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Should I Get an MBA?

A business professional researching on a tablet whether she should get an MBA with graphics of charts and icons and the text MBA

While an MBA requires you to invest additional time and money into your education, it can pay off personally, professionally and financially. There are many reasons why you might get an MBA. A recent Graduate Management Council (GMAC) report (2022 GMAC PDF source) cited these as the top three:

  1. Widening job opportunities available
  2. Increasing salary potential
  3. Developing general business knowledge

However, the decision to go for an MBA is ultimately a personal one.

Why Should I Go for an MBA?

Today’s employers are looking for problem solvers who can adapt to a changing economy, and an MBA can help you develop those qualities. The top three reasons recruiters say they hire MBA grads are for their strategic thinking skills, communication skills and versatile skill sets according to the 2021 GMAC survey, "Demand of Graduate Management Talent: 2021 Hiring Projections and Salary Trends" (2021 GMAC PDF source).

As you weigh the potential benefits of getting an MBA, consider the following three reasons for taking your education to the next level.

You’re Looking for Career Advancement

An MBA can provide you with the skills you need to move up to a management role. About two-thirds of business school graduates reported that they advanced at least one job level after they obtained their graduate business degree, according to the 2022 GMAC report. For some employees, the MBA had an even greater impact on career advancement. More than 85% of junior-level employees reported that they had moved up from an entry-level position as a result of their MBA. Although having an MBA never guarantees that you’ll get promoted, it can give you an edge over other candidates.

You might not need to wait very long to get tangible benefits from your program. Some MBA courses include embedded credentials—for example, the Project Management for PMP® Certification—you can earn within your MBA courses. These industry-recognized certifications can help you enhance your resume even before you graduate.

You Want to Enhance Your Leadership Skills

Whether you earned your bachelor’s degree in finance, health care or in a liberal arts discipline, you can fine-tune your leadership skills in an MBA program. Foundational classes that include courses in organizational change, strategic management and measuring organizational success can expose you to new ways of motivating teams and solving problems at your own organization – or at another one.

Dr. Yolanda Jackson with the text Dr. Yolanda Jackson“Leadership is not about standing up and barking orders. Today’s organizations are looking for leaders who can jump into the trenches and help achieve goals,” said Dr. Yolanda Jackson, an instructor at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

By learning who you are as an individual and the different types of leadership styles, you can determine the type of leader you want to be, she said. An MBA program can help you develop these skills so that you can become a more effective manager.

Learn more about what the best MBA programs teach.

You’re Looking to Change Careers

If you're interested in changing your career path, an MBA can open up new job possibilities. About half of all business school graduates said changing their career was a key motivation for seeking an MBA – and almost all of those graduates ended up changing careers, according to the 2022 GMAC report. An MBA program can expose you to new industries and classmates who may work in other fields. It’s helpful to understand what type of career you aspire to pursue before you enroll.

“Many of the students in my classes are doing the MBA because they want to change their career path,” Jackson said. “While you may want to change your path, you do need to know what path you’re trying to follow so that you aren’t wasting time or money.”

You Want to Specialize in a Particular Area

If you’re looking for a general business degree that also gives you the opportunity to specialize, an MBA may be the right degree for you. Concentrations in MBA programs allow you to tailor your degree to reflect your interests and career goals.

According to The Princeton Review, top MBA concentrations include:

Some schools, such as SNHU, offer MBA concentrations in other areas that may already build upon your professional skills:

Others allow you to build upon the skill sets you’ve developed through working in other fields, such as:

Working with your advisor, you can decide which type of MBA, field experiences or internships might bring you closer to achieving your career goals within a concentration. Some of the top median salaries for MBA holders were in consulting, finance and accounting, healthcare and technology, according to a 2019 GMAC business school survey (GMAC 2019 PDF source).

Is an MBA Worth Doing in 2022?

The pandemic sent shockwaves across all industries in 2020, but 2021 hiring projections and salary trends show that the demand for graduate management talent continues to rebound. Before the pandemic, 92% of recruiters said they were planning to hire MBA graduates, but ultimately only 80% of them hired MBAs in 2020. However, in 2021 95% of recruiters said they expected to hire MBA graduates, up from 2020 actual numbers, according to the 2021 GMAC survey.

