‘Why do an MBA’ is a question anyone considering signing up to an MBA program should be asking themselves. After all, with course fees, living expenses, and the opportunity cost of not working, students can easily find themselves paying 6 figure sums for the privilege of securing their MBA qualification.
We explore why doing an MBA now could be the right choice for you and how an MBA can help your career.
The MBA salary increase
The average MBA salary increase varies depending on the school you go to and the career you pursue, but in general, MBAs tend to enjoy a salary increase in their post-MBA careers. One 2018 survey found that this increase could be as much as an average 65% for some sectors. So whilst the initial cost of the course may look high, a decent MBA salary increase could quickly cancel this out.
Get promoted faster
MBAs are generally known for being ambitious which no doubt helps them to scale the corporate ladder. However an MBA also increases your knowledge, broadens your network, and develops the all-important soft skills needed to negotiate the corporate world. Your MBA qualification won’t get your promoted on its own, but your experiences and actions during and after your course should - if you play it right.
Breaking into consulting, finance etc
Breaking into consulting, banking, private equity and other traditionally tough to access career areas is a motivator for many MBA students. Again it’s less the qualification itself that will help you and more the tools you gain from the course. Business schools are well equipped to help students who are looking to access these sectors and will usually have good industry knowledge and contacts. The popularity of these career areas with MBAs will often give you access to solid alumni connections to network with and a good number of your peers on the course are likely to have come from these sectors too, meaning they can offer helpful advice.
For many, the biggest benefit of an MBA is simply what they learn on the course. Finance, operations, marketing and strategy are all key business areas that MBAs will graduate with a solid understanding of. This can help them to make better, more effective decisions in their careers and relate to a wider range of people across the organisation, smoothing the path for career progression.
MBA career change: Broadening your options
MBA career changes are extremely common and many students come onto the course wanting to change functional role, sector or location (see below) - or even all three, commonly known as a ‘triple jump’. As well as working on the practical skills you’ll need for your new career, working out how to pitch your previous skills and experience and networking in your target areas is absolutely vital.
Career options overseas
An MBA can also be a great opportunity to explore overseas career options. One of the most common ways to do this is to complete your MBA course in the country of your choice, and use this opportunity to build your network and find a role. Some countries will give post-study visas to students who complete a postgraduate course there - the UK, for example, now offers the Graduate Route visa which enables you to work in the UK for up to two years after your course.
The MBA experience
Whilst your post-MBA career is one of the most important considerations, don’t forget to factor in the actual course experience as well. This isn’t just about the skills you take away with you but the friendships you make and experiences you have. Good business schools go above and beyond to expose their students to interesting people and organisations, and will usually offer a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities as well. Having a year or two, if you do a full time program, to focus purely on development without the distraction of paid work, is a once in a life time opportunity for many and can make the course worthwhile on its own.
One of the main themes of the advice above has been the importance of your network. An MBA program at the right school for you should expand your network and allow you to build genuine - not transactional - relationships, which you can leverage throughout your career. This doesn’t come easily - it takes time and effort to get to a place where people feel that they can genuinely recommend you as a colleague, but networking is about more than this - it also allows you to discover from the industry what the role or sector you are considering is really like, or to learn new skills from others in your field. Many say that the network they built through their MBA program is a gift which keeps on giving.
Ultimately the question ‘why do an MBA’ is one that you need to answer for yourself - consider the points above and most importantly, talk to and hear the stories of others coming from your industry or sector