MBA and ROI: Is a Master’s in Business Worth It to You?

As a savvy, business-minded professional, you’re laser-focused on the ROI of your MBA.

Will the return on investment be worth the cost when you factor in substantial tuition, expenses and additional factors?

Well, the newspaper that countless MBAs and seasoned business executives tuck under their arms each day suggests that, despite the ever-increasing cost of graduate school, the MBA investment pays measurable dividends.

Here are some important factors to consider when calculating the value of an MBA for you.

How Much Is an MBA Worth?

While the value of an MBA is difficult to quantify, a Wall Street Journal survey offers a wealth of useful data. One survey conducted in partnership with Times Higher Education reveals that MBA earners reported subsequent salary gains.

How much, you wonder?

Between $70,000 to $84,000 and even higher, depending on the industry and location.

Published under the headline “Looking to Double Your Salary? Try an MBA,” the Wall Street Journal report included the following findings:

  • A majority of MBA graduates switch careers after earning their degree, often doubling their salary in the process.
  • Among consultants, the median salary for those who returned to professional services firms like McKinsey or Deloitte after getting an MBA was $162,000 (representing an annual boost of $82,000).
  • Those working in finance and tech jobs who stayed in those fields reported earning $150,000 after earning their degree.
  • Those switching careers after earning their MBA reported doubling their annual salary to upwards of $125,000 when moving into the following fields:
    • Health Care
    • Real Estate
    • Media/Entertainment
    • Retail
    • Manufacturing
    • Energy

Also, approximately 5% of respondents reported starting their own business.

Despite the sizable tuition and related expenses — many two-year MBA programs can cost well over $150,000 — there is considerable evidence that earning your degree is well worth the investment.

The Financial Times reports that average salaries continue to tick upward for MBA degree holders. Like the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times article (“An MBA is still a great boost for salaries”) cited a majority of students reporting increases of 100%-plus above their pre-MBA salaries.

How Much Does an MBA Cost?

MBA tuition costs are dependent on a range of factors. These include the reputation of the institution and its business school, location and more. U.S. News and World Report lists annual tuition costs at a sampling of top schools as follows:

  • Columbia: $74,400
  • Cornell: $66,290
  • Georgetown: $58,500
  • Harvard: $73,440
  • Notre Dame: $54,120
  • University of California: $63,096
  • Stanford: $70,590
  • University of Pennsylvania (Wharton): $72,300
  • University of Cincinnati: $44,640 *
  • Yale: $69,500

Value of an MBA: What the Critics Say

The question of whether an MBA is worth it has always had cynics and naysayers, and now that tuitions have increased substantially, the concern is certainly valid.

Poets & Quants, a website focused on the graduate business education market, published a 2018 report drawing attention to what it called “The Alarming Decline of the MBA’s ‘Value Added Ratio’.”

The central thrust is that as tuitions have skyrocketed, the “ratio” of expected salary increase has failed to keep pace. For example, it reports that:

  • In 1985, annual tuition at Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School was $11,000, while the average starting salary for graduates was around $43,000 — a ratio of nearly 4-to-1.
  • More recently, tuition at Tuck climbed to $68,910, but the “value-added ratio” of expected salary increase shrunk to 1.86-to-1.

The report cited similar declines in MBA value-added ratio at Harvard, Stanford and other comparable institutions.

There is also the issue of supply and demand. The same article observed that in 1985 business schools turned out approximately 67,000 new MBAs each year.

However, since 2000, that number has been closer to 200,000 annually.

The MBA has become the most popular postgraduate degree in the U.S., accounting for more than 25% of all master’s degrees conferred in the most recent year for which data is available.

Value of an MBA: Additional Factors to Consider

There are many factors to consider when deciding if an MBA will be worth it for you. In an article titled “Should You Get an MBA? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself,” employment advice website emphasizes exploring the following criteria:

  1. What are your career goals?
  2. What do you hope to get from your business school experience?
  3. Are you willing to invest the time and energy required to apply and get the degree?

Benefits of Earning Your MBA Online

Is an MBA right for you? If yes, an online degree program can be an excellent option. And don’t worry about online vs on campus. An MBA earned through an online program has the same value and prestige as one earned through an on-campus program.

Plus, one perk is that online programs have the added benefits of greater affordability. This, combined with the flexibility to complete your degree while balancing the demands of career and family, make an online program worth pursuing.

University of Cincinnati offers a highly regarded online Master of Business Administration program. The degree blends rigorous academic, research-intensive learning with real-world experiences that prepares students with the skills necessary to tackle today’s business challenges.

Emphasizing personalized attention to each student from the same award-winning faculty that teaches the on-campus program, the University of Cincinnati’s online business master’s degree also offers the opportunity to add a specialty focus to your MBA studies. For example, healthcare, taxation, and marketing are all fields students can specialize in.

Overall, the degree positions graduates to advance in their current organizations while also opening up a world of professional opportunities.

* The above figure represents annual tuition cost for full-time, non-resident University of Cincinnati Online students; current annual tuition cost for full-time, in-state residents is $32,883. For part-time students, the per-credit cost is $920 (resident) and $935 (non-resident). See tuition chart.

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