Should I earn an MBA to improve my business skills?

It’s a question many professionals ask themselves at some point in their career, and one that calls for serious thought and introspection.

Pursuing a graduate education is a major commitment that requires you to take stock of where you are in your profession and where you want to be. Earning an MBA can be a way to accelerate your career or take it in an entirely new direction.

If you’re considering business school but aren’t sure it’s the right path for you, here are ten reasons to consider getting an MBA.

  1. It’s an Investment In Yourself
  2. It Can Raise Your Salary Potential
  3. It Can Grow Your Employability
  4. It Can Help You Launch Your Own Business
  5. You’ll Develop a Framework for Problem-Solving
  6. You’ll Grow as a Leader
  7. You’ll Build a Global Perspective
  8. You’ll Be Exposed to Diverse Viewpoints
  9. You’ll Form Meaningful Relationships
  10. You’ll Join an Extensive Alumni Network

REASONS TO GET AN MBA

1. It’s an Investment in Yourself


The path to an MBA is different for everyone. After all, it isn’t a required credential to advance and doesn’t directly translate to a specific position in the workforce.

Kate Bennett, director of marketing for MBA Admissions at Harvard Business School and a 2009 HBS graduate, says that enrolling in an MBA program is a personal choice that stems from a desire to better yourself and elevate your career.

“The purpose of a full-time MBA program is to give students an opportunity to immerse themselves for two years in a period of intense personal and professional development that enables students to really accelerate their career, as well as prepares them to lead organizations,” Bennett says.

By stepping back from the day-to-day demands of your work life and immersing yourself in an educational environment, you’re afforded time for both self-discovery and reflection.

“It’s rare to have two years to focus on improving yourself and charting how you want to make an impact," Bennett says. "The two years allow you to reflect on the difference you want to make in the world."

Pursuing an MBA can provide you the chance to look inside yourself and determine how you can hone your skills and abilities to pursue your passions and make your career goals a reality.

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2. It Can Increase Your Salary Potential


Another reason that many professionals decide to earn an MBA is salary: According to data compiled by Payscale, the average salary earned by MBA graduates is $88,137.

It’s important to note that the program you complete can have a significant impact on your salary. For example, the average base salary for Harvard Business School's MBA Class of 2019 is $148,750—68 percent more than the average salary for all MBA graduates.

As a point of comparison, data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average bachelor’s degree holder earns an annual salary of $60,996, while the average master’s degree holder earns $72,852. Not only that, but compared with other advanced business degrees, an MBA has been shown to lead to a higher starting salary for graduates entering the workforce.

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3. It Can Enhance Your Employability


Although institutions offer a range of graduate-level business programs, the MBA remains one of the most sought-after credentials for prospective students. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that 60 percent of students prefer an MBA to other degrees.

The MBA is also highly valued by employers. Another recent survey by GMAC found that 77 percent of US employers plan to hire MBA graduates between 2019 and 2020. This demand is especially pronounced for larger organizations, with 90 percent of Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies stating their intent to hire MBA graduates.

Because employers continue to value MBAs, earning one can be an excellent means of increasing your employability and job security.

As with salary, your employability after earning an MBA depends on several factors, including which program you complete. For example, 94 percent of HBS's MBA Class of 2019 received a job offer after graduation.

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4. It Can Help You Launch Your Own Business


While some individuals choose to earn an MBA to better perform their job duties, many others do so because they want to start their own company.

Taking the time to invest in yourself offers you the ability to reflect on your goals and the unique positioning of your business. Learning new problem-solving methods can help you deal with the inevitable challenges of entrepreneurship. Leadership skills offer an advantage if you choose to scale your operation. A global perspective can help you see opportunities in a new way. And an extensive network of classmates, professors, and alumni can be an excellent resource for advice that guides you through business obstacles.

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Related: Must-Have Entrepreneurial Skills for Aspiring Business Owners

5. You’ll Develop a Framework for Problem-Solving


Learning how to assess a problem and come up with a viable solution is a core element of an MBA education.

At Harvard Business School, those skills are largely built through the case method. This teaching approach places you in the role of a decision-maker, such as CEO, and requires you to imagine how you might respond to real-world business issues. You then share your point of view with your classmates and listen to their perspectives, too.

“At HBS, students read and discuss over 500 cases by the end of their two years,” Bennett says. “That develops a great ability to quickly assess a situation and figure out what path to go down.”

Through engaging in such rigorous classroom lessons, an MBA program can equip you with a process for breaking down complex issues and exercising sound judgment in the face of uncertainty.

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6. You’ll Grow as a Leader


In an MBA program, you don’t just discuss leadership—you practice it, too. And the academic setting of business school enables you to experiment with different leadership styles in a low-stakes setting.

