MBA ROI: Is an MBA degree worth it? | TopMBA.com

MBA ROI: Is an MBA degree worth it?

By Valeria Renee R

Updated January 12, 2024 Updated January 12, 2024

In today’s competitive landscape, the Master of Business Administration has become a goal for many aspiring business leaders. The MBA is seen not just as a qualification but as a catalyst for career transformation. However, one of the most pressing questions for prospective students is whether the degree is actually worth it.

From my personal experience, the MBA journey is as intriguing as it is challenging. Having graduated from university 1.5 years ago and currently working as a digital marketer, I often find myself thinking about the potential benefits of an MBA. Despite the skills I've acquired through my work experience, I feel the absence of a strong industry network and managerial skills that are crucial for professional growth.

Regardless of its rewards, how can I justify the steep cost of pursuing an MBA? The financial, time and emotional investment that the Master of Business Administration requires isn’t for the faint hearted.

This article breaks down the true value of an MBA by evaluating the tangible and intangible returns on investment. Whether you’re a recent graduate contemplating further study or a seasoned professional seeking a career leap, this guide will offer valuable insights into how an MBA can impact your professional trajectory and personal growth.

What is the MBA cost?

Pursuing an MBA comes with a significant investment, both in terms of time and money. Understanding the MBA cost in terms of financial implications is essential for making an informed decision about whether business school is the right choice for you.

MBA tuition fees and expenses

Tuition fees are the most substantial expense in your total MBA cost. These can vary widely, generally between US$30,000- $120,000 according to Education Data Initiative from November 2022, and they are influenced by factors such as the location and prestige of the institution.

Let’s take a look at some examples of top MBA tuition costs across different regions:

QS MBA Rank

Institution

Location

Tuition ($USD)

1

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford (CA), USA

$79,860 / year

5

HEC Paris

Paris, France

$98,177

8

IE Business School

Segovia, Spain

$89,777

22

Michigan (Ross)

Ann Arbor (MI), USA

$75,392 / year

=24

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Singapore, Singapore

$71,012

28

Tsinghua University

Beijing, China

$27,964

30

Melbourne Business School

Melbourne, Australia

$71,434

40

Toronto (Rotman)

Toronto, Canada

$49,538 / year

=59

IIM Calcutta

Calcutta, India

$37,330 / year

=62

EGADE Business School

Monterrey, Mexico

$35,700

Beyond tuition, there are several other MBA costs to consider. Accommodation expenses will depend on the city where you study. Cities like London or New York are on the higher end of the spectrum, while other locations may be more affordable. Additionally, academic materials, such as textbooks, and living expenses, including food and travel, also contribute to the overall cost of the programme.

MBA scholarships and financial aid

A variety of financial aid options are available to alleviate the MBA cost. MBA scholarships and grants are typically offered by universities, private organisations and foundations. The awards can be based on need, merit, diversity, or other specific criteria like industry background and leadership potential.

MBA scholarship packages vary by school and candidate. For example, Harvard Business School grants 50 percent of MBA admits financial aid awards averaging US$92,000 over the course of two years.

Some employers offer MBA financial aid to their employees. According to an article by Fortune Education, companies such as Capital One, Disney, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs offer some form of tuition reimbursement or sponsorship. In such cases, MBA candidates may attend business school while remaining working part-time or signing a contract to return to their employer post graduation.

Lastly, many MBA students resort to loans to finance their education. These can be government-sponsored or from private financial institutions. Typical interest rates for private MBA loans range anywhere from 4.50 to 15.49 percent for fixed rates and 6.37 to 16.70 percent for variable rates according to TouchMBA.

MBA work-study programmes are another option. Students work part-time at the university in exchange for tuition reduction. Lastly, some business schools have MBA fellowship programmes, which provide financial aid, mentoring, as well as exclusive networking and programme opportunities.

How do we measure the MBA ROI?

While you might already be discarding business school due to its disadvantages, it’s important to consider the return on investment, also known as MBA ROI. While the real value of the MBA investment is difficult to determine due to its tangible and intangible benefits, candidates usually break down the benefits into three categories:

MBA salary increase

The single most compelling statistics when measuring the MBA ROI is the typical salary increase graduates experience upon programme completion. According to an article by Bloomberg Businessweek, the median salary increase from students’ jobs pre-MBA to post-MBA in 2022 was US$85,000.

