Is Now the Time to Get My MBA?
It can be a difficult decision to choose to go back to school for your MBA. And when you're in the middle of a pandemic, it might not make the choice any easier.
But if you're even thinking about if now is the time to get your MBA, you might want to follow where those thoughts are leading and get your questions answered.
- Is getting an MBA hard? Will I really be able to do it?
- How long does it take to get an MBA? Can you get an MBA in 1 year? If I finish it quickly, will I be prepared for the post-pandemic market?
- What is the best age to get an MBA? Am I now too old to move my career in this direction?
- What's the most affordable way to get an MBA? Are all MBAs expensive?
- How much does an MBA increase salary? Could it really make a difference in my paycheck?
- Is getting your MBA worth it? Between the time and cost that I invest in my education, could it really change the trajectory of my entire career path?
Once you have your answers, you can move a step closer toward enrolling in an MBA program that has the potential to take you far.
Is Getting an MBA Hard?
Hard is subjective. But thousands of students continue to earn them each year – thanks to their life-changing potential – so plenty of people across the country and even the world are proving that it's definitely doable.
When searching for an MBA program that fits your life, take a good look at the degree's curriculum and learn more about the assignments you'll be working on. Will you be writing papers, or are you going to be learning skills and performing the same kind of work you'd be doing in the workforce?
Dr. Andrew Gallion, an adjunct instructor at SNHU, said that the revised program – launched in February 2021 – is preparing students for the latter.
"While the exercises are academic, their application is absolutely based on actual scenarios in industry, and the resulting work products are measured against industry standards," Gallion said. "The new program is more centered around creating the kinds of deliverables, including analyses and reports, that will be expected from an MBA in real-world practice."
Translation: If the type of work that you'd do in an MBA program like SNHU's appeals to you, then you might not think of your program as "hard," but more like "necessary" to what the business world is expecting.
Commonly referred to as scenario-based learning, these opportunities can give you a feel for what to expect as an MBA employee. That way, you're not in for surprises on your first day of work.
"Scenario-based learning begins with a scenario example that allows learners to practice the course content in a real-world scenario of a likely business problem," said Dr. Jessica Rogers, SNHU's associate dean of marketing and one of the academics responsible for revamping the university's MBA program. "The learner will be immersed in an experience with learning tools and an instructor who acts like a mentor. The scenario solution is mapped for the student to break challenges into sub-tasks, leading to a conclusion and assignment submission."
And post-pandemic, these skills – along with business needs in general – will have evolved.
"The forward-looking degree cultivates students for the future of management and business," said Dr. Joseph Ahlo, an adjunct instructor at SNHU. "We are in the midst of another massive transformation in the world of work. This MBA is designed with the intent of preparing learners to excel in times of sudden change, turning upsets into opportunities."
And for students who are able to start their MBA degree program immediately, it means you could be further ahead of those who don't have a post-pandemic skill set.
What Can I Get Out of an MBA Program?
Real-world, practical applications and experiences, Ahlo said.
Throughout the coursework, he said, "academic skills are further developed throughout the program while business practices, concepts and approaches are deeply practiced."
With those 3 letters after your name – and those skills you pick up through your courses – so many doors could open for you. Your resume could move to the top of the pile, or your employer could take note of your motivation to take on more responsibility.
Other benefits of an MBA include learning more about areas of business beyond the department you work in. This is important if you plan to keep moving up the ladder in an organization, as you'll need to have some background in a number of areas of the business. (That's also why MBAs can be applied to so many industries.)
"The MBA is even more critical as professionals work to differentiate themselves in a more competitive landscape," Ahlo said. "This includes those looking to grow and create more value for the companies where they are already working and hope to remain in the long term."
You'll also want to see what a program offers beyond the outcomes. Can you actually get more out of an MBA program?
You can, said Justin Brigham, senior instructional designer with the learning science and assessment team at SNHU.
"Not only will students leave with their MBA, but along the way, they will have the opportunity to gain badges and certificates that can be immediately shared out to their network and potential employers," he said.
