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Is The MBA Worth It?

MBA graduate from Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business

MBA graduate from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business

Is the MBA worth it?

That’s a question that everyone on the fence asks themselves. After all, it’s a big investment in time and money.

Yet, if you ask people who have graduated from a business school that question, they almost always say yes.

“My MBA education is definitely worth more than I paid for it,” insists Jordan Baxter, who graduated from UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 2019 and now works in Silicon Valley for McKinsey & Co. “The relationships I made and the career switch that I am pursuing will accelerate my professional growth in the near- and long-term. I have no regrets about getting my MBA.”

THE COST OF THE MBA? ‘I THINK IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY’

She’s not alone. “I think it was worth every penny,” insists Colin Emerson, who has used his MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business last year to transition into a consulting job with Deloitte’s human capital practice. He had been working in talent development for the Ministry of Singapore before going to Duke.

Richie Huang is even more emphatic, believing his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is worth $3 million “because a multiple of roughly 10 times the opportunity cost sounds about right. I believe it was totally worth more than what I paid for it, considering the people I otherwise would not have met, and the opportunities I otherwise would not have had access to.” With his MBA in 2019, he landed a job with Apple in Cupertino as an operations program manager.

But a few anecdotal stories from graduates of Haas, Fuqua, and Kellogg might be less convincing than the most recent study of 10,882 alumni with graduate degrees in business, including 9,317 with MBAs, from 274 different business schools. In other words, the survey is a good representative sample of grads, not only those from the highly ranked and highly selective schools. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) did the Alumni Perspectives Survey and released the results in 2018. While GMAC is an advocacy group for business education, its surveys are highly credible and comprehensive.

THREE OF FIVE ALUMNI BELIEVE THEIR DEGREE WAS AN OUTSTANDING OR EXCELLENT VALUE

Overall, three out of five alumni consider their graduate management education an outstanding or excellent value. Most alumni also say their graduate management education was a personal, professional, and financially rewarding experience.

The survey shows that nine out of 10 business school alumni would still have pursued their graduate management education knowing what they know now. In addition, nearly all alumni would hire a student from their alma mater for a current job opening.

Business school alumni are also extremely likely to recommend their alma mater to a friend or colleague. Graduate management education has a Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), a measure of value and a widely used metric for gauging brand or customer loyalty, of 48, which is greater than scores achieved in most sectors of the economy, including Apple which has an NPS of 47.

In fact, while the overall satisfaction rates are very high, they are even better when you break out the results for the full-time, two-year MBA experience compared to specialty master’s degrees in business. Some 85% of those two-year MBA alums say the degree’s value was either excellent or outstanding (see table below).

Source: GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey 2018

Most business school alumni agree that their graduate management education was personally, professionally and financially rewarded. Not surprisingly, however, their responses were colored by whether they had a job or were unemployed. Roughly 75% of employed alumni consider the education financially rewarding compared with 44% of alumni looking for a job. Some 90% of employed alumni consider their education professionally rewarding compared with 69% of alumni currently seeking employment. Personal rewards are less affected by an alumnus’ employment status. The vast majority of employed alumni consider their graduate management education personally rewarding (95%) compared with 87% of unemployed alumni (see table below).

Source: GMAT Alumni Perspectives Survey 2018

A professionally rewarding experience is the primary driver of the overall value of a graduate management education. Whether the education was financially or personally rewarding also assists in explaining alumni’s overall value ratings but to a lesser degree (see table below). Clearly, there are some alums who are unhappy, believing the value was only fair or poor, but they are overwhelmingly outnumbered by graduates who are more than satisfied with the value they received.

Source: GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey 2018

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.