Two things are generally true. First, business school graduates with an MBA typically earn more than their counterparts with an undergraduate business degree, both right out of school and over the course of a lifetime. Second, business school is among the most expensive master’s degree programs you can pursue.
Of course, it’s also the most popular graduate degree in the U.S., with more than 250,000 students currently pursuing their MBA. So obviously, the MBA has some mainstream appeal.
And in our last article, we asked and attempted to answer a simple question–is business school worth pursuing? From an economic standpoint, there is a lot of evidence that a fully accredited, full time MBA program is well worth the money. You’ll gain access to career opportunities, salary potential, and knowledge that you might not otherwise have experienced.
Obviously, that’s why so many people are willing to absorb the tremendous upfront cost.
But does that mean business school is the right move for you? This is a different question altogether. Whether you’re nearing completion of a bachelor’s degree in business administration and considering your next steps or you’re already working in the private sector and looking for ways to advance your career or you’re seeking a change in career path altogether, an MBA degree may be the next logical step.
But how can you be sure that business school is right for you? MBA programs have a lot to offer, but is it a smart investment of your money? Does it make sense in light of your professional goals?
Below, we’ve identified ten strong arguments in favor of a graduate level business education. From the valuable connections MBA students gain during their programs to the enhanced leadership opportunities that await MBA graduates after completing this highly regarded degree, see if these arguments apply to your situation. If so, an MBA may just be the right move for you.
10 Reasons To Get An MBA
As students and working professionals step back to reevaluate the importance of earning a business graduate degree, you may be asking yourself whether a Master of Business Administration is right for you. While the answer to this question very much depends on your career goals, budget, and personal circumstances, you may want to ask yourself whether the following ten benefits outweigh the financial investment and time commitment that come with most MBA programs.
1. MBA Graduates Earn More
The first and most obvious consideration is the impact that a business administration graduate degree can have on your earning potential. An MBA is by no means a rubber stamp to a better life. You have to work hard, succeed in your program, and parlay both your education and connections into meaningful real-world opportunities.
But the numbers suggest that earning an MBA will put you in a strong position to do exactly that. While business school may be costly–as much as $100,000 to $200,000 for an MBA program at a top university–there is a clear wage premium for those holding a business graduate degree.
Harvard Business School Online reports that MBAs earned an average salary of just over $88,000 per year. This compares favorably, not just to business education undergraduates, but also to those who hold a master’s degree in other fields.
“As a point of comparison,” reports Harvard Business, “data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average bachelor’s degree holder earns an annual salary of $60,996, while the average master’s degree holder earns $72,852. Not only that, but compared with other advanced business degrees, an MBA has been shown to lead to a higher starting salary for graduates entering the workforce. “
Those numbers can add up considerably over the lifetime, and not just because MBAs tend to start with higher entry level pay. Business school graduates often also have an advantage in their professional trajectory. Many ascend to leadership roles and executive positions where the sky’s the limit for salary potential. This is why, says Poets & Quants, MBAs from the Top 50 business schools in the U.S. earn, on average, $2.3 million more than do business undergrads over the course of a lifetime.
In other words, there’s a good chance that you will enjoy a strong return on your investment in business school both at the entry level and over the course of your career.
2. Some Companies Only Hire MBA Graduates
One reason that you will enjoy better pay is because an MBA can simply multiply the number of professional opportunities awaiting you upon MBA program completion. Indeed, for many employers in the business sector, an MBA is an indication of certain skills, knowledge and experience. In fact, some of the most prestigious companies in the world make it a point to prioritize MBAs when bringing new talent onboard. Simply having that credential on your resume may mean a leg up in the hiring process.
According to Harvard Business School, a recent survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) revealed that “77 percent of US employers plan to hire MBA graduates between 2019 and 2020. This demand is especially pronounced for larger organizations, with 90 percent of Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies stating their intent to hire MBA graduates.”
In other words, it’s entirely possible that earning an undergraduate degree will qualify you for a role which does not technically require a graduate degree. But it’s also entirely possible that the hiring firm will only consider those with advanced degrees for the role.
So if you have your sights set on the top of the business world, the MBA may well be the basic threshold for entry into the company of your choice, regardless of the position you seek.
3. Get Current Workplace Skills
So what is it that makes MBA graduates so attractive to prospective employers? Well, for one thing, most reputable MBA programs have deep ties to their local business communities and to the private sector at large. This means that business schools are uniquely attuned to real-world developments in their sphere, that curriculum and testing materials are highly current, and that MBA students enjoy opportunities for hands-on experience through seminars and internships.
