Skip to comments.Investing in Yourself: What's the Best Way to Get an MBA?
Posted on 07/21/2010 6:32:21 AM PDT by Kaslin
Dear Carrie: I'm 31 and have a good job with a good company, but I want to get an MBA. What's the better choice: Keep my job and go to school at night or take out loans and go to school full time? -- A Reader
Dear Reader: I've always thought that education is a great investment, whether you're seeking to improve your earning potential or simply to enrich your mind. So, I applaud your desire to get an MBA.
I don't think there's an obvious answer to this question, but to my mind, the decision boils down to two issues: What do you want from your grad school experience? And what can you afford?
FULL TIME VERSUS PART TIME
The full-time option gives you the best opportunity to have a truly transformative learning experience. You'd be fully immersed in your class work, and you'd form friendships and connections with your classmates that could serve you well over your career. You would "live and breathe" B-school for two years, and that experience might be as valuable as what you learn in the classroom.
On the other hand, if you're primarily looking to add to your skills, knowledge and expertise, then the part-time route might be just as effective -- and probably considerably cheaper.
WHAT WILL IT COST?
Affordability is important. As I'm sure you know, business school is expensive. A full-time MBA student at University of California, Berkeley is looking at a total (including room and board) two-year budget of more than $128,000 -- and that's for state residents. A private university with a big reputation will be even higher. And don't forget the "opportunity costs" of quitting your current job; you'll essentially forgo two years of income (somewhat less if you work during the summer between your first and second year).
I'd definitely look at the numbers for the programs you're interested in and make a realistic assessment of how much you'd have to borrow. What would your monthly student loan payments be after you've finished your MBA? I ran one example: If you borrowed $100,000 at 6.8 percent -- the current rate for Federal Stafford Loans -- and repaid it over 10 years, your monthly payment would be roughly $585.
Next, try to approximate your post-MBA earnings potential. Depending on your career aspirations and the reputation of your program, you might be able to make some assumptions about the salary you'll be able to earn with your new degree. That will help you decide if the expensive, full-time MBA experience is worth the money.
Put another way, if you were going to move from a job that paid $50,000 to a job that paid $130,000 (the median total pay package for a graduate of Harvard Business School in 2008), then you could make a pretty good case for going for the high-powered MBA and taking on some debt to get there. But if you don't think the upside potential is so great, a more prudent approach might be to pursue a degree in your spare time.
Plus, if you enjoy your current job and make a good salary, why give it up? (And have you checked with your employer to see if they support educational pursuits? Many do.) Your life as a worker and a student may be painfully busy, but it sure sounds nice to maintain an income and avoid at least some of the debt an MBA program will likely require.
There's another factor that should go into your decision-making: Can you handle working and going to school at the same time? If the two together require more energy than you can muster, then don't even try.
IS AN MBA THE ONLY WAY?
One final thought: I'm a staunch supporter of education, whether it's for career advancement or just personal enrichment. Still, you might ask yourself, "Do I need an MBA?" If your career objective is to be a CEO or a management consultant, an MBA is probably essential. If not, then perhaps some focused coursework on subjects you need to know would be sufficient. A working knowledge of finance or accounting or marketing might be all you need to thrive in your current job (or move up to your next one).
I realize there's no easy answer here -- or even a right answer. There are pros and cons to both sides, and the right answer is going to be based on a realistic assessment of your personal needs, strengths and resources. But thinking through these kinds of issues is the only way to make a good decision. Good luck!
I'm not going to say what I'm thinking.
Unless you go to a top 10 school, go in the evening part-time. You’re then running the clock on job experience AND getting an MBA, and when it comes to job hunting time employers like an MBA but they like an MBA with experience even more. Also, unless you work in the public sector and just need a degree from an “accredited” school for promotion avoid non-ranked schools as well as online schools, they’re just going to waste your money by not returning you the salary to make the expense worthwhile.
In this economy, why would anyone with two functioning brain cells even consider leaving a good job to take on debt?
Unless you’re a career student or are unemployed, make it an executive MBA. Pay as you go, as much as possible, get your books used at one of many websites, sell said books back to pay or offset the next semesters books and you can get out with student loans of less than $30,000.
The school at night is the route I took - it’s a grind, but doable. I also got an MS in Management rather than an MBA. It took less time, many of the courses are MBA type subjects, and it’s still an advanced degree.
