Getting the Most out of Life

Business School: The Pros and Cons of Taking the Plunge

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To get an MBA or not to get an MBA? That is the question many college students, recent grads, and even established employees are asking themselves as they consider what’s best for their future.

Here are some of the biggest factors to consider as you decide whether to enroll in business school:

Pros

  • More money: A study by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) found MBA graduates make around 50 percent more than they did before starting their degree program. That number increases to 80 percent more five years after graduation.
  • Career advancement: While an MBA isn’t a prerequisite to climb the corporate ladder, it often helps. Whether you’d like to interview for a higher-level job or advance to a management or executive position at your current company, having an MBA might be the leg up you need.
  • Connections: Enrolling in an MBA program puts you in contact with other ambitious and talented individuals, from teachers to fellow students to alumni. In a world where who you know is as important as what you know, these relationships could prove invaluable to your career.
  • Personal development: Completing an MBA (whether you’re a full-time or part-time student) while you have a day job requires discipline, drive, and time-management skills. It also instills leadership, inspires confidence, and challenges you to hone your problem-solving abilities. These qualities give you a competitive edge in the workforce.
  • Flexibility: Many MBA programs can be completed on your own terms, which means you can hold down a job while you get your degree, study online, or take courses at night. If you decide to get your MBA in a state with no income tax, you can work, go to school, and offset the cost of your education from your earnings, which won’t be taxed.
  • Employer reimbursement: Some companies offer financial help to employees who want to go back to school. Employers like Apple, Starbucks, UPS, and Verizon Wireless offer incentives like tuition assistance and reimbursement because they recognize the value in encouraging their workers to pursue advanced education.

Cons

  • Oversaturation: According to data from the Digest of Education Statistics, there are 4,000 MBA programs at over 450 schools with more than 1 million students and 150,000 new graduates each year. Because of the sheer volume of MBAs entering the workforce, just having a degree doesn’t necessarily make you stand out. What really matters is how well-recognized your school and its specific program are.
  • Value varies: Employers don’t recognize all degree programs, and online programs can be especially suspect. Make sure the AACSB has accredited each program you’re considering.
  • Cost: MBAs aren’t cheap. The cost ranges from $7,000 (for some online degrees) to more than $100,000 (for tuition and fees at a top-rated business school).
  • Time: Earning your MBA can take two to three years depending on your program and whether you opt to study full time or part time. You may be able to work while earning your degree, but a considerable amount of your time and energy will be focused on your coursework.
  • Classroom vs. real world: There are plenty of people (including employers) who would argue that real-world experience is just as valuable as any you get in a classroom.

So should you get an MBA? On one hand, it could help advance your career and grow your network, and you can complete a program on your own terms. On the other, not all MBA programs are created equal. Before you invest money, time, and energy into the process, think carefully about how much business school would actually boost your career.

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Paula Pant is the founder of award-winning website AffordAnything.com and a journalist and blogger specializing in personal finance, real estate and lifestyle design. She has been featured more than three dozen publications, including Forbes, DailyFinance, Marketplace Money, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, and many more.