Is Business School Worth It? We Invited One Lucky Prospective Student to Find Out
If you’ve ever considered getting your MBA, you’ve probably asked yourself the million-dollar question: Is business school worth it? It’s a fair question. After all, one of the first steps in becoming a savvy businessperson is learning how to investigate the cost-benefit analysis of any business decision properly. Is the outcome of obtaining your MBA worth what you would have to give up—time, money, etc.? If not, what would the result need to be to make it worth it?
To answer these questions, we surveyed 648 MBA grads and 484 potential MBA seekers1 to gather data and come up with an objective answer. And not only that, we’ve decided to give prospective students the opportunity to tell us what they think for a chance to win a full-ride to the Jack Welch Management Institute, a $43,800 value.
Count the Cost
After analyzing the survey data, it became immediately apparent that money was the primary determining factor in whether or not someone chose to enroll in an MBA program. Of the 484 participants who said they decided not to enroll in an MBA program, 42% of them cited money—the cost of the program—as the primary deterring factor. A little less than 20% of people said that time was another primary reason they chose or would choose not to enroll in an MBA program.
Of those who did decide to enroll in an MBA program, 41% of them said they did so, again, because of money—they wanted to earn a raise or increase their salary potential. Among other goals was the desire for personal development and a desire to obtain a promotion or a more senior role.
Show Me the Money
If the primary goal of earning an MBA for people is an increase in salary, followed by obtaining a promotion, then how do participants fare? The numbers indicate that they fare pretty well! A staggering 77% of MBA grads we surveyed reported an increase in pay, a promotion, or both. And, online students fared better when it comes to advancement, with 84% receiving a raise, a promotion, or both compared to 69% of traditional MBA students who take classes on-ground.
Judith Silverman Hodara, Co-founder and Director of Fortuna Admissions and former Head of Admissions at Wharton School, has built a career helping students gain admission into the top business schools in the country—including Harvard Business School, Stanford, Chicago Booth and more. She says, in her experience, students definitely reap the benefits of an MBA. “Students who graduate from MBA programs are primed for success in the workplace. I rarely hear stories of students graduating with an MBA and not earning a raise, getting a promotion, or landing a job they otherwise would not have been able to get.”
For those who consider a salary increase to be the primary reason for enrolling in an MBA program, our survey findings show that an online MBA program may be the way to go. Of the 291 online MBA students in our survey who received a raise, 90% reported at least a 10% increase in salary. Online students fared slightly better than traditional students; 85% of the 177 of traditional respondents reported a raise of 10% or more.
Why do more online MBA students see promotions and raises at a higher rate? It may be that students who take online business courses often continue to work while earning their degree. These students can apply their classroom learnings to real business situations, and can add immediate value to their company—perhaps more so than if they waited to apply their learnings after graduation. Per Kathryn Lee, Human Resources Director for North America at Fiat Chrysler, “People who do online programs usually have a wealth of experience, work full-time and balance the demands of their position with the MBA.” She states, “They display qualities that are important in people we hire—a strong work ethic, project management, and critical thinking skills.”
Soft skills. In Demand.
According to a LinkedIn survey, the most in-demand soft skills sought by companies are leadership, communication, and collaboration, with leadership being the most critical skill. According to another LinkedIn article, it’s your leadership ability that is most likely to land you a promotion. With this skill so highly sought after in the current job market, it would make sense to evaluate how MBA programs equip students to be leaders when trying to determine whether business school is worth it.
According to the MBA graduates surveyed, 45% said the skills their program most likely improved were leadership and management. Of those who said they grew in their leadership ability, 61% grew in decision-making and 41% grew in managing and motivating their team. And 35% of all surveyed MBA grads said they were able to improve presentation skills which are critical to building executive presence.
The general aim of any successful business school is to teach students how to develop essential leadership skills—communication, strategic decision-making, the ability to assess and solve problems under pressure, and more.
Angela Guido, Founder & CEO of Career Protocol, has helped thousands of emergent leaders advance their careers to leadership through the MBA and beyond. She says that almost any investment in cultivating leadership skills will pay dividends in the long run. “Managers are the culture carriers of organizations—they improve employee engagement, experience, and productivity or they destroy it. Employers need people who manage well, and they’ll take notice of anyone who signals their readiness to lead with integrity and empathy. Merely pursuing an MBA indicates that you have ambitions to lead well. And selecting an MBA course load that acquaints you with organizational dynamics, influence, and big-picture strategic thinking will prepare you even better to have a positive impact in the organizations you’re a part of throughout the rest of your career.”
Mary Carr, Dean of Curriculum of the Jack Welch Management Institute highlights, “many careers often stall because while people may have technical competencies and strong business acumen, they lack basic people management skills needed to move up. At JWMI, we focus on leadership development. Our students learn the tough stuff often overlooked by traditional business education such as hiring the right people, building great teams, managing conflict and developing an executive presence.”
Worth the Work
The numbers speak for themselves. If you want to advance your career, increase your earning potential, or develop as a leader (which has shown to increase your chances of the former), then pursuing an MBA program is worth considering. Men and women across the country are enrolling in business school and reaping the benefits, but Guido suggests doing some personal digging for yourself to see if it’s worth it for your particular situation and offers this advice:
“Look at the jobs you really want and look at the jobs you think you are most likely to get (these are your competitive and realistic scenarios respectively). Look at what your earnings will be over, say, the next 20 years under each scenario. Then look at what your earnings will be without an MBA. I guess that the differential will dwarf the MBA cost in either scenario, but do the math yourself to make sure you are comfortable with your assumptions.”
And while the numbers show that the MBA is worth it, Guido also offers advice to students on the fence. “At the end of the day, you will get out of an MBA program what you put in. If you go in ready to learn, but also ready to make meaningful connections with professors and other students, and you take advantage of leadership opportunities, an MBA program will take you where you want to go.”
One Lucky Prospective Student Will Earn the Opportunity for a Full-Ride—a $43,800 Value!
JWMI asked scholarship applicants to address the following prompt in a 500-word essay. One lucky participant was selected for an opportunity to earn a full-ride (yes, you read that correctly!) scholarship to JWMI.
Why are you considering an MBA at this point in your career, and why is an online MBA from the Jack Welch Management Institute the right fit for you?
The scholarship application deadline passed (December 14, 2018, at 11:59:59 PM Eastern Time.) JWMI is excited to announce the winner of the scholarship is Leslie Fife!