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June 19, 2014 6:16 pm
There are always so many articles about why applying for an MBA is not worth the cost – what do you think makes the opportunity costs worthwhile?
Professional female, 26
Chioma is chief executive of Expartus , the business school admissions consultancy, a former admissions manager at Harvard Business School and author of The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets. Her answer appears below.
When considering an MBA, or any graduate degree, you must weigh certain sacrifices, including the upfront costs of tuition and fees and the opportunity costs of time spent away from the workplace. As we go through a sluggish economic recovery, I can understand why job security and a steady income might seem like a better option than forking out thousands of dollars in tuition for two years out of the workplace. However, when students ask me this question, I always advise them to look at it from a slightly different angle. It’s important to think about the opportunity costs of getting an MBA, but what about the opportunity costs of not getting an MBA? What will you miss if you forgo the degree?
First, you would miss out some incredible leadership development opportunities. An MBA from an elite institution will give you a competitive advantage over other talented employees and can often propel you very quickly into the upper echelons of an organisation. The degree also offers a rather unique opportunity to step back from the daily grind and focus on becoming a better leader. If you truly aspire to lead an organisation one day, this time can be transformative.
You would also miss all the networking opportunities that come from close-knit and extremely influential alumni networks. In my opinion, these alumni networks are among the most valuable assets a top MBA programme has to offer and they will serve you long after graduation. You will spend hours with other talented classmates, attend networking events around the world and gain entry to the globe’s top companies. You never know which connection could transform your career – from a classmate who could become a business partner in a start-up to older alums who could become trusted mentors.
Finally, if you do not pursue an MBA, you could lose key leverage for switching careers and industries. Every year, a top MBA degree helps talented employees to move between industries and refocus on their long-term goals, without having to re-enter an industry at a lower level. If you have a career change in mind, an MBA could catalyse that transition in a relatively short amount of time.
Each of these goals focuses on long-term results. So, it is certainly true that you could lose money in the short term – though there are many great scholarship programmes that can help alleviate financial stress. But, in the long term, I firmly believe that the two years you spend obtaining an MBA will pale in comparison to the years of pay-off, as you put your leadership training to good use, move more fluidly between companies and industries and connect with thousands of well-placed and talented alumni.
If two years really does seem too long, you can always opt for one of the growing number of one-year MBA programmes in the US or overseas. These programmes offer equal academic rigour and can be a great option, especially for more experienced students willing to forgo a summer internship.
Given those options, I would argue that the opportunity cost of not seeking an MBA actually far outweighs those of seeking one. The networking opportunities, the opportunities for personal growth and the unquantifiable value of exposure to new people and ideas make the MBA, in my opinion, one of the most worthwhile investments you can make in your career.
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