those positions, the leadership-focused degree can help students attain those top-level positions.
4. Business Schools Are Innovating for the Future
Alongside CEOs, you may start to see chief climate officers, chief sustainability officers, and even chief artificial intelligence (AI) officers charting a path forward for top U.S. and international companies.
As corporations increasingly adopt sustainable business practices and adapt to an ever-changing tech landscape, demand for relevant degrees in those fields has skyrocketed.
The recent CarringtonCrisp Tomorrow's Masters report found that prospective graduate students wanted to see tech-heavy curriculum like digital marketing, AI, e-commerce and data analytics incorporated into their programs.
Schools are stepping up to meet that demand: Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business announced in April that it plans to revamp its curriculum to focus on data-driven decision-making and experiential learning, as well as highlight social inequities and environmental justice, BestColleges previously reported.
That shift comes as businesses increasingly wrangle with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and increased consumer expectations around environmental stewardship.
Other schools are taking a more novel approach to sustainability: The Stanford University Graduate School of Business and the Doerr School of Sustainability announced a new "ecopreneurship" program in May 2023 that will focus heavily on hands-on learning to equip students to navigate a climate-focused business world.
"The Stanford Ecopreneurship program will support a new generation of sustainability leaders and problem solvers in launching new solutions to the climate crisis," Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a May 31 press release.
"The program creates opportunities for our students as they work to make a difference for the future of our planet and for people around the world. I am grateful to Marc and Lynne Benioff for their vision for this program and for supporting our students in achieving their goals."
5. There Are Cheaper, Affordable MBA Options
The cost of an MBA at a top-tier program is significant, with elite schools costing nearly $120,000 a year — but there are also affordable options at state schools and universities that offer online degrees.
Part-time online programs cost $14,500 per year on average, a cost that is significantly lower than the high tuition and fees at elite universities. The average annual cost of an MBA program is roughly $27,600 a year, and full-time, in-person programs cost $43,400 a year on average.
Although part-time, asynchronous MBAs take longer to complete than intensive, accelerated in-person programs, those more affordable degrees may pay off in the long term. The average MBA degree-holder salary was $95,000 in April 2023.
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6. Gain Access to a Large Network of MBA Professionals
Business school is more than just a place to select a specialization and burn through the curriculum. The Princeton Review reported that the professional network that students build with other students during an MBA program can be as valuable as the degree itself.
A 2022 GMAC report found that 76% of graduate business degree-holders surveyed said their degree helped them develop their professional network. Students also said the degree helped prepare them to work in culturally diverse organizations.
7. Find Jobs in Emerging Fields
Many MBA programs are adopting concentrations in fast-growing industries. At Florida International University (FIU), for example, MBA students will soon be able to focus on cybersecurity risk management. The school adopted the cybersecurity concentration as businesses scramble with a nationwide shortage of cybersecurity professionals.
Cybersecurity isn't the only rapidly growing field that business schools are integrating into their MBA concentrations. The Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management's "MBAi" program features courses on both business management and machine learning to help students grapple with the rapidly changing world of artificial intelligence.
Other schools are adopting concentrations with a focus on sustainability, climate change, data analysis, and other hot-button fields that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will grow exponentially over the next decade.
8. Many MBA Programs Offer Flexible Learning
The number of fully online MBA programs has skyrocketed in recent years, BestColleges reported, and demand for flexible learning options was on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of Illinois, for example, now offers a fully online MBA program through Coursera. Other universities with fully online MBA programs include the University of North Carolina; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Dayton.
Employers largely believed that online learning was of equal quality to traditional brick-and-mortar methods of learning, according to a Northeastern University survey.
9. Keep Working While You Study
In addition to the growing focus on asynchronous, online learning formats, many schools offer an MBA format geared toward students who are already well into their careers and need to keep working while studying: the executive MBA.
According to Quantic, the average executive MBA student has eight years of experience and is between 32 and 44 years old. Executive MBA programs typically include intensive classes outside of regular business hours and small cohorts to give students a condensed, focused degree program without sacrificing their jobs.
10. Some Companies Help Pay for an MBA
The average MBA costs about $27,600 a year, or roughly $55,200 for a full program, BestColleges previously reported. Top-ranked private school programs can cost much more.
Despite that expense, some companies help pay for their employees' MBA programs with tuition reimbursement. OnlineMBA.com reported that requirements vary between companies, with some businesses requiring people to be employed for a number of years before becoming eligible for educational benefits.
Some companies that help pay for employees' MBAs include Google, Home Depot, UPS, BP, and Qualcomm, according to OnlineMBA.
Frequently Asked Questions About MBAs
What skills does an MBA give you?
An MBA provides students with the skills needed to excel as business leaders in today's global economy. Depending on their specialization, students may learn advanced practical skills in areas like finance, marketing, and economics. They also develop important soft skills, such as leadership, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
What jobs can I get with an MBA?
An MBA opens the door to a variety of job opportunities in many industries. MBA graduates can find jobs in marketing management, operations management, financial management, accounting, product management, and engineering. They can also pursue careers in data analysis, consulting, entrepreneurship, human resources, and investment banking.
What is an MBA good for?
An MBA is an investment in your future. An MBA degree can lead to more job opportunities, higher career earnings, recognition as a professional business leader, and increased job security. The degree also provides a sense of accomplishment that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.
What qualities should an MBA student have?
Pursuing an MBA degree is a big commitment. Students who get the most out of their degree are motivated, disciplined, proactive, and passionate about taking this important career step.