Is An MBA Degree Worth It?

There is plenty of evidence that shows earning a Master’s degree can increase your earning potential and employability. However, if you’re already working full time or just graduated with a bachelors degree and student loans, the cost in time and money for more education can seem quite high.

A recent article on my local news site weighed in on the debatable question of the value of an MBA degree. The following are some interesting highlights:

Advantages of an online MBA

  • According to a recent Graduate Management Admission Council survey, 86 percent of 2011 MBA graduates were employed after graduation, and 93 percent of those found the job they were looking for. This statistic alone can be a bit misleading. See this article for more context about this survey.
  • According to recent research presented by The Journal of Online Educators, “convenience or flexibility in time management” is considered “to be of greatest importance in choosing online education in general … while learning opportunities from interactions with other students were considered much less important.”
  • The latest Sloan Survey conclude that 67 percent “of academic leaders rated the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face” programs, which is up from 57 percent in 2003. Online enrollments increased 10 percent last year contrasted with the less than 1 percent growth of the overall higher education student population.
  • A MERLOT study revealed that “based on students’ feedback, it appears that taking online courses generally enhances (students’) creativity. They are not only more inclined to be creative thinkers, but also more likely to be organized and exercise critical thinking.

Are all MBA’s equal?
The short answer is no. Online MBA programs vary in cost and quality as much as their brick and mortar counterparts.

  • From a Financial Times interview – Mark Taylor, dean of Warwick Business School in the UK, argues, “Clearly, not all online MBA’s are of an equal quality. So always choose one that is accredited and that preferably has an on-campus MBA also. Always seek out information about the student experience, preferably by talking to current students and alumni to get their views.”
  • From a Bloomberg Businessweek article, “The Online MBA Salary Blues,” Tori Stilwell reports that MBA graduates of the online Kelly Direct program experienced only “half the increase (in salary) achieved by Kelley’s full-time MBA’s…”
  • A school’s “brand” plays an important role in the value of your MBA degree. “No one would confuse Phoenix with Princeton,” and warns that there is “stigma in various industries about whether an online degree is ‘as good as.’” From a recent New York Times Article.

Traditional or Online?
If online MBA’s don’t usually have the same earning power that accompanies a traditional full-time MBA, is it worth it to leave a secure job for two years and go into debt without knowing the outcome?

  • Important aspects of the traditional education were the recruiting and networking opportunities. One student felt the informational content of her degree was “secondary to networking.” She continued, “the content is not rocket-science. You can read a book, or take a course” to learn the same things.
  • Corey Walker, a Harvard MBA graduate, agrees that you can learn the same “fundamental principles of business from school to school.” His experience in a full-time MBA program provided him with a priceless network of professors and peers that created a depth in the learning experience that extended beyond the basic content of his education.

So is a Master’s degree worth it?

  • Although Corey Walker is passionate about his MBA experience, he is also emphatic that an “MBA is not right for everyone.” He advises that on-the-job experience or enrolling in a couple of useful classes at a local community college can be just as beneficial, if not more so, than an MBA degree.
  • For those who want to continue and advance in a similar career path, an MBA may or may not be the only solution. Asking industry experts and peers questions about how to advance a career can prevent unnecessary time and money spent on a degree that might not get you anywhere, whether online or traditional.

The one clear conclusions from these various articles is this: Prospective students need to do their research into the various graduate programs, talk to current students, alumni, and faculty. Assess their individual career goals and personal life. The convenience and flexibility of online degree programs can be a great option without sacrificing many of the benefits of traditional degree programs. One last article from the Wall Street Journal that shows three differing experiences answering the question if an MBA degree is worth it and best of luck as you try and answer this tough question for yourself.

  • paul lee

    An MBA is an investment in your future where you trade financial hardship and time for increased career status and earning power down the road.

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