Going back to school can be a difficult decision, one that’s not right for everyone. The type of person who applies to an MBA program usually has at least a couple years of full-time work experience, but it doesn’t have to be in the business sector. In fact, according to former admissions official Graham Richmond, an important factor of a strong MBA application is its ability to show admissions staff that you have done well at a job or full-time internship.
Say you fit this qualification, have hot networking skills, and are the kind of team player who would make good use of an MBA. Doing the cost-benefit analysis of possibly cutting back on time at your current job in the hopes of getting a better position in the future might make you sweat.
Getting an MBA is expensive. It can range from $50,000 (on the low end) to over $100,000 at a top school; it could even cost as much as $200,000 at some of the best colleges. Basically, unless you have a large uncashed check or inheritance coming from a random great aunt that you met once at a family reunion 10 years ago, it might be pretty difficult to afford an MBA—especially if you’re not going to be working during your program.
Luckily, there are a couple of ways to mitigate the risk involved and still get that degree.
If you are lucky, your employer may offer to pay for the entire MBA program out of their own pocket. In this case, they would take on the role of that shady great aunt.
Here is a list of companies that pay for master’s of business administration degrees:
The cost of an MBA ranges from about $50,00 to $100,000 annually. You also have to factor in the cost of the GMAT ($250) and application fees (between $100 and $275 per school), which may not be covered by your company.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicted an average starting salary for 2019 MBA graduates of $84,580—provided those graduates found jobs in computer science, engineering, science, or business. (
Students considering an MBA or graduate business degree can choose from varied career paths, including those focused on financial management, data analytics, market research, healthcare management, and operations management. The analytical skills and problem-solving techniques gained from graduate level business degrees are in high demand across business sectors. ( )
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Obviously, nobody except your fake great aunt is going to pay for your degree out of the kindness of their hearts. Companies get something out of the arrangement, too. A 2003 study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that paying for graduate degrees allowed employers to entice those who take advantage of the program to stay with the company. Plus, if an employee works part-time while going to school, it guarantees that they will stay for at least as long as it takes to complete their degree. The study notes that, “Tuition assistance also may give employers a hint as to which of their workers possess superior ability.” It’s a sentiment that could factor into a decision when promotion time rolls around.
Deloitte, an audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services provider, offers one of the more comprehensive graduate school programs for employees. They provide full tuition reimbursement over two years, but only if you return to the company upon completing an advanced degree. Their website describes the program as “designed to help send high performing consulting professionals to some of the top graduate schools, with the goal of enhancing the professional’s growth and development, and further supporting Deloitte’s mission to be the first choice of the most coveted talent.”
Baird, an independent investment bank and financial services company, also offers to pay full tuition and reimburse the cost of books, for “exceptional” research analysts. Online, they describe educational benefits at the company by saying “We created the Baird Scholar program to recognize, reward, and retain exceptional analysts and associates who desire to pursue their MBAs and return to Baird after completing their programs.” Again, the goal here is to keep those who show initiative.
Finally, Intel, a multinational technology company, provides tuition reimbursement of up to $50,000 per program. Their website says “we offer internal and external resources such as tuition assistance, classroom and online learning resources, career advisers, and more so employees can keep advancing their careers.” Not terribly surprising, especially for a massive company with a solid track record of innovation.
There are many different types of MBAs to choose from, whether you’re interested accounting, business management, economics, entrepreneurship, and marketing and technology management. Before choosing a program, understand that your company might want to have a say in what you study. The Bank of America employee benefit guide, for instance, says “get reimbursed for eligible undergraduate and graduate courses that are relevant to your current position or a role you want to pursue at the company.” So, while your education is important, it still needs to be beneficial to your employer. Each case is different, which means it is best to consult your employee guidebook and talk to HR about your company’s exact requirements before you enroll in a graduate program.
Obtaining an MBA can lead you down any number of career paths. High level investment banking is a great job for someone with this degree type—you could even work in mergers and acquisitions like Patrick Bateman. Though job descriptions in the financial sector don’t usually include murder, they do involve raising money for companies, or even government agencies. MBA-holders with a concentration in information systems could work as a Computer and Information Systems Manager, and support companies as they develop computer systems and networks. A Management Consultant provides advice that helps companies compete in the ever changing market.
