What is the long-term benefit of an MBA? Man in suit standing with arrow pointing up

There are many benefits of an MBA that play out over the years: Ever-increasing salaries, advancing through the ranks to leadership positions, and continuing to evolve your understanding of what makes a business successful. If you’re asking yourself “Why should I get an MBA?”—it’s worth considering long-term value versus short-term sacrifice.


Can you make six figures with an MBA? The numbers don’t lie.

What is the lifetime ROI of an MBA? 

While you may spend three years earning your MBA, depending on the program, the long-term payoff could be downright life-changing.

According to a 2021 analysis of salary data, Poets & Quants1 reports that an MBA could be worth up to $2.3 million more than a bachelor’s degree over a lifetime.

The lifetime median cash compensation for MBA graduates from the top 50 business schools is more than $5.7 million over 35 years.  

If you’re looking to advance to an executive-level position, an MBA makes solid business sense: 69% of American CEOs are also MBA grads2.

On top of that, a recent Forte Foundation3 study projected that 10 years after earning an MBA degree, the salaries of grads will grow between 9% and 35%.

The one-two punch of work experience plus an MBA is a tried-and-true path to financial success. An Association of MBAs survey4 found that 68% of respondents who graduated more than a year ago were more confident after acquiring their degree and 62% were better at resolving problems by finding new solutions.

While it’s not always easy to quantify MBA benefits in the future, it is fairly simple to draw a line between confidence, experience, and capability leading to long-term job satisfaction.

Are MBAs worth the investment? Count on it.

Get hired. Get paid. Get a job you enjoy. It’s the dream outcome for those entering an MBA program. And according to a 2021 survey of MBA alumni by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC)5, it’s more than just a vision: 9 out of 10 alumni reported a positive return on investment from their graduate business education, while 87% felt their degree increased their employability.

A 2023 GMAC survey of corporate recruiters6 projected starting salaries of $125k per year, plus frequent lucrative sign-on bonuses. The long-term financial value of the degree is undeniable.

But you may also wonder if an MBA means anything to employers. Notably, GMAC reports that 90% of corporate recruiters plan to hire MBAs in 2023.

Some of the benefits of an MBA degree to a company include the ability to link up different job functions to understand the business more holistically, the capacity to solve problems in unique ways, and the confidence to lead teams, projects, and strategy.

MBAs are also typically well-equipped to hold critical conversations with leadership, team members, and direct reports to improve overall company performance and efficiency.

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Dee Hurst

“Employers hire MBAs for short-term value, but more importantly, long-term potential for higher leadership roles.”

Dee Hurst, Senior Associate Director/Career Coach, Tippie College of Business

Leveling up: Does an MBA give you credibility?

Having an MBA can indicate a lot of things to a potential employer. It demonstrates that you’re goal-oriented, you have drive and determination, and you’re not content with staying put where you are, professionally or personally. The curriculum of an MBA program is rigorous—whether you attend classes full-time or part-time. Getting through the program demonstrates you can commit to a goal and see it through to completion.

“To me, having an MBA on your resume not only signifies one has been taught but also has a 'grit factor.' It shows that you were willing make an investment, put in the time and effort, and prioritize your professional development.“ 

David Fritzinger, Chief Information Officer, Nystrom

When you’re analyzing MBA advantages and disadvantages, don’t ignore the credibility it adds to any job application.

MBA degrees aren’t handed out like candy at a parade. It takes determination, time management skills, focus, and perseverance before you can finally add this respected credential to your resume, email signature, business card, office wall, personalized license plate… you get the gist.

Once you’ve made the decision to move ahead with an MBA, there’s one more question to consider… 

What should I write in my “Why do you want to pursue an MBA” essay? 

As you start to think about your application, you can and should incorporate a long-term vision into your admissions essay.

Most universities require a 500-word MBA essay detailing what you hope to achieve and how you plan to use your degree.

You have the general idea of why an MBA matters in the long run—now go a step further. Apply what you’ve learned about the value of an MBA to what you specifically want for yourself and your career. This is your chance to write the story of your future—so give it your all.

Valerie Sexton Portrait

“The essays that stand out the most are those that are personal and where we can tell effort and thought was put in by the applicant. Essays that go beyond generic goals are more impactful, as they help the Admissions Committee get to know the applicant a bit better.”

Valerie Sexton, Admission & Enrollment Services, Graduate and Professional Programs, Tippie College of Business

As you shop around for your MBA program, don’t overlook the top-ranked, super flexible Iowa MBA.

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Related articles

  1. Matt Kefford. “Why Over 20% of the World’s CEOs have MBAs.” Because Business, September 16, 2022.
  2. John A. Byrne. “The MBA Premium: What MBAs Earn Over a Lifetime Will Shock You.” Poets & Quants, May 5, 2021.
  3. Does the MBA Degree Deliver.” Association of MBAs, 2020.
  4. Dr. Michelle Wieser. “Experiences and Outcomes of the MBA by Gender and Race.” Forte Foundation Study, September 2021.
  5. "Alumni Perspectives on the Value of Graduate Management Education.” Graduate Management Admission Council, August 2021.
  6. Andrew Walker, et al. "Corporate Recruiters Survey: 2023 Summary Report." Graduate Management Admission Council, July 2023.