The 9 Best Reasons for Getting an MBA Degree
You know you want to take your career to the next level, and you're ready to get down to business with a master's degree. Perhaps you've heard that an MBA is the best way to go. But what exactly is an MBA, and how do you know it's the right choice for you?
An MBA stands for Master in Business Administration. It’s a master’s degree geared toward current and aspiring business professionals. Earning this credential signals to employers and colleagues that you have gained educational expertise in the various facets of business administration.
What's So Special About an MBA?
Your decision to apply for MBA programs can be personal and unique – just like the journey to earning one. Here are nine reasons why pursuing an MBA might make sense for you.
#1 Boost Your Salary Potential
Earning an MBA is an investment, but research indicates it can also increase your financial gain right away. The median starting salary for MBA graduates is $115,000, according to the 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (Corporate Recruiters PDF source). That's 77% more than employees with a bachelor’s-level education, who, GMAC reports, earn a median salary of $65,000.
The starting salary for MBA graduates is also greater than the median salary for those with any type of master's degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor (BLS) reports those with a master's degree earned a median of approximately $81,848 in 2021.
This means that MBA graduates are positioned early to out-earn their colleagues who only have a bachelor's degree. In lifetime earnings, MBAs can earn $3 million more, the survey discovered.
#2 Increase Opportunities for Employment and Advancement
An MBA can help you bolster your identity in the workforce, whether you're just starting out or are looking for a career change. In 2021, 91% of surveyed recruiters said they planned to hire MBAs, GMAC's Corporate Recruiters Survey reported. Those three letters – MBA – can add weight to your resume, professional profile and email signature. They signal to employers that you have advanced business knowledge.
Justin Reedy ’21MBA hopes to one day own his own consulting company or achieve an executive position, and he believes his advanced business education will help him get there. “The MBA is a foundational piece of achieving these dreams,” he said.
Data from GMAC's Corporate Recruiters Survey agree: A growing number of surveyed recruiters believe business school graduates are often fast-tracked to upper-level positions across various industries.
#3 Obtain Holistic Business Knowledge and Skills
Whether you opt for one of many concentration options or not, MBAs can be applied to all facets of a business and help you gain the knowledge and skills needed to grow as a professional. Recruiters report high levels of confidence when it comes to the skills of business school graduates, especially relating to strategic thinking, communication and versatility of skill set, according to GMAC's Corporate Recruiters Survey.
While the MBA curriculum can vary by institution, many offer core classes that help you explore how different aspects of business come together. At Southern New Hampshire University, for example, courses discuss the intersection of business disciplines as well as business strategy, success measurement, management of people, organizations and change – and more.
"Interleaving," or mixing several subjects together, leads to better long-term retention and knowledge transferability than "blocked" learning, said Dr. Mark Hobson, a senior associate dean of business at SNHU.
SNHU alumnus Reedy decided to earn an MBA so he could become a well-rounded business professional. He said the general MBA track helped him do just that, gaining greater fluency in accounting, finance and business writing. “I would recommend the MBA to anyone that works in business and wants to comprehensively understand their business better,” he said.
The best MBA programs teach you a lot and give you the space to practice solving genuine business problems. Using teaching methods such as scenario-based learning (SBL), you can gain relevant experiences that supplement the theories you learn and help you overcome challenges.
"Expertise comes from experience, and SBL allows students to experience growth from taking risks, sometimes failing and learning from mistakes," Hobson said.
#4 Specialize Your Skill Set
If there's an area of business that interests you most, you can find an MBA program that offers concentrations or specializations that let you focus on that particular subject.
Consider an MBA in Information Technology Management. In addition to the core courses you'll take, you may have the opportunity to navigate the ever-changing technological landscape and gain the hard and soft skills necessary to push your organization and career forward. The technology industry is in the market for MBA graduates, too. GMAC's Corporate Recruiters Survey found that 96% of tech industry recruiters said they planned to hire MBA graduates in 2021 – a 16% increase from the projections for 2019.
Faizan Malik ’21MBA decided to earn a master’s degree that complements his role in health information technology – so he chose an MBA in Healthcare.
“The decision to pursue an MBA in this area was simple at that point,” he said. “I could advance in my career while learning about topics that I was actually interested in.” A recent graduate, he's using the skills he learned to make improvements in his current team as well as seeking out new opportunities.
#5 Gain New Perspectives
With a greater understanding of various aspects of business comes new perspectives – even if you've already logged years of experience in the workplace. Although Malik already works in health information technology, he said some of his courses gave him different points of view to consider and introduced him to other processes happening within his workplace.
Not only can the information in MBA courses introduce you to new concepts and perspectives, but the people you're learning from and alongside can too.
GMAC's 2021 Enrolled Student Survey found that 81% of business students set to graduate in 2022 believed their advanced degree prepares them to work for culturally diverse organizations (Enrolled Student PDF Source).
Throughout your program, you may have the chance to hear from peers and instructors from diverse backgrounds, adding depth and a range of experiences to class discussions.
#6 Grow Your Professional Network
As soon as you enroll in a degree program, you’ll enter a community that consists of peers, faculty, staff and alumni. If you attend a university with an active student body, expansive alumni association and faculty who double as industry professionals, you can tap into a large group of people who can help you grow in many ways.
Alongside an increase in employability and preparation to work in culturally diverse organizations, GMAC's Enrolled Student Survey found that business students believe their graduate degree develops their professional network. 82% of those graduating in 2022 said their advanced degree develops their professional network.
