Is an MBA Still Worth it? 4 Ways It Helps

It used to be a given that getting an MBA degree was a sure way to also gain access to the executive suite.

But times have certainly changed in recent years, and while an MBA is still an asset, it no longer has the cachet that it once claimed in corporate circles.

That may be because of the explosion in the number of schools and universities offering an executive management training program.

In the United States alone there about 100,000 MBAs being granted each year and another 250,000 students enrolled in MBA programs at any given time in that country.

For students and prospective MBAs the cost is another discouraging factor. While some lesser schools offer a cheaper version of an MBA degree process, it is not unusual for the “good” schools like Harvard to charge well over $100,000 for the privilege of taking the program at their school.

Plus there’s really no guarantee of getting that top job just because you go to the time, expense and trouble of getting an MBA.

Why Get An MBA?

In 2011, the U.S. News magazine did a study that found that less than 40 percent of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies held an MBA. Many of these corporate leaders held other graduate degrees, accounting designations, or were lawyers or engineers.

They didn’t need an MBA to get to their exalted place in the corporate structure so why should you? That’s a question many young business leaders and people who already have both experience and education are asking?

So is it a requirement to have an MBA to succeed in today’s business world? No, but here are four reasons why it might help.

1. Get Grounded in the Theory

An MBA can help everyone who wants to better understand the theories and generally accepted practices that are commonplace in the modern management toolkit. This will assist with the understanding of management and business psychology which are core components of all MBA programs.

Students will also learn from courses and seminars in business theory and finance that can provide a solid base upon which to build a business or corporate career.

Even technical experts like scientists or engineers can benefit from training in business concepts and strategies, as well as the practical and marketing aspects of the products they may develop in their careers.

2. Learn the Soft Side of Business

Those same engineering types can almost always benefit from the fact that an MBA program will teach them how to deal with people and to understand the “soft side” of the corporate world they hope to lead.

That is an essential part of any business: the ability to train, develop and motivate their teams to meet corporate targets. So too is the new element of ethics training that has become mandatory in almost every MBA program.

That will help MBA graduates not just become titans of the business environment, but they will also learn how to conduct themselves ethically, equitably and in the best interests of society’s values.

3. Build Your Own Network

An MBA can also be an opportunity to learn and connect with some of the top business thinkers who teach and guest lecture at some of the universities that offer senior management development programs.

They will be exposed to experts in not just the theory of management but organizational behavior, decision making, negotiation tactics, and communications.

In addition to these academic connections many people also make life long relationships with their fellow students and would-be leaders in the program. These contacts can be extremely beneficial as part of anybody’s business or corporate network.

4. Brand Yourself

Finally, an MBA is not just a step on the ladder of success. For many people it’s part of how they want to present themselves to the world. An MBA still adds a special touch to a resume or a business card and can be an introduction line all by itself.

It can be part of a personal brand that an aspiring leader is trying to create. Today we all tell a story and create an identity, both in the virtual world and in reality. An MBA can be a great addition to any branding effort.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line in deciding whether or not to go for an MBA may come down to the money you have to invest. It is a lot.

But if you decide to make the leap then the experts advise to go big or go home. Not all MBAs are created equal and one from a top business school will have a much greater impact and lead to a higher possible rate of success than one from lower-ranked school.

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of Change the Things You Can (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit: Change the Things You Can


  1. Scott L. Sind on the 21st August

    Mike – good article, thanks for writing this! I get frustrated when I read major bloggers dismissing the value of a MBA education. Granted, it isn’t for everyone; entrepreneurs, for example, would probably be better served with more specialized degrees.

    I’m almost finished with my MBA program (will graduate in December – yay!), and while I started it firmly entrenched in the corporate world, I’ve since left my senior management job to pursue a career in writing (third or fourth major pivot for me). I realized that I wasn’t going to be satisfied in that role, no matter how far up the ladder I climbed.

    However, I still find tremendous value in an MBA, for the reasons you mentioned, and one other in particular: leadership. There are all kinds of personalities in an MBA program, and the great leaders in each cohort will rise to the top. Some of these folks have natural abilities while others have learned how to lead through necessity. Leveraging and learning from your classmates can have a greater impact on your career than the curriculum alone.

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