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Olin Business School Administrator Highlights Top Reasons to Pursue an MBA

An MBA from a top business school provides a lifetime median pay of more than $8 million. For most people, that’s enough to tell you that an MBA is a pretty good investment. Beyond pay, however, an MBA can offer value in many other ways.

Andrew Knight, a professor of organizational behavior and vice dean for education and globalization at Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School, recently sat down with Fortune to discuss the top considerations prospective MBA students should make, and what he thinks is next for the MBA.


There are many reasons why an MBA is a solid investment. But Knight highlights three clear scenarios where pursuing an MBA makes the most sense.

The first scenario relates to those who are passionate about a particular area of expertise or industry and are looking to take that passion a step further.

“They are very much interested in advancing and accelerating their careers—or deepening their skill set, whether that’s in the soft side of things like leadership and building teams, or on the harder side and some deeper technical and more functional skill sets,” Knight tells Fortune.

Additionally, an MBA can also be a sound investment if you’re looking to make a career switch.

“Right now, especially, there are lots of people who are actively pivoting in their lives and in their careers, as they’ve gone through the disruption of COVID,” Knight says. “In partnership with the Great Resignation, we’re seeing people go through that thought process. The MBA can be a very helpful degree—a wise return to engaging in structured and systematic reflection for formulating next steps.”

Lastly, Knight says, people who are naturally curious may be the perfect fit for an MBA.

“They identify places where they have some gaps and they’re looking for a really high-quality and often high-touch educational experience for helping them learn about things that they’re curious about and want to explore,” Knight tells Fortune.


One of the most important considerations that prospective students should make, Knight says, is to weigh the benefits of in-person versus online program options.

“This is such an important question in an era where there are more options than ever for engaging in an MBA program,” Knight says. “Those are the traditional full-time model; the part-time model; the flex model, and there’s a fully online degree. Then we have the executive-level degrees. But also increasingly, people are hungry for some kind of flexibility introduced by virtual learning.”

Knight says there isn’t a right or wrong answer. Rather, applicants should ask themselves which option makes the most sense for their needs.

“Ask yourself: What is it that I’m hoping to to realize?” Knight says. “What value am I seeking with this investment of my time? What are my financial resources? My energy? My motivation? Are you looking for a love of learning? Are you looking primarily for career advancement in a known space, or are you looking for a bit more of a career pivot? Sometimes aspects of the program will benefit you in different ways for each of those.”


Collaboration has always been at the forefront when it comes to in-demand skills for MBAs. And, Knight says, the skill is still very much important today.

“As we specialize and we have a differentiation of expertise, we’ve got to have people who are skilled at bringing things together,” he tells Fortune. “That same classic cluster of skills and expertise that’s always been the bread and butter of an MBA program—leadership, collaboration, teamwork, motivation—that will always be a steady core.”

In addition to collaboration, Knight highlights the importance of technical expertise for MBAs.

“We need people who are really at the cutting edge of new technology, who are able to make decisions about what to use and implement and what not to use and implement—and be able to actually lead organizations to live at the frontier,” Knight says.

Sources: Fortune, P&Q

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