Such is to say that the top MBA programs truly do prepare students to succeed in the world by arming them with the type of knowledge and skills that employers are actively seeking today. According to an article in Poets & Quants, “Technical and analytical skills now sit at the top of any employers must-have list. We operate in a digital-first world filled with big data and big opportunities to harness that data. Regardless of industry, employers are looking for data-savvy employees with strong quantitative skills who can leverage technology to create efficiencies, unlock new opportunities, or identify insights that can help solve complex problems.”
You might want to keep this in mind as you choose MBA classes, select your concentration, and connect with professors. Construct a graduate degree focused on current and best practices in your desired area of specialization. Not only can an MBA expand your professional opportunities, but it can arm you with a unique cross-section of skills that consequently qualify you for a highly specialized role in an exciting and emergent field
In either case, there’s a good chance that these opportunities will also amount to a stronger salary potential.
4. Business Schools Create Valuable Networking Opportunities
There’s an old saying that goes, it’s not what you know but who you know. We tend to believe it’s actually a bit of both. But still, it’s true that having connections really does make a difference as you advance along your career path. This is one of the most compelling reasons to pursue an MBA. Gaining entry into a top business school is more than just admission into an MBA program.
You also become part of a vibrant educational community, one that is distinguished by its close connection to the private sector. It’s up to you to make the most of your time within this community, and to leverage the countless valuable networking opportunities that present themselves during your time there. Among these opportunities, MBA candidates typically have access to professors and faculty with direct experience, and even concurrent roles, in the private sector. Indeed, as a student at one of the nation’s most prestigious business schools, you may have access to former Fortune 500 CEOs and CFOs, current executives, and even former public officials.
This kind of access is obviously extremely valuable just from an educational perspective. You’ll have a chance to gain real world insights from those who have been there. But perhaps even more consequential is the way this access can broaden your professional network. Those same professors who provide guidance and mentorship may be in a position to open pathways to exciting job opportunities as well.
And that’s just the start. When it comes to networking, your fellow students may be just as valuable. The person you connect with during an executive business management program or a study group could be your future business partner.
Add to that the countless chances to attend expert-led seminars, engage with local business leaders, and socialize within a buzzing community of business-minded individuals. Simply stated, attending business school dramatically multiples your opportunities to meet and collaborate with others.
5. Access a Massive Alumni Network
Speaking of expanding your professional network, the connections fostered by your business school affiliation don’t end with the completion of your MBA program. In fact, one of the sometimes underappreciated lifelong benefits of earning an MBA is the access it gives you to your school’s alumni network.
But what does it mean to have access to this network? Of course, it depends on the size and history of your business school program. But if you come from a prestigious institution like Harvard Business School, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, or the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, your alumni network is populated by executives and industry leaders; entrepreneurs and innovators; company founders and CEOs. In other words, your alumni association is a vast professional network full of influential prospective employers.
And it’s not just a virtual network, but one you can tap into at the local level. As an article from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) notes, “The alumni network is an incredibly valuable resource. Alumni are often organized into local networks that meet often socially, organize both social and professional events, and frequently connect with alumni networks for other business schools.”
You may not even realize how many connections this can create over the lifetime until opportunities begin to emerge. Your affiliation with your university can open doors to jobs, promotions, special projects, and leadership positions. If you do plan to earn a master of business administration degree, be sure you join your school’s alumni association. Use this access to connect with others, explore job postings, and to get involved with the association. The more actively you leverage this network, the more likely you are to enjoy the benefits of your degree.
6. Business Schools Help With Placement in the Job Market
Business schools don’t simply place you in a position to network with valuable connections. The best institutions will also take additional steps to help you make the most of these connections. While an MBA may be a costly venture, many MBA programs help to justify this cost by ensuring that graduates make a smooth transition from their higher education into a pertinent career.
According to an article in Fortune, 87% of 2021 MBA graduates “received job offers within three months of finishing their programs, according to the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance. And 73% of graduates had a job offer before they had finished school.”
A vast majority of these opportunities–some 68% according to the Employer Alliance–were secured through avenues directly connected to student MBA degree programs including internships, job fairs, and internal job boards. From this perspective, the benefits of attending a prestigious business school can be considerable.
7. An MBA Can Help You Stand Out In a Crowd
Of course, business schools do have a few advantages when it comes to helping their graduates secure promising job opportunities. That’s because the MBA credential itself still carries a lot of weight with employers. While students may still be forced to calculate the cost of an MBA degree versus the professional benefits and earning potential, employers remain pretty unified on the idea that this is an extremely valuable postgraduate degree.
