Should I Get an 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 earn an MBA. A recent Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) report, "The Value of Graduate Management Education: From the Candidates Perspective" (2022 GMAC PDF source), cited these as the top three reasons:
- Widening job opportunities available
- Increasing salary potential
- Developing general business knowledge
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. According to the 2022 GMAC "Corporate Recruiters Survey: 2022 Summary Report" (Corporate Recruiters PDF source), the top three reasons recruiters hire MBA graduates are:
- Communication skills
- Strategic thinking skills
- Versatile skills
As you weigh the potential benefits of getting an MBA, consider these four reasons for taking your education to the next level.
1. You’re Looking for Career Advancement
An MBA is a master's degree that can provide you with the skills you need to move up to a management role. About two-thirds of business graduates reported that they advanced at least one job level after obtaining their graduate business degree, according to a 2022 GMAC report.
For some employees, the MBA had an even more significant impact on career advancement. For example, 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 boost your resume even before you graduate.
2. You Want to Enhance Your Leadership Skills
Whether you earned your bachelor's degree in finance, healthcare or 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.
“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 kind 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.
3. 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 jobs, according to a 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.”
4. 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. SNHU, for example, has 17 unique MBA concentrations available to help you get your desired education.
According to The Princeton Review, top MBA concentrations include:
Some schools, such as SNHU, offer additional MBA concentrations in areas that can build upon your professional skills:
- MBA in Accounting
- MBA in Business Analytics
- MBA in Healthcare Management
- MBA in Human Resources
- MBA in Project Management
Others allow you to build upon the skill sets you’ve developed through working in other fields, such as:
- MBA in Engineering Management
- MBA in Music Business
- MBA in Public Administration
- MBA in Sport Management
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.
There are many roles you can do with an MBA, and some of the top median starting salaries for MBA holders were in finance and accounting, business and data analytics, and management, according to a 2022 GMAC report.
Is an MBA Worth Doing in 2023?
The pandemic sent shockwaves across all industries in 2020, but 2022 hiring projections and salary trends showed that the demand for graduate management talent would continue to rebound.
Before the pandemic, 92% of recruiters said they planned to hire MBA graduates, but ultimately only 80% of them hired MBAs in 2020. But in 2021, 95% of recruiters said they expected to hire an MBA graduate, while 97% actually hired MBAs, according to a 2022 GMAC survey. So, the number of recruiters hiring MBA graduates has increased by 17% since 2020.
As 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% in 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. But you shouldn't pursue 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. Still, it does give you an edge over other candidates.
On average, the types of jobs MBA graduates were able to land last year paid higher salaries. For example, MBA graduates who finished their degrees in 2022 and got job offers typically received six-figure wages, according to a 2022 GMAC survey. In addition, MBA new hires earned a starting median salary of $115,000, on par with what they made before the pandemic began.
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 53% more than those with a bachelor’s degree ($75,000), a 2022 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 with 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 (ROI); 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 (two classes per term) or part-time (one course per term). As a result, full-time students are often able to complete their MBA program in about one year, while part-time students could finish in nearly 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, such as SNHU, 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, over 85% of graduates found that their investment in education had a positive return, according to a 2022 GMAC survey.
Should you go for it?
No matter what your reason for pursuing your MBA is, 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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