For business professionals with some real-world experience, getting an MBA may seem like the logical next step in your career.
A degree provides training that helps you build leadership skills, learn fundamental business principles and generally develop a deeper understanding of how you can run a business.
However, earning an MBA requires a serious investment of both time and money — and you may want to know the specific benefits of the degree before committing to a program.
Here are the benefits of an MBA, and how to know if an MBA is right for you.
The Advantages of an MBA
1. MBA Specializations Help You Meet Your Goals
Many top MBA programs offer a variety of specializations and course offerings that allow students to tailor their program experience to their particular needs and goals.
For example, you may pursue an MBA in general management, international business, communications, finance, marketing or IT management. Even for highly specialized roles, there may be an MBA course program that’s a perfect fit.
This makes an MBA a great option for managers who want to deepen their expertise or understanding of their field, but wouldn’t benefit as much from a course or credential focused on general management.
2. An Accelerated Career Trajectory
Credentials like MBAs can lead to a dramatic change in your career — like a shift to a new role, new function or even a new industry. The MBA can also help you to speed up the path you’re already on.
Committing to an MBA provides you with a great deal of knowledge about business management. Employers, managers and executives know that these degrees provide you with the skills needed to handle a range of business, interpersonal and management challenges.
As a result, graduating from an MBA program often gives you the confidence in your work needed to accelerate career growth and help you rise through the ranks.
The average starting salary for an MBA is around $20,000 higher than those with just an undergraduate degree, and professionals who graduate from an MBA program and return to work may find they can improve their salary by as much as 75%. With an MBA, you may also have access to positions that would help you accelerate your career trajectory — positions that wouldn’t be open to you without an MBA.
3. A Chance to Explore New Industries or Roles
An MBA can allow you to experiment without a career change. Business school is a great opportunity to expose yourself to other industries and career roles via class conversations, projects, case studies and presentations.
Beginning in the first year of your program, you’ll also have the opportunity to pursue summer positions that will offer you additional real-world business experience. Many recruiters begin reaching out to students as soon as they enter the program, and the official recruiting season may be in full swing as soon as October.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to work in another industry or to hold a different role than the ones you’ve held before, your degree program will provide you with many opportunities to explore.
4. An Expanded Personal Network
An MBA degree program is often a powerful networking experience. For two or more years, you’ll be taking classes with other business professionals from a wide range of backgrounds and industries. Project collaborations and in-class discussions will provide every student with an opportunity to meet the people around them and develop long-lasting professional relationships.
You’ll also have access to instructors with years or decades of experience. In addition to providing knowledge, these instructors may also be able to help you tap into large professional networks, allowing you to develop even more contacts you can reach out to for advice, recommendations or information after you graduate.
These benefits will stick around, even after you’ve graduated from the program. Your alma mater will likely have an alumni network that may provide you with resources, contacts and additional networking opportunities in the future.
5. The Knowledge to Build Your Own Company From Scratch
While MBAs tend to make more money and progress through their careers faster than those without MBAs, some also use the knowledge gained in their degree program to strike out on their own.
With an MBA, you’ll have much of the expertise you need to start your own company. The professional network and real-world experience you develop will also help.
During your MBA program, you can also actively prepare to start a business of your own by recruiting like-minded MBA candidates and using class projects to experiment with your business ideas.
6. An International Business Perspective
While you may have experience in communication, collaborating and working with others, where you’ve worked can limit your understanding. For example, if you’ve only ever worked for an American business or small enterprise with a regional customer base you may base some of your business understanding on regional or national beliefs about business that may not be as important in different parts of the world, or in international business.
With an MBA you’ll be able to learn more about international communication styles and how to collaborate with a business partner that has a very different or unfamiliar approach to communication and management than you do.
International programs can also give you a chance to study how businesses are run around the world. In addition to studying with students from international business backgrounds, you’ll also be able to see how large, multinational companies are operated in practice — providing you with the knowledge and experience you need to work with, work for or run one of these companies after you graduate.
7. An Opportunity to Travel and Live Abroad
While an international program at home can provide you with access to the business world beyond your home country, you can also take advantage of the growing number of major international MBA programs.
MBAs from institutions like the London Business School, HEC Paris, Melbourne Business School and China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) will provide you with deep business knowledge, access to an international business community and a chance to live and study abroad.
8. The Option to Study Part-Time and Online
It’s never been easier to pursue an MBA. Most programs offer both part-time and options right now, in addition to the more traditional full-time course program.
If you don’t have the time to commit to a full-time program, you can easily study part-time or online in a way that fits into your schedule. These online and part-time options are offered by many top MBA programs and have the same accreditations, meaning that you can gain the same credentials online as you would with an in-person course.
9. Differentiation From Other Candidates
An MBA helps you stand out in a crowded field. Having a credential like an MBA tells employers a lot about your background, knowledge and expertise. In some cases, it may help you to compete with other candidates who may have more experience than you or more relevant knowledge about a particular field.
If you feel like you’re struggling to stand out from the competition when applying for jobs or networking with other business professionals, an MBA may be a way to differentiate yourself.
10. New Career Energy
You may feel like you’re stuck in a rut, not moving forward or just unsure about what to do next. An MBA is one option for getting yourself unstuck. Attending a program gives you a chance to really re-examine what matters to you in your career.
Conversations with other students, work projects and course discussions all provide the opportunity to uncover new approaches to your career and develop a new plan for your future.
Questions to Ask Before Pursuing Your MBA
Before you commit to a program, there are some questions that you should ask yourself and . . . admissions counselor of the programs that you are interested in. These questions will help you identify the best program for your particular career needs.
How much will the MBA program cost?
The cost of a two-year MBA program can vary significantly from school to school. Students may also pay more or less depending on their in-state or out-of-state status, whether or not they live on campus and if they choose to learn online or in-person.
How long will the MBA program last?
The typical program lasts for two years, but some programs may be longer or shorter. Part-time programs will generally take longer to complete.
What specializations are available?
Different MBA programs offer different specializations. Some MBA programs may also be known for a particular specialization or program type.
What kind of support does the program offer alumni?
Alumni networks and other post-graduation programs exist to provide support to program graduates. These networks can be an invaluable resource after graduation and will help to keep you in touch with classmates and develop new contacts.
Who Should Get an MBA?
Business professionals looking to accelerate their careers or develop deep expertise can benefit from an MBA. Because different programs offer different specializations, communities and schedules, anyone who wants to pursue an MBA can probably find a program that meets their needs.