These include industry-recognized credentialing in skills like Excel and Tableau, as well as badging in soft skills like emotional intelligence and strategic development and implementation.
You could also pick up additional skills and knowledge if you choose to add a concentration to your MBA. There are many types of MBAs that might align with your interests, including:
Also, many in business have spoken to the idea of the "Fourth Industrial Revolution." This revolution focuses on automation and how it will more seamlessly weave through our lives.
At SNHU, "the curriculum is designed around the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: It is built for the learner of today and the business leader of tomorrow," Rogers said. "This is important as the business landscape is changing, and universities must evolve as well."
But automation doesn't just mean technology-driven change.
"As we look to the future of work, students will need specific sets of skills," Rogers said, listing off "complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordination with others, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision-making, service orientation, negotiation, cognitive flexibility, environment and society conscious" as necessary traits.
Those who teach courses, like Rogers, also bring years of experience to the table. And at a university like SNHU, many of the instructors are adjuncts – meaning that they're using modern business practices every day at their full-time jobs – allowing them to add greater context to coursework through their real-world experience and applications. Practices that they can then pass on to you.
Like being taught lessons by Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and co-chief executive officer of CCA Global Partners, one of the largest privately held companies in the United States. He's also one of the many featured mentors – "rock star" business professionals who, along with the professors, add contextualization to classes through their experience.
The instructors at SNHU "really care about your success, they care about your goals and every individual is important to them," Brodsky said. "That happens from the president down. They empower all of their people to make sure you are successful."
Rogers – along with Dr. Mark Hobson, SNHU’s senior associate dean for business – were among those leading the charge in having prominent business leaders share important business lessons with students.
"We have lined up successful business experts from many industries who will be present in every course through video messaging," Hobson said. "Their message will be inspirational, aspirational and informational. The videos will inform students about the course content while the expert will share their own life lessons. ... In short, these experts will share advice and expertise by video in every course."
How Long Does it Take to Get an MBA?
There are a number of schools that offer 12-month programs, so it's possible you can get an MBA in one year.
You'll want to do your research on what is involved in a degree that can be completed in this timeframe. Will it mean you're taking on too much work? And can it fit into your schedule – whether that's work, family or other commitments?
"Prospective students prioritize career mobility and progression," Hobson said. He said that one of the most frequent questions that would-be students ask is "how long does it take to get an MBA?" – which ultimately led to SNHU revising its model to 10 classes or 30 credits, or allowing full-time the opportunity to complete the program in about a year.
It's understandable as to why a student would want to earn an MBA faster.
"The MBA has become a vehicle for professionals to elevate their careers," Ahlo said. "One year of concentrated study allows them to transition and elevate their careers as quickly as possible."
Many of those in the workforce want to fast-track their career path.
"Clearly the market was looking for a more immediately relevant MBA," said Benjamin Brink, an adjunct instructor at SNHU. "Students want to apply these things as quickly as possible — and so 1 year becomes more marketable than a longer program."
What is the Best Age to Get an MBA?
This one's easy: There's definitely no right age to get an MBA. This will be completely different for everyone.
If you're in your early to mid-20s and just out of college, it could be a good time in your life to get an MBA. You might be one of the youngest ones in your class, but it may be more convenient for you to earn your master's now rather than later.
Many MBA programs recommend that you have a few years of business experience under your belt. You'll need to talk with the admission counselors at the schools you're considering to see if this would position you for more success in a program. Other universities – SNHU included – may have more of an open-enrollment policy, welcoming most students as long as they meet the minimum admission criteria.
Your 20s aren't the only time in your life when it may be good to earn your MBA. Your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond are all great times in life to learn more about the business world today and bring new skills to your organization.
And as a more seasoned member of the working world, you'll have the added benefit of bringing real-life experiences to assignments within the virtual classroom.
Besides, people also decide to change their career at any point during it. And that's fine! Should you choose to switch to a more business-focused path from another area of the workforce after a couple decades, that's not an issue either.
