Is an MBA worth the cost? Survey says “yes”

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Is an MBA worth the cost? Survey says “yes”

There’s understandable trepidation about attending business school.

With student debt soaring and the value of higher education increasingly questioned, spending an exorbitant sum of money on another degree can seem foolish.

Additionally, even if an MBA recoups its cost by leading to a larger salary or handsome career prospects, attending school presents other unquantifiable costs such as dramatic changes in lifestyle, friends and living situation.

Most business students leave the workforce to pursue their degree, uprooting their current lifestyle — not to mention forgoing their salary — to return to classes, homework and late nights at the library. Part-time MBA students have the additional burden of balancing their job with school, often sacrificing most if not all of their free time. And regardless of the type of program, MBA students first face the pain of studying for the GMAT and compiling applications.

As humans, life changes give us pause, especially when they come with $120,000 price tag. However, if you’ve reached the conclusion that business school is the right next step for your career and life — and that’s a decision that should consider more than just financial value — then there’s some good news.

Alumni consider their MBA highly valuable

Business school alumni are highly satisfied with their decision to obtain an MBA, and the degree powers career advancement according to the GMAC, the makers of the GMAT. In a survey that reached over 21,000 alumni, 94 percent of responders said they view the value of their MBA highly. Eighty-three percent reported that their degree has lead to a higher level of job satisfaction, and 79 percent found that the financial return on investment of their degree met or exceeded their expectations.

Perhaps most encouraging for prospective students, 94 percent of responders said that knowing what they know now, they would still pursue an MBA, which includes 91 percent of new alumni who graduated from 2010 to 2013.

As far as an MBA’s role in the job market, the feedback is also positive. Four out of every five alumni surveyed (83 percent) indicated that their degree was “essential” for securing employment while another four out of every five reported (80 percent) that their degree has had an enduring impact on their career progression.

An MBA’s positive influence on career prospects and advancement has remained consistent over time. Survey responders included graduates from the 1950s through the class of 2013, and each generation agreed that their degree has helped them move forward in the workplace.

MBA return on investment is high, but possibly declining

Alumni sentiments about the return on investment of their degree vary by generation however. For the most recent alumni — the class of 2010 through the class of 2013 — only 16 percent felt that the return on investment of their degrees “exceeded their expectations,” compared to 48 percent of those who graduated prior to 1980 and 33 percent of those who graduated in the 90s.

Differing hypotheses could explain this relationship. For example, the inflating cost of tuition has set students further back financially. Also it may take longer for the degree’s value to be realized: As someone progresses in their career, the professional boost bestowed by an MBA continues to pay off.

Additional data would be needed to explore these hypotheses, yet even given the possible trend that the ROI on an MBA is declining, the other survey findings indicate that graduates still find degrees worth their effort and cost. In fact, the survey may have negatively skewed the results by failing to include alumni from some of the top programs.

The survey included alumni from 123 business schools across the globe. However, few of the programs represented are currently ranked in the top 10. No alumni from Columbia, MIT Sloan, Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellog or other premier schools responded. This suggests that overall MBA satisfaction and impact may be greater since the top schools boast impressive alumni statistics.The absence of top business schools and their statistics also counters a prevalent idea that business school is not worth the cost if you can’t attend one of the best business schools.

Overwhelmingly, business school grads have found the apprehension and challenges of obtaining a degree to be mere hinderances on the path to greater success.

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