Education benefits are the assistance a company offers to ensure that you become a more valuable employee. The ability to access those benefits varies by employer, so make sure to talk to a member of your Human Resources team. If you don’t know about your employer’s tuition assistance program, the company’s website is a good place to start. Take Wells Fargo’s website for example, which has a section labeled “education benefits” and notes a tuition reimbursement program of $5,000 annually, as well as scholarships for the children of employees.
If this doesn’t work or your company’s website is vague in the way that Goldman Sachs only mentions “scholarships and support for education,” ask your manager or boss. They appreciate when you show initiative, so make an argument for yourself and show why having a higher education degree would help the company succeed. Remember, they also benefit from having smarter, more knowledgeable employees.
The most important thing to be confident in before taking that long walk to HR is yourself (sounds corny, right? But it’s true!). Read your company website and have some knowledge of what they offer. Have a plan. Know what courses you want to take. Be able to explain to whoever you are talking to why exactly this is a good idea.
Of course, gaining access to education benefits to further your career and earn more money is a potential hassle, but it could be a great way to avoid student loan debt. If you can, you should make use of them.
Your employer may have some requirements to consider before pursuing higher education.
Of course, not all companies are willing to give you the equivalent of a full ride scholarship.
If you do have the chance to take advantage of such benefits, expect there to be strings attached. One might even consider it bad business if there weren’t. These strings often involve staying at the company for a time after graduating:
According to the Financial Times, companies often hope that students graduate their MBA programs with newfound soft skills, such as the ability to manage large groups and work in a team. Unfortunately, these skills are still tough to come by, and, according to the Times, may not even require an MBA to be learned.
If you can’t swing going to school full-time for a two-year MBA, consider the following options:
1. Applying for a FEMBA (Fully Employed Masters of Business Administration) and going to school part-time. It may be a slog to work and go to school simultaneously, but consider this: Students at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management reported a salary increase of 24-34 percent during their time in the program, and a 137 percent increase in the six to eight years after graduating. Of those students, 80 percent also received a promotion, new role in the company, or a new job in the industry during their time in the program. Dollars outweigh the doubts, baby.
Such programs naturally require more time in school. UCLA has a three-year program instead of the traditional one or two-year course load. UCLA is also among seven schools to offer a self-designed study MBA program. If you are a self-starter, this might be an option to consider.
__2. You could also enroll in an online program, which offers more flexibility to those who are trying to get their advanced degree. Many have a higher acceptance rate and allow those with lower GMAT scores to attend. A number of high profile colleges however, such as the University of North Carolina, have online programs with relatively low acceptance rates. The downside of this route, of course, is missing out on the face-to-face interaction with professors and other students. The upside is going to class in your pajamas, which you could probably do anyway, but is less advisable in a traditional setting.
__3. If you are a student who is still completing their undergraduate degree, you might want to jump right in to an MBA program, some of which even offer work experience as a part of the curriculum.
This decision is not right for everyone, least of all those who have only just completed their undergraduate degrees. You might miss out on valuable work experience, or coming to terms with the fact that you don’t actually want to to pursue an MBA. After all, college kids change their minds all the time. Before applying to a program like this, make sure you genuinely want to pursue the degree.
__4. Finally, an accelerated degree might be right if you’re trying to save some money.__ Some of the most esteemed schools, including New York University and Notre Dame, offer them. Some foreign programs, such as University of Oxford, also offer accelerated degrees. These foreign programs might be a cheaper option, especially when factoring in the current exchange rate.
According to USA Today, “The one-year MBA program at the University of Oxford‘s renowned Saïd Business School costs about $76,000 at exchange rates in early 2018—a bargain compared with the one-year program at Kellogg, which costs about $95,000.”
The number of students enrolling in one-year MBA programs is rising, but it’s an approach that come with its own issues. One-year programs often attract applicants with extensive work experience. This, while two-year programs offers students the opportunity to complete an internship between the first and second year, since, you know, work experience is a must.
Lots of people are trying to get MBAs, and the number of schools offering such programs is also increasing. With this influx of MBAs flooding the market, jobs are getting more selective about who they hire.
That said, getting an MBA is something you should carefully consider. It involves a huge investment of time and money, not to mention the hefty workload you can expect. Even if you do get help from your company, the energy involved in completing your course load might be a dealbreaker. The decision is huge, so be sure to ask right questions and plan accordingly.
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