business, business school, higher education, marketing

Is Getting Your MBA Worth It?

You Be the Judge

In a word, no, it isn’t. I will qualify that statement I promise.

In a world where seemingly everyone and their mother has an advanced degree (my mother does not have an advanced degree) people can often feel compelled to pursue degrees just because everyone else has them. “I feel stuck and Suzy is really advancing her career, maybe this is what I need”.

It can be easy to daydream about what your life and career could be like, and how much easier getting your dream job could become if you had an MBA.

But it’s important to consider some other things first. I did this once and it really helped me to see the potential weight an MBA holds. I pictured myself as the hiring manager for the job I wanted.

I then pictured how the MBA (with school and graduating class) would look on my resume and on my LinkedIn profile. And I thought, would I hire me for this highly competitive job that I’m unqualified for today if I had my MBA?

And the answer wasn’t so cut-and-dry. I didn’t go to a name brand school and haven’t worked at any name-brand jobs. People like what they know (whether it be people or brands they’re familiar with) and if you have one or both it certainly a step in the right direction. Since I have neither, I thought an MBA (leaving out the Ivy League and similar upper-echelon MBA’s) would help, but still not push me to the top of the pile.

That being said, let’s get more specific. The rates of people applying to business school fell drastically this past year, for many of the reasons that I will lay out. Some of the hardest hit schools, like Rice, had applications fall by over 27%. In the articles I read, they cited strong job growth and steady wages as the rationale for this trend. I see it differently.

The real thing that people weren’t seeing is the value. No, the quality of an MBA education hasn’t deteriorated (sure, there wasn’t always the for-profit University of Phoenix money-suckers way back when), but rather the cost of an MBA has drastically risen with no clear reasoning or value proposition behind it.

Universities at the undergrad level had remained virtually unaffected by this up until the last few years, where college alternatives have become more palatable to the ever-rising rates of college well above inflation.

The truth is, MBA programs haven’t become THAT much better at landing you your dream job than they were 10-15 years ago, yet the price increases suggest that they have. Nor have they become THAT much better at creating entrepreneurs or helping you make millions.

Rather, along with the universities at large, they’ve become adept at creating mountains of student debt loans that will affect the economy for years.

This brings me to my main point. The value of an MBA comes down to one word: justification. Can you justify what you spent on your MBA compared to what you got out of it?

This is where it gets even simpler to me. If you have an employer pay for some (or all) of your MBA, then there is your answer.

You are paying nothing, or next to it, and if you don’t get insane value out of your MBA and it just boosts your resume/profile enough to land you another job, or maybe not even to that extent, then you will still sit content knowing that you are better off having it considering what you had to put into it.

However, that is not everyone’s reality, and more realistically it’s not the vast majority of job seekers’ realities. They have to do a much more thorough cost-benefit analysis.

The questions that surface are:

  • How expensive is this MBA on average
  • How much will my new college’s network help me to land my next job (relative to another school’s)
  • How much more will I make as a result of my MBA, and how far will it go to off-set my debt

These questions are very difficult to answer, and even with the right data can be impossible to know for sure. You can find stats about the percentage of graduates that find a job within six months of graduation, and also the average starting salary of graduates at your school’s program.

However, no one else is you and no one has your exact job (or maybe they do I work at an extremely small company). The point is, you haven’t done it yet, and assuming that one person’s experience will be yours isn’t fair or rational to assume.

Unless you go to an Ivy League school, throw all of this advice out the window. Is it worth every penny at those schools if you can get in (even with no discount)?

I don’t know, but my gut says yes due to the life-changing litany of decision-makers you can become on a first-name basis with.

Even then, tread lightly and know exactly what you want and who you need to know before making such a life-altering decision.

Let me know what you think, is an MBA worth it? Did you get one? Are you satisfied with the return on your investment?