“If a student wants to try out a new way of persuading someone else, the classroom environment is a risk-free way to get feedback from peers on how that worked,” Bennett says. “If you were the founder of a startup in an investment meeting with a venture capitalist, that would be a much riskier time to try a new approach.”

At Harvard Business School, you apply the leadership lessons that you glean from cases through the field method. By assuming the role of a leader in interactive workshops and global immersion programs, you’re able to identify which managerial styles suit you—and which ones don’t.

This type of hands-on experience reinforces the knowledge that you gain in the classroom and provides you with a better sense of how you can effectively lead within an organization.

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7. You’ll Build a Global Perspective


An MBA program with a general management curriculum is designed to prepare you to lead in any function, in any industry, anywhere in the world. It’s a distinct benefit to learning about business in an educational setting versus the workplace.

“A number of people have a chance to work in one other country or one other global market, but it’s pretty rare to find a job where you can learn about how business is conducted in every region throughout the world,” Bennett says. “An MBA program gives you the opportunity to learn that in a classroom and in field-based exercises.”

Through access to international research centers, a diverse student body, and immersion programs, an MBA program can present you with numerous resources to expand your knowledge of international business—instilling the confidence you need to manage people and teams across the globe.

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Related: Build Your CORe as a Global Thinker

8. You’ll Be Exposed to Diverse Viewpoints


The lessons you learn in an MBA program don’t just come from your coursework, but from fellow students as well.

“I came to business school from consulting and thought my perspective was broad having worked in multiple industries—ranging from education to retail to aerospace and defense—but it wasn’t until I got to HBS that I realized my perspective wasn’t nearly as broad as I thought,” Bennett says. “It took hearing perspectives from classmates who had started companies, led troops in the military, built amazing nonprofit programs, or served in the CIA to really start to see the full range of angles to a problem.”

Business school can broaden your worldview and allow your opinions to be challenged by peers from all over the globe and different industries. The knowledge that your classmates impart can lead to tremendous personal growth and deeper business intuition.

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9. You’ll Form Meaningful Relationships with Students and Professors


While an MBA program is an intense academic experience, its culture is one that fosters collaboration over competition. Between your interactions with students in the classroom, discussion groups, and clubs, you’re part of a warm, inclusive environment from the moment you begin business school.

Whether you’re seeking career advice, help with coursework, or insight into a particular industry, you can find a member of the community who is willing to help you.

“There is such a diversity of backgrounds prior to coming to school that for almost any path a student is interested in taking after, there are going to be people on campus who would be happy to talk about their experience,” Bennett says.

The meaningful connections you make aren’t just with your classmates, but professors, too. Beyond teaching, faculty members often serve as mentors and advisors, and many are willing to put you in touch with their professional connections, setting you up for success in your job search.

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Credential of Readiness (CORe) - Master the fundamentals of business. Learn more.

10. You’ll Join an Extensive Alumni Network


In addition to the network of peers and professors you build throughout your academic experience, you have access to an alumni community that you can reach out to for career advice and business opportunities.

“You graduate with a network of people you know, but on top of that, it’s wonderful how responsive the entire alumni network is—even people you’ve never met before,” Bennett says.

Harvard Business School has a community of more than 83,000 alumni in 170 countries, and Bennett says that many graduates have tapped into it to find business partners, investors, and co-founders, or to gain leads for their next job.

On top of leveraging the network to make professional connections, many alumni choose to form clubs and affiliations. Becoming a member of these groups builds on the sense of camaraderie that you experience during your time in an MBA program and can sustain it well past graduation.

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Determining If an MBA Is Right for You

The decision to pursue an MBA is a personal one you need to make after evaluating your passions and aspirations.

Whatever your goals, an MBA program can help you build management and leadership skills you can carry with you for the rest of your career. While business school is a major time and financial commitment, the personal and professional rewards that it can yield are invaluable.

“Between the students and alumni you meet, the cases you discuss, club speakers and conferences, and career education programming, the MBA experience will open your eyes to possibilities you didn’t know existed before,” Bennett says.

Preparing for an MBA

Are you interested in pursuing an MBA, but not sure you’re ready for the challenge? That’s a common concern among professionals who worry that juggling work, family, and their job may be too much. The good news is that there are ways you can prepare yourself before diving into business school full time.

One option is to enroll in an online business program, such as HBS Online’s Credential of Readiness (CORe), which can help you transition back into the mindset of a student—particularly if it’s been a while since you completed your bachelor’s degree. CORe consists of three courses—Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting—and is specifically designed to help you grow your business acumen and skills.

Want to learn more about what HBS Online can do for you? Download our free business essentials e-book and explore the CORe program page to discover how you can gain a deeper understanding of fundamental business concepts and prepare for the rigors of the MBA classroom.

This post was updated on September 8, 2020. It was originally published on November 16, 2018.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in news and content marketing. He has a background in video production and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.