To MBA or not to MBA, that is the question. Before you decide on your answer, let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a graduate business degree. If you’re asking yourself, “Why should I get an MBA?” you should first look at its upsides and downsides.
What are the pros and cons of an MBA?
First, the advantages. What does an MBA teach you? According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, “MBA programs help students develop the skills required to excel as business executives, such as the ability to quickly and accurately analyze large amounts of information."1
The article goes on to point out that MBA programs also teach students how to inspire and motivate, and how to command respect—skills vital for those who want to succeed in business, and skills learned in a curriculum that includes:
- Organizational behavior
- Business ethics
Indeed.com talks about 11 career benefits of an MBA.2 The first three alone offer good cause to get started on your application:
- Increased job prospects—Graduating with an MBA may qualify you for roles you have been ignored for previously.
- New career path—Looking to pivot careers? An MBA gives you knowledge to make a move alongside a degree that gets you noticed.
- Increased earning potential—The big one. MBA graduates often qualify for higher salaries and sometimes earn sizable signing bonuses.
What does an MBA do for your salary?
When you saw “increased earning potential,” you probably asked, “How much?”
According to a survey conducted by Bloomberg Businessweek,3 the median salary gain from students’ pre-MBA jobs to their first jobs out of business school in 2022 was $85,000.
While salaries vary based on location and area of expertise, the promise of a substantial pay bump is attractive to anyone considering an MBA.
So… what’s the downside?
At a glance, there can’t possibly be a downside. Or can there? Two possible disadvantages loom large in any MBA enrollment decision.
Cost—Make no mistake, pursuing your MBA isn’t cheap, and, depending on your school of choice, can be quite expensive.
According to the Education Data Initiative,4 the average cost of an MBA is $61,800. On the higher end, the cost of an MBA from Harvard Business School for a full 2-year program is $112,760. Meanwhile, the cost of an MBA degree from the University of Iowa is $33,750.
If you feel an MBA is financially out of reach, employers often cover some, if not all, of the cost of an MBA for employees. According to Statista,5 47 percent of employers offered undergraduate or graduate school tuition assistance to their employees in 2020.
Find out if your company has a plan in place, then explain to leadership how your MBA will add value to your professional and personal development, and add value to the company. It's important that your education add recognizable value to their bottom line.
Keep in mind that some companies will expect you to sign a sponsorship contract that may require you to commit to long-term employment with the organization after obtaining your degree.
Time commitment—Getting your MBA takes time. That may mean hours away from family, personal obligations, and fun. It's important to decide if the time expectation is attainable. Fortunately, there are schools that allow you to learn at your own speed, taking a class or two at a time when it is most convenient for your schedule.
“I got everything I expected to get out of the MBA program and more. In addition to what I learned in the classroom, I learned to be ruthless with my time management. My ability to manage time is exponentially better than when I started.”
In the end, does an MBA really make a difference?
Is receiving an MBA worth it? Graduates, universities, and most employers would say yes, but it is up to you to decide. Are the benefits of knowledge, leadership, and a potential boost in salary worth your commitments of time and money? We have more information about the benefits of an MBA, and be sure to check out the Iowa MBA Employer Guide.
- Ilana Kowarski and Cole Claybourn. “What an MBA Degree Is and What You Need to Know.” U.S. News & World Report, May 2023.
- Trevon Bennett. “Why Get an MBA Degree? 11 Career Benefits To Know About.” Indeed Career Guide, March 2023.
- Alexander McIntyre and Amanda Chen. “The Promise of Higher Pay Woos MBAs…” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 2023.
- Melanie Hanson. “Average Cost of a Master’s Degree.” Education Data Initiative, November 2022.
- “Percent of U.S. employers offering education benefits 2019.” Statista Research Department, January 2023.
- Meghan Malas. “Juggling Priorities: How Many Hours Per Week A Part-Time MBA Takes.” Fortune, November 2021.
- Meghan Malas. "How Long Does It Really Take To Earn a Part-time MBA." Fortune, December 2021.