A number of schools can set you up for success – at any age – by offering foundation courses. These are classes that prepare you with the background knowledge that other students would have gained in an undergraduate business degree program.
For example, "students without an undergraduate business degree may need to take up to 2 foundation – or preparation – courses for 3 credits each," Hobson said. The number of foundation courses may vary from school to school. In fact, prior to 2021 enrollment, SNHU required up to 5 foundation classes for students without that business background.
Also, no matter your age, you'll need to figure out what type of program can help you be successful. While many people might think about a more specialized program at a university, the online MBA has become much more common.
The online environment may also be a more comfortable environment if you're an older student. Being in a virtual space can even the playing field for all students.
What's the Most Affordable Way to Get an MBA?
Earning an MBA has the potential to be quite expensive, depending on the school – but it also has the possibility to be budget-friendly, too.
First, you'll want to compare tuition costs. Some programs on the market could put you back six figures in total, while others on the opposite end of the price range can be closer to $20,000.
"College education costs are skyrocketing at a higher rate than inflation," Gallion said. It's why the SNHU just debuted an online MBA program with a total tuition cost of just under $19,000. "This MBA program breaks that trend and creates a price point that makes it highly competitive and attractive."
After you've looked at the tuition investment, you'll next want to see if you can apply any types of financial aid toward your cost. Just like you may have done for your undergraduate degree, it's important to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form to determine if you qualify for grants and/or loans.
Accept all of your grants – money that doesn't need to be repaid – before looking at your loans. Remember, loans come with interest, meaning you'll pay back more than you borrowed. Work with a student financial services at each university you're applying to so that you can get a personal payment plan.
Subtract the financial aid you're accepting from the tuition, and you'll have your cost-of-attendance amount. This is what you'll want to compare between schools.
Need to lower your out-of-pocket cost even more? Speak with your employer's benefits manager. A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey showed that, in 2019, about 56% of organizations offered tuition assistance to employees (SHRM PDF source).
At that rate, you could earn your MBA for little – or even no – money. If you find yourself in that situation, you've earned the ultimate return on investment.
That's one reason a school like SNHU revised its MBA program, dropping the overall tuition cost to about $19,000. It's another popular question that Hobson said prospective students ask admission counselors about.
"It is a competitive price for a commodity MBA," Brink said.
How Much Does an MBA Increase Salary?
An MBA certainly has the potential to boost your earnings.
According to a survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the median base salary for the class of 2020 was projected to be $105,000 – and that was even after the start of the pandemic (GMAC PDF source).
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who have earned master's degrees earn almost 20% more than those who only earned a bachelor's degree.
And, money wise, it's not just your salary that you'll want to think about once you finish your program. You need to consider your financial situation.
For example, if you choose an MBA program that will cost you well into the six figures, your ROI – or return on investment –won't be as great, because you could be spending a bit of that potential salary increase on the debt you most likely incurred.
But if you choose a less expensive MBA program – you can even find MBAs under $20k – then the salary bump that you're hoping for can go much further in your day-to-day life.
Consider both your potential salary and debt when you choose a school for your MBA.
Is Getting Your MBA Worth It?
If earning an MBA can help you reach the goals you've set for yourself, then, yes, getting one can be worth it.
2020 was a year that forced us to change. And with an evolving workforce comes a number of new skills that need to be learned.
"The current world situation requires a lot more autonomy in the business world, as many – if not most – of us are spending much less time tethered to the physical workplace and more time remotely working," Gallion said. "This requires us to actually communicate more efficiently and succinctly. It also lends to less direct supervision and mentoring."
From working from home to remote locations across the country, and from flexible schedules to better understanding technology, looking forward from 2021 means acknowledging that the workforce has changed – and will continue to do so.
"The MBA program provides enhanced communication skills, as well as fills in knowledge and skill gaps that are sometimes gained through on-the-job experiences – and that is a big advantage in the current situation," Gallion said.
Deidre Ashe '18G is a copywriter in higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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