When it comes to time and money, it’s no exaggeration to say that getting an MBA will be one of the biggest investments of your career. It can also be the most important. MBAs teach advanced business skills but they also focus on the soft skills that really matter — communication, leadership and teamwork are the real fuel that propels a career in business. And, an MBA degree can increase your salary, sometimes by no small measure. You might plunk down $80,000 on an MBA at a top-flight business school but your return on investment will dwarf that figure. In fact, according to the Financial Times, pre-MBA salaries in 2017 hovered around the $70,000 mark while post-MBA salaries (three years after graduation) flirted with the $140,000 range.
Grads from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business set a record for an average salary increase when their post-MBA wages jumped by 252% in 2002. Of course, your mileage may vary and the school you choose might play a role in that salary jump. So how do you choose the right MBA school? Let’s look at a few factors.
Check Out the Salary Stats
Salary might not be the only reason to get an MBA, but it’s pretty high up on the list for most enrollees. Stats on salary increases are fairly accessible. The Financial Times runs the most famous rankings in this regard, with the Wall Street Journal and Business Times a close second (these last two are more U.S.-focused) but most MBA schools will post these numbers on their sites, especially if they’re promising. Check all the sources, but don’t use their figures as your sole deciding factor; balance them with some of the following considerations.
Think About Value
Thinking about value means more than just comparing tuition to a potential salary. It means understanding what you’re getting for your money. A “prestigious” school might boost your ego when it comes up in conversation, but if it doesn’t fit your learning style or requires too many sacrifices, it’s not a value. Conversely, a local school that offers an MBA at rock-bottom prices might not set you back much financially, but if it doesn’t teach you the skills you need to succeed, it’s not a value. Paying a visit to the campus, speaking with alumni and reading up on your target school are great ways to see if they’ll represent good value for you.
Think About Convenience
There’s no sugar-coating it — earning an MBA is a major time sucker. It’ll be a full-time job for at least two years. For most people, that means foregoing their salary (at least in part) while they study. And, if you have to relocate to a more expensive city to earn your MBA, the increase in your cost of living can mean operating at a deficit for several years. Online MBA programs are gaining more and more respect and they offer something really underrated: convenience. Many are self-paced and allow you to take your sweet time to graduate, meaning you could still hold down a job, meet family obligations and pay your tuition as you go without falling into debt.
Think About Your Trajectory
Write out your MBA career goals and see how they line up with the schools your considering. Want to work in the New York financial scene? It might be worth it to go to a school there, where you might have an internship in the city and make connections for employment right after graduation. Want to work in the nonprofit sector? Health care? Marketing? Many MBA schools have carved out a reputation as specialists in these and other categories. Love the idea of an international business career? Check out schools that have exchange programs in Asia or Europe.
Our best advice: checking out the stats for your potential schools is important, but knowing yourself and your goals will be the biggest help when making the final decision.