Understanding your motivations for earning your MBA and comparing them to the expectations associated with it is the most critical step in your decision-making process. Is an MBA right for you? Is now the right time? Here are some key factors to consider to make sure you get the best MBA and return on investment for your goals.
What's the true MBA return on investment?
In deciding whether you're ready to pursue an MBA, return on investment is probably the most critical factor to consider, and it's often comprised of many tangible and intangible factors. For example, experts measure an MBA's return on investment as a proportion of your post-MBA salary increase compared to the cost of your MBA. By this standard, if you earn a moderately-priced MBA, return on investment can be fully realized very quickly, and over time its value will continue to grow as your salary grows. The formula, however, does not account for the loss of income when you attend school full-time on campus. One way to obviate that loss is to attend school part-time or online so that you can continue working full-time while you complete your MBA.
Where are you in your career?
This is an important question because it helps you determine where and when you want to focus your effort. If you're a recent college graduate, you will be more valuable to MBA programs if you put off graduate school for a few years while you build professional experience. Also, when you're just starting out, finances might be a barrier. If you're several years into your career, you will probably have better options and financial resources to pursue your MBA, but the demands of your personal or professional life might outweigh the amount of focus you can devote to it. In the end, however, it comes down to what's best for you right now at this point in your life.
Do you want an MBA for the right reasons?
If you are ready to open doors to new opportunities, then go for it. If you want to go back to school to delay the pressures of starting your career, then you need to noodle on it awhile longer. Once you commit to an MBA, return on investment depends as much on having your head and heart in the game as it does on the other sacrifices you will have to make. Whether you attend classes on campus or online, you can expect to spend 20-40 hours per week completing coursework, and your life will be intense and hectic. So having a clear and specific direction and set of goals are essential to providing the motivation, discipline and stamina for this kind of journey.
Do you have the resources?
An MBA's return on investment won't matter much if you don't have the resources you need to complete it. If you're still paying for your undergraduate degree, you may not be financially ready to tack on tens of thousands more to your existing student loan balance. Or it might be worth it when you consider how much greater your earning potential will be upon graduation.
Furthermore, an MBA's return on investment is about more than money. You also need to consider the value and scarcity of your time and energy. If you're unattached and focused largely on growing your career, then now may be a perfect time to complete your MBA – before spouses and children change your priorities. If, on the other hand, you are raising small children and working full-time, you may find time and energy in short supply until your children are a few years older. That doesn't mean it can't be done, just that there will be more parts of your life pulling you in more directions, which can be grueling. Finally, you will need a lot of support while you're earning your MBA, so make sure you choose a program that offers access to individualized coaching and advising; and make sure you can rely on the support of those around you as well.
When you earn an MBA, return on investment depends largely on the program and format you choose, but it also depends on the level of focus and discipline you contribute to your studies, which should be closely tied to your goals and your level of commitment. It's a big investment in terms of money as well as sweat equity and sacrifice, so you owe it to yourself to carefully consider whether you can reasonably dedicate enough resources at this particular time in your life.
Schmitt, Jeff. "MBA programs with the highest first-year ROI," Poets and Quants, May 16, 2014.
Blackman, Stacy. "How to determine when the time is right for an MBA," U.S. News & World Report, March 23, 2012.
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