Professional networking is valuable throughout your career. Even when you graduate, you’ll remain part of your alma mater’s community. The relationships you build and the industry knowledge you gain can support your personal and professional development. Joining the alumni community might lead to opportunities for mentoring and supporting current students who are finding their place in the business world.
#7 Spend Less Time and Money Than You Might Think
When considering the logistics of getting a master’s degree, how much time and tuition it will take are likely some of your deciding factors.
If you’re wondering how long it takes to get an MBA, there are many variables – including the school you choose, prior learning credits and preferred pacing. For example, an online MBA from SNHU is 30 credits in length and can take just over one year to complete if you’re going to school full-time – that’s two courses per term.
While college is an investment, it doesn’t need to break the bank. Tuition for some programs, like SNHU’s, cost less than $19,000. Military status can reduce that further, and you may be able to take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs through your employer. Many graduate students are also eligible for financial aid and scholarships, so filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is important.
#8 Bypass Common Barriers to Graduate Education
Arranging and preparing for standardized testing takes time – and can be an additional cost in your pursuit of a master’s degree. The good news is some graduate schools have moved away from requiring scores from traditional tests such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). So, applying to MBA programs with no scores required means you might begin your degree sooner. You will, however, need to provide a transcript from your undergraduate education. Staff at some schools will help take care of this step for you.
There are many types of master’s programs these days. Whether you want to attend your classes in person or at a pre-determined time each week – or would prefer the flexibility that online degrees at your own pace offer – there’s sure to be an MBA out there that meets your needs.
In addition to deciding between in-person and online options, you’ll want to consider term lengths and course loads. For example, SNHU offers five 10-week graduate terms each year. You can go to school online part-time (one class per term) or full-time (two classes per term).
#9 Achieve Personal Fulfillment
While it’s true an MBA degree can benefit your professional life, some people choose to pursue their degree for very personal reasons. In addition to wanting an advanced degree that matched his field, Malik decided to earn an MBA because it was important to his family – especially his father. “They always wanted me to continue my education, and I can’t thank them enough for pushing me as well,” he said.
According to a recent survey, 74% of graduate degree holders said accomplishing a personal goal is a major benefit to earning a college degree.* It takes persistence and dedication, and receiving your diploma is a tremendous achievement that many graduates and their families celebrate.
“In my personal life, just the overwhelming feeling of being proud of my accomplishment – from myself and my family – has been more than enough,” Malik said.
Types of MBA
There are numerous angles and aspects of a business – some you may enjoy and find more relevant than others. That’s why you can choose to focus on one of many types of MBA programs.
Some of your options include:
- MBA in Accounting
- MBA in Entrepreneurship
- MBA in Human Resources
- MBA in Marketing
- MBA in Project Management
If you prefer, you could follow a general MBA track instead and use your business electives to explore multiple areas of interest instead. No matter what type of MBA you pursue, you'll want to be sure it's earned accreditation. For example, SNHU's program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
MBA Program Requirements
A bachelor’s level education is the general prerequisite to the MBA application process. From there, every institution has its own application and admission process. For example, some may require specific test scores or essays, while others may schedule formal interviews or request letters of recommendation. Once you select your school of choice, be sure to speak with an admission counselor about any requirements you may need to have your application considered.
The MBA curriculum varies by program, too, but you can generally expect to take core classes when enrolled in an MBA program.
SNHU’s MBA, for example, requires seven core courses that weave together different areas of business for a holistic point of view on overarching matters of a business. In addition, there may be a handful of business electives you can allocate to a specific concentration or choose to cherry-pick among a range of classes.
Toward the end of your program, you may also need to complete a culminating experience course or capstone.
So, Is Getting an MBA Worth It?
If you’re looking to grow as a business professional and you can find a program and institution that feels right for you, earning an MBA may be worth it. Adding those three hard-earned letters – MBA – to your title can be personally rewarding and make you a more competitive employee.
“If you want to advance in your career, or even just do it for yourself, I will say an MBA is more than worth it,” Malik said. “Going back to school will likely be the hardest part for most people, but once you see that degree in the mail and all the doors it unlocks for you, you will only be remiss you didn’t do it sooner.”
MBA programs can help you develop both hard and soft skills that transfer to the workplace. “For someone who is looking to get into management, my MBA courses definitely gave me new skills and knowledge base,” Malik said. “From a refresher on basic finance and accounting skills to learning how various business laws and compliance policies work to (an) in-depth understanding of IT infrastructure and current healthcare informatics trends, the skills learned throughout the program are really invaluable.”
Explore academic catalogs to get a sense of the courses you might take if enrolled in a particular school’s MBA program, as well as the learning outcomes, and see how they align with your interests. You could also speak with your employer, mentor or admission counselor at a university that interests you to see if an MBA program seems like the right fit for your short and long-term professional goals.
Down the road, some business professionals may wish to take their education even further. Such is the case with Malik and Reedy, who are on their way to earning a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) now that they have their MBA diplomas in hand.
Discover more about SNHU’s online MBA programs: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you’ll learn and how to request information about the program.
Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
*Survey Methodology: This survey was conducted online within the United States by Kantar on behalf of Southern New Hampshire University in December of 2021. Opinions from 500 general population respondents were obtained using their omnibus survey. For complete survey methodology, please contact Megan Bond.
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