Is an MBA still worth it? cogs illustration

Are you long overdue for a salary boost? Jonesing for a promotion? Ready to add mad skills that will, in fact, pay the bills? Then an MBA is absolutely worth your time and energy.


Here's the critical data:

The average salary for an MBA graduate is $125,000 annually, according to a Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) survey.1 With the average salary for those aged 35-44 maxing out at $63,596,2 this gap of nearly $52k spotlights the value of the degree.

If getting promoted or shifting to a new role is your M.O., then an MBA fulfills those criteria as well.

Another GMAC survey3 reported that 56% of MBA graduates who had the goal of earning a promotion were successful, as well as 57% of those looking to make a career change. (Worth noting: 67% of spring 2023 Iowa MBA graduates report receiving a promotion.)

Over the course of a lifetime, GMAC estimates that those who hold a master’s earn around $3 million more than their counterparts with a bachelor’s degree. So why should I get an MBA? The better question may be: Why not?

What is the best age to do an MBA?

The average age of an MBA student in the US is 28,4 with an average work experience of around five years. Eighty percent of MBA students are between 27–35 years old. Do does this make 28 the “best” age? Not necessarily. Having even more experience in the workforce will add important context to what you learn—making it more relevant, more relatable, and easier to understand overall.

You may still be wondering: Is an MBA worth it after 40? What about an MBA at 50? Or 60? Absolutely. Going for your MBA at a later age demonstrates that you’re committed to lifelong learning. It will also help you stay on top of the newest trends in business, such as ChatGPT, virtual reality, and the emergence of remote work. Even if you’re already in a leadership role, you may be surprised at the insights you can gain.

Cool, I see the value. But is an MBA hard?

Earning your MBA doesn’t have to be hard, but it does require dedication and perseverance.

MBA students need to set aside time to be in class, study, and collaborate on team projects. You’ll also have to commit to taking on a rigorous curriculum that spans all areas of business—from finance and marketing to analytics and leadership. Getting out of your comfort zone is the point; the holistic understanding of how business operates is part of what makes those with an MBA degree so valuable to employers.

Sign up for our monthly email newsletter.

Featuring the latest business news, upcoming webinars, helpful tips, and more.

Melissa Pepper

“My liberal arts degree formed me into a critical thinker, taught me how to look at problems differently and to be an exceptional writer and communicator. My MBA showed me how to lead and run a business operationally and to strategically manage change.” 

For the most part, schools do not put an age limit on a master’s program. For older working professionals with upwards of 10 years of experience, the advanced curriculum of an MBA program designed for executives, a leadership certificate, or an executive advancement certificate may be a better fit.

I’ve got a big idea, but limited business experience. Is an MBA worth it for entrepreneurs?

Should entrepreneurs get an MBA? Good question. Would you start building an IKEA desk without the instructions? Would you attempt CPR without a training course?

Starting a business without an MBA is a bit like navigating an interstate highway system without a map. It’s possible. But not recommended.

Entrepreneurship with an MBA means you’ll have a clear understanding of how a business functions, top to bottom. Running a successful company means balancing a budget, creating a marketing plan, hiring the right people, and developing a strategy for long-term success. And that’s just for starters.

Do you know how to use the troves data you’ll be collecting from prospects and customers to make better business decisions? Are you able to properly file for a business license and navigate tax law? Can you effectively manage growth?

Some MBA programs offer opportunities to focus on entrepreneurship through specializations and certificates. This allows you to further tailor your MBA experience, so you’re prepared to launch your venture.

One of the best online MBA programs in the nation, from University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School, also offers a concentration in entrepreneurship5. U.S. News & World Report also offers a comprehensive ranking of MBA programs for entrepreneurs.

Sidney Hoyle Portrait

“People often think they know what it takes to be a good leader. Then they get into leadership classes and say, 'Wow, I have been doing this all wrong.’ They start utilizing the tools they learn in those classes and can see the effects on their team immediately.”

Sidney Hoyle, Associate Director, Graduate Program Enrollment, Tippie College of Business

Why should I do an online MBA? You won’t be just phoning it in.

There was a time when an online MBA got a bit of side-eye. But those days are over. The current list of the Princeton Review’s Top 50 Online MBA Programs5 includes a prestigious selection of top-ranked institutions. Which means you aren’t sacrificing on quality when you choose an online program.

They’re convenient.

Online programs allow you to learn from anywhere – your home office, your favorite coffee shop (headphones in!), your man cave. Synchronous classes have set schedules when you’ll need to show up with your camera on and a fresh shave. Asynchronous classes offer recorded content you can watch in your undies, if that’s your thing.

They’re flexible.

Many online programs give you the chance to learn at your own pace. That means you can rack up one course at a time, over time, and take the time you need to finish. This balance works well if you’re in the midst of raising a family, buying a home, or other major life changes.

They’ve got cred.

Cross-reference the data, and you’ll find that many of the top-ranked part-time MBA programs in the country also top the list of online MBAs—including Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, University of Southern California Marshall, and Indiana University (Kelley), to name a few.

Look for accredited online MBA programs that are certified by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a global organization that provides quality assurance and oversight for business education.

In closing you may still be asking yourself: Can you afford it? Certainly. In fact, the Iowa MBA is one of the most affordable online MBA programs, clocking in at well under $33,750 for a program highly ranked by both Forbes and the Princeton Review. Compare that to $82,158 for the #1-ranked program… and it doesn’t take an MBA to know a deal when you see it. 

Ready to seek out the long-term reward of an MBA?

Here’s an option you can’t afford to ignore

Related articles

  1. Corporate Recruiters Survey – 2023 Summary Report.” Graduate Management Admissions Council, July 2023.
  2. Haan, Kathy. “Average Salary by Age in 2023.” Forbes, May 23, 2023.
  3. Enrolled Students Survey – 2022 Summary Report.” Graduate Management Admissions Council, September 2022.
  4. Flynn, Jack. “25 Educational MBA Statistics (2023): Average Age, Cost and Salary for MBA Graduates.” Zippia, March 28, 2023.
  5. Top 50 Online MBA Programs for 2023.” Princeton Review, 2023.