Javier Leon with the text Javier LeonAs businesses continue to rebuild, more than ever they are looking for talented leaders who can fill leadership gaps. The following industries expect a robust increase in demand for graduate management talent in the next five years, according to the survey. These include:

  • Consulting: 46%, up from 21% in 2020
  • Finance/accounting: 36%, up from 24% in 2020
  • Healthcare/pharma: 46%, up from 37% from 2020
  • Products/services: 29%, up from 25% in 2020

If you're thinking about your career in the long term, getting an MBA can open up opportunities. However, you shouldn't go for your MBA based solely on the current job market.

“Getting your MBA shouldn’t be about the state of the economy – but the goals you set for yourself,” said Javier Leon, SNHU instructor.

Does an MBA Get You a Better Job?

The MBA degree itself does not guarantee you a promotion or a higher-paying job, but it does give you an edge over other candidates. On average, the types of jobs MBA graduates are able to land last year paid higher salaries. MBA graduates who finished their degrees in 2021 and got job offers typically received six-figure salaries, according to the 2021 GMAC survey. MBA new hires earned a starting median salary of $115,000, on par with what they earned before the pandemic began.

An infographic piece with the text GMAC reports MBA grads earned a median starting salary of $115,000 in 2021.Even if you already have a bachelor's degree in business, an MBA can increase your earnings potential—particularly when it comes to your starting salary.  At $115,000, the median salary of MBA graduates is 77% more than those with a bachelor’s degree ($65,000) and 53% higher as compared to those hired directly from their industry ($75,000), the 2021 GMAC survey reports. At the same time, an MBA can help you significantly increase your salary by mid-career and beyond.

However, salary is only one factor related to job satisfaction. An MBA can help career changers find jobs that better align to their interests and position them for leadership positions down the line.

Is an MBA a Waste of Money?

The total cost of an MBA can vary significantly – from under $20,000 to over six figures. To determine whether or not it’s worth it to get your MBA, you need to look at your expected return on investment; that is how much you will spend versus how much you will make over time as a result of having your degree. Depending on the cost of your program and your expected starting salary, the ROI on your MBA will vary. Some people may find that they earn back their investment on their MBA more quickly than others. However, there are ways you can keep the cost of your MBA down.

By enrolling in a part-time online program, you can continue to work full-time, earn money while you study and pursue your MBA at your own pace. For example, MBA students at SNHU have the option to enroll full-time (at two classes per term) or part-time (with one class per term). Full-time students are often able to complete their MBA program in about one year, while part-time students could finish in about two years. Students can also switch back and forth between part-time and full-time course loads.

Looking at a school's requirements for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is another way to get the best value out of your MBA degree. The GMAT is required by many colleges for entrance into their MBA program and evaluates analytical writing, verbal skills, and integrated reasoning. The GMAT requires extra time and money, but there are many schools that take a more holistic approach to admission and offer MBA programs that don't require the GMAT for entrance. These schools typically assess candidates based on factors such as their undergraduate transcript, letters of recommendation and interviews.

An MBA Is Within Your Reach

While MBA coursework can be rigorous, it’s a degree that’s obtainable for motivated individuals coming from a variety of backgrounds, said Leon. Finding a university that provides you the flexibility and academic support you need to succeed is particularly important if you’re balancing work and family on top of school, he said.

"A part-time MBA program is ideal for working professionals–you can support yourself while you're doing it and keep the same lifestyle for your family," he said. "At the same time, you're still visible in the workplace and can position yourself to advance."

Most graduates find MBA programs to be both rewarding and valuable. In fact, nearly 80% of MBA graduates rated their program as “Outstanding” or “Excellent” GMAC reported in its 2018 "The Value of a Graduate Management Education: Alumni Perspectives Survey" (2018 GMAC PDF source).

Should you go for it? No matter what your reason for pursuing your MBA, the knowledge and skills you gain can open up new and exciting career opportunities.

Discover more about SNHU’s online MBA program: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you’ll learn and how to request information about the program.

Krysten Godfrey Maddocks '11 is a writer and marketing/communication professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, institutionally accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.