Do it online....
I have a brother-in-law who works roughly 60+ hours a week and is in his dissertation phase of his PhD.....all online....all from a reputable and accepted school.
That payment did not look right, and sure enough, my calculator comes up with a monthly payment of $1,154.91. Just a minor detail.
That’s an insane figure.
I left active-duty Army in 1992 and began a full-time MBA program.
I lived with three other roommates in a ramshackle house and didn’t spend nearly that much for the two years in the program.
One thing about doing the classes on line - they are usually more convenient if you're working around a job. The bad thing is that you need to be self motivated. If you don't have the self discipline to sit in front of the computer for six hours a day on the weekends you aren't going to succeed at getting a degree on-line.
Hmmm...I got $1,150.80 from my loan amort calculator spreadsheet in Excel. Small difference, but if you’re using an HP, I’d believe that before the spreadsheet.
Where in the world did the author get $585??? Even 20 years gives $763/mth.
I got mine full-time, but continued working a BS retail job to pay rent and bills. I borrowed for tuition and books etc and came in about $30k in debt. Graduated in 2004 and in 6 years it has not helped me one bit, except to land my current job that pays less than the job I got laid off from last year and did not even require a BS/BA. I say unless you are of elite academic calibur that can get into the Ivys or the UVAs, it is pretty much a waste of money because the jobs that require an MBA and pay for it only recruit from those schools. The only reason I had to do it was because I got my BS in a garbage discipline and that was worthless as well, though my parents paid for undergrad and I did not take on debt for the BS. I wish I had been given more realistic direction in my teenage years.
Only a governmennt job gives a rat’s behind about an MBA. An MBA screams, “I had no other skills so I went and got this!”
Might I suggest that instead if tying this much money up in a degree that then depends upon you getting a better paying job to pay for you instead take that money and start a business. If you want to invest in yourself do so directly. And I promise you, you'll learn more "business" in running that business than you ever would have in obtaining an MBA.
But that's just my 2 cents.
I worked and got my MBA.
I was exhausted for two years. I remember standing in the shower and falling asleep at least twice.
By the way, I loved every minute of my studies. It was a wonderful learning experience.
Great advice, I agree completely.
“Only a governmennt job gives a rats behind about an MBA. An MBA screams, I had no other skills so I went and got this!”
...and then there’s the guy who was a senior executive at an ad agency but had maxed out his earnings. He took the GMATs and got accepted at a top Ivy League School for his MBA. He nearly flunked Economics but ended up at the top of his class with tutoring and hard work. He graduated, got a job on Wall Street, ended up running divisions at three different banks and made hundreds of thousands more than he would have otherwise. That guy was me and I didn’t need to go back. Absolutisms are seldom absolute.
If I wanted an MBA, I’d hire one. There was a time when the degree meant something (especially if it was from a quality B school), but now, unless it is an adjunct to another degree, it’s not worth much. Combine it with a Masters (or even a Bachelors) in engineering or hard science and you’ve got something going.
Legally or illegally?
I should have said ethically (university) or unethically (diploma-mill)?
Only a governmennt job gives a rats behind about an MBA. An MBA screams, I had no other skills so I went and got this!
Sure it can mean that (especially to those without).
Or it can mean a far superior job and more than doubling your income in the 3 years after receiving the degree. And no, it was not me, but I am married to her.
“Or it can mean a far superior job and more than doubling your income in the 3 years after receiving the degree.”
Where? I have been in business for decades and have yet to see that happen. MBA graduates are usually sales people with no other skills.
How much of that was MBA and how much was contributed by many other things, such as yourself, contacts made at that Ivy school, etc?
“How much of that was MBA and how much was contributed by many other things, such as yourself, contacts made at that Ivy school, etc?”
-I have never earned a position through a contact. I was a good student but not a genius. I worked hard and followed the guidelines. I can tell you this. When I present my credentials now, people sit up and take notice. There are no extenuating circumstances. My daddy is not rich (he’s long dead). I was never hooked up. The MBA in my case was significant. It opened doors. It signaled I was a stronger candidate than the competition. Analyze all you want. It worked significantly for me. I payed off the $60,000 in student loans and now I live in a larger than I need house in a beautiful historic district. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...
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