This increase is not just a short-term benefit, but it tends to have a compounding effect over the course of a career. According to the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa, the average salary for MBA graduates grows overtime, anywhere between 9 and 35 percent. This salary boost reflects the high value employers place on the skills and knowledge gained through an MBA programme.

MBA career advancement

The MBA ROI is also evident in career advancement opportunities. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), MBA grads report expedited career progression by being promoted into leadership and strategic roles where they can exercise more responsibility and autonomy.

Another popular use of the MBA degree is to switch careers and pivot into a new industry or role, perhaps even to a new country. GMAC shared that 30 percent of their registrants apply to business school with the idea of getting a job outside of their country of origin, and some students make what they refer to as the ‘Triple Jump,’ meaning switching industry, role, and location all at once.

Do you need an MBA degree to start your own business? Not necessarily, but it can help. According to an article by Inc. Magazine from 2021, 85 percent of MBA students consider entrepreneurship after graduation. Specialising in entrepreneurship and partaking in business accelerators and incubators during an MBA equips students with the tools they need to start their own company.

MBA networking

One of the main selling points of business school is the access to a vast and diverse network during an MBA programme. Every year, business schools bring together a class of ambitious professionals from diverse backgrounds, creating a rich environment for networking.

Professional networks can have a significant impact throughout a student’s career, opening doors for collaboration, mentorship, and new career opportunities. According to data collected by LinkedIn, around 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking connections. The relationships built during an MBA programme often extend well beyond graduation, providing a long-lasting resource for professional growth and development.

What factors influence the MBA ROI?

There are a number of factors that can influence the MBA ROI, including the industry, job location, and the school one graduates from.

Industry

An article by Bloomberg Magazine details post-MBA compensation by the top industries for new MBA grads. “Two-thirds of new hires ended up in either consulting, tech or finance, which are among the highest-paid industries.”

Consulting takes the lead as the highest paying post-MBA industry with a median salary of US$195,000, followed by legal (US$192,500 median salary), technology (US$190,000 median salary), and finance (US$175,000 median salary). Conversely, the least paying industries included the non-profit sector (US$68,500 median salary), engineering (US$84,500 median salary), and advertising/marketing/PR (US$76,000 median salary).

Job location

The location where you study and work after graduating can significantly impact your MBA ROI. For instance, MBAs from schools in major financial hubs like New York or London may have higher initial salaries and more opportunities compared to other regions. Additionally, the cost of living in various cities can affect your net income, which is also an important consideration when calculating ROI.

Some of the highest paying countries for MBA salaries in 2019 included Switzerland (US$123,500), United States (US$102,100), Canada (US$99,800), and France ($98,500).

Business school prestige

The prestige and reputation of the business school you attend can have a substantial impact on the MBA ROI. Graduates from top-tier schools often have access to a wider network of alumni, higher starting salaries, and more opportunities in sought-after companies. The school's brand can open doors and provide a level of credibility that enhances career prospects.

MBA programmes with the highest graduate salaries globally are the Stanford Graduate School of Business (US$152,503 average salary), The Wharton School (US$150,000 average salary), and Columbia Business School ($150,000 average salary).

Are MBAs worth it?

Deciding whether an MBA is worth the investment involves a careful consideration of personal goals and circumstances. It's not just about the financial and career benefits but also about aligning the MBA with your long-term professional aspirations and life balance.

While an MBA ROI may include significant advantages in terms of salary increase, career advancement, and network expansion, it also requires a substantial investment in terms of

money, time, and effort. Besides the MBA cost, one must also think about the opportunity cost – the potential benefits and earnings you give up while enrolled in business school. This is particularly true if you're considering a full-time MBA, which typically means taking a break from the workforce for one to two years.

For those who see it as a stepping stone to greater heights in their career, the investment can be immensely rewarding. Ultimately, the value of an MBA is as much about personal fulfilment and achieving career objectives as it is about financial gains, making it a decision that should be tailored to individual career paths and life goals.

This article was originally published in January 2024 .

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