Indeed, the Fortune article notes that most top business organizations view job candidates with MBAs as strong upper management material. 54% of surveyed employers even note that MBA holders are typically viewed as being on the fast-track toward internal leadership positions and top salaries. Such is to say that your MBA degree can help you advance in the hiring process, especially when you’re just one of many qualified candidates out of a big crowd.
Whether that crowd is in a highly competitive job market like tech or healthcare, or that crowd is in a major metropolitan city dense with other qualified candidates, your MBA can be a difference-maker. According to U.S. News & World Report, “An MBA degree from a quality business school can help people break into certain highly competitive business sectors, such as Silicon Valley tech companies or the Wall Street finance industry…Prospective students who dream of working in major cities far from home can often benefit from earning their MBA at a nonlocal school.”
While you will be competing with many other worthy candidates who also hold MBA degrees from prestigious schools, that’s kind of the point. Without this advanced degree on your resume, you may simply fall out of contention for a number of competitive roles as candidates with master’s degrees rise to the top of the pile.
Get your MBA to avoid slipping between the cracks in the hiring process.
8. Educational Harbor During Stormy Economic Times
While we’ve spoken of the long-term wage premium that MBA graduates usually enjoy over the lifetime, there are also some savvy short-term considerations that you might want to consider if you’re on the fence about grad school. Before you make your decision, consider the immediate state of the labor economy.
With the accelerating adoption of automated technology, AI-based innovations, and machine learning processes, the labor landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation. The harsh reality is that many working professionals will be the casualties of this transformation, losing jobs, opportunities, and perhaps even entire job markets to robots and computers.
In many ways, this is a good time to step back from the job market. Pursuing a business degree could put you in the position to do so. According to Poets & Quants, “Whether you choose an accelerated One-Year MBA or traditional Full-time Two-Year MBA, you remove yourself from the possibility of layoffs and instead remain in control of your own career by gaining new expertise and knowledge that make you a more attractive hiring candidate/employee—one that has demonstrated a proactive approach to enhancing their abilities and one who can bring fresh ideas and perspectives to an organization in a period of need.”
Use this time to observe as the labor market transforms, to understand the human skills that will carry the most value going forward, and to refine these skills in yourself. The benefit will be more than your own job security and professional success. This keen understanding of our rapidly changing job market will put you in a better position to recognize the value in others, to help your colleagues achieve job security, and to ultimately become a leader in your field, even as that field transforms.
9. Business School Offerings Are Growing More Diverse
Speaking of transforming fields, many of the top business schools are increasingly recognizing the need for courses and curricula that reflect these changes. In many ways, business schools are evolving to meet the demands of today’s graduate students and working professionals.
In some cases, this accommodation has taken the form of greater accessibility through online and hybrid degree programs and greater flexibility through accelerated MBA degree programs. But the evolution of focus is also evidenced in the expanding course offerings and innovative learning opportunities now available through a number of top business schools.
As Fortune notes, “Business schools have been increasing their ‘menu of courses’ to allow students flexibility and to complete an MBA with the concentrations and certificates that best interest them, notes Russ Morgan, a professor and the senior dean for full-time MBA programs at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.”
From part time MBA programs and full-time online programs to certification-based EMBA programs and traditional MBA degree programs, students have never had more options at their fingertips. And as the numbers suggest, most of these options lead to career advancement and higher paying jobs.
10. An MBA Can Help With a Career Path Change
It’s not just that an MBA degree can lead to a higher paying job. It’s also that your MBA can lead to a high paying job in an entirely new field.
For many MBA candidates–especially those who are already working for a living–the appeal of business school is the opportunity to make a major career change. In fact, says Fortune, “38% of alumni changed industries after graduating, and another 37% of those surveyed changed job functions. Consulting takes in the most industry-switching graduates, with more than 70% of those who worked in consulting post-grad moving from another industry.”
In this regard, earning an MBA can be an empowering move. Use the advanced degree to take a new and exciting step, and do it armed with a highly respected credential and a valuable set of practical business skills.
This underscores another reason that the MBA is so popular. Its sheer versatility makes it an excellent degree for those looking to make a transition. Many of the management and leadership skills you’ll refine during your MBA program can be applied across an extremely diverse range of industries. It’s really up to you to apply your MBA as you wish!
Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that graduate school isn’t for everybody. In some fields, it’s entirely possible that professional experience will be of greater value than a formal education or an advanced credential. In this case, the investment in an MBA would be strictly for the educational value. While we would certainly applaud this investment, it’s also important to understand the financial implications.
In the simplest of terms, there are some really high paying jobs that you can get without an advanced degree. In fact, there are even quite a few six-figure jobs that you can land without an undergraduate degree. Check out some of these opportunities here.