masters degree

Should I go back to school for an MBA?

If you’ve considered pursuing an MBA degree but aren’t sure if the investment is worth the payoff, you’ll want to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine what’s the right decision for you.

Costs to Completing an MBA

Obviously, an MBA is not free. Most students experience the following costs when pursuing an MBA degree:

• Time – How long it takes to complete an MBA depends on what type of MBA program you attend. If you attend college full time, you can finish an MBA program in one to two years. If you attend  night school, it will probably take you somewhere between four and five years. Online MBA programs usually fall somewhere in between these two ranges.
• Money – Online programs cost anywhere from $5,000 to $45,000, but conventional MBA programs can cost anywhere from $60,000 to $130,000, depending on how expensive of a college you attend. Before signing up for an MBA, you should check into various forms of financial aid. If you are working full time, check with your place of employment to see if they will pay for your schooling. Your place of employment may have certain limitations as to what programs they will or will not support, so don’t assume a “yes” grants you a free ticket to any MBA program you choose. Make sure to work with your Human Resources representative to discover exactly what programs your workplace supports and what procedures you must follow to get the financial aid.
• Effort – When pursuing an MBA, you’re going to have to put some of your life on hold while you focus on your education. Make sure your personal life can handle the sacrifices demanded by an MBA before you sign up.

Benefits of an MBA

While there are significant costs to getting an MBA, the benefits are tremendous. Consider the following:

• Interview advantages – While an MBA will put your resume on the top of any employment pile, you’ll find the MBA internships available through your educational institution are incredibly valuable “ins”. A large percentage of corporations hire through MBA internship pools since they get to test you out before taking you on full time.
• On-the-Job Advantages – If you’re wondering how an MBA will affect your current job, you’ll be pleased to hear that according to the Association of MBAs (which surveys MBA graduates every few years, recording statistics on salary increases and job advancements) 59% of their MBA graduates advanced to senior management or corporate board positions within five years of getting their MBAs.
• Long-Term Salary Advantages – You probably know an MBA will open up better-paying jobs for you, but what you might now know is that the average person who holds and MBA found their salary increased by 53% within three to five years of getting their MBA.

MBA Options

There are several ways to pursue an MBA degree. The following are the three most popular options:

Conventional MBA Programs
If you’ve got the time to go to school full time, you’ll get the biggest bang out of your buck since you’ll finish the program as quickly as possible, launching you into a higher income bracket sooner. Many students find it works best for them to go straight into grad school immediately after receiving their bachelor’s degree. Students who choose to pursue conventional MBA programs cite the following advantages:
• Concentrated education, allowing them to immerse themselves completely in the material and learn at an accelerated rate
• Beneficial classroom interactions, allowing them to learn from others and network for future job opportunities
• Access to professors, teaching assistants, and resources in a live format

Night School

If you can’t focus 100% on your MBA program, you may need to fit it into night school. Many MBA programs are designed to accommodate a demanding 40-hour workweek schedule. You’ll find professors who teach MBA night school classes will try to set you up for success by offering the following advantages:
• Pacing is set to fit a working person’s schedule
• Additional flexibility with assignments and class attendance, again focused at affording you every advantage as you work your day job and attend school
• You’ll be surrounded with other students in your same situation, so you may find others who are willing to form beneficial study groups, support you as you juggle two demanding commitments at once, and who can help you network for future job opportunities

Online MBA Programs

Online MBA programs are growing in popularity. One popular online MBA program—The University of Phoenix—has experienced a year-to-year enrollment growth of over 50% every single year since its inception. Likewise, Regis University has gone from 14 students to just under 2,000 students registered in their MBA program. Online MBA programs offer the following advantages over conventional MBA programs:
• Flexibility of schedule
• Self-pacing options
• Convenience (what is more convenient than studying in your home office?)
• Extra resources such as online discussion forums (which are less intimidating than asking questions in a live classroom), online libraries, and online tutors
• Lower cost (usually, but not always)
• Access to teachers and teaching assistants via email and chat rooms, which many students find inviting

Making the Decision

Only you can determine if an MBA is right for you and your situation. Weigh the costs, talk to your employer or school counselor, and examine your career goals. If the answers line up in favor, then go for it! Certainly one of the available options will fit your life situation.

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