Should I earn an MBA to improve my business skills?

It’s a question many professionals ask themselves at one point or another during their career, and one that requires serious thought and introspection.

Pursuing a graduate education is a major commitment. One that requires you to take stock of where you currently are in life, but also where you want to be in your career. You might find that earning an MBA can be a way to accelerate your career, or take your profession in an entirely new direction—or maybe a different option would be better for you.

While institutions offer a range of graduate-level programs, the MBA is the most sought-after credential by prospective business students. Around the world, the share of companies hiring MBA graduates in 2018 rose across industries, ranging from consulting to manufacturing. 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.

Beyond the market value an MBA can provide, there are numerous personal and professional rewards you can reap by immersing yourself in an academic environment.

If you’re considering business school but aren’t sure if it’s the right path for you, here are eight reasons to further your business acumen by getting an MBA.

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 it doesn’t necessarily 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.

2. You 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 as well.

“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 framework for breaking down complex issues and exercising sound judgement in the face of uncertainty.

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3. You 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 very 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 VC, 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.

4. You 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.

Related: Build Your CORE as a Global Thinker

5. You’re 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 from all different industries. The knowledge that your classmates impart can not only lead to tremendous personal growth, but deeper business intuition as well.

6. You 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’ll be able to 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 as well. 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.

7. You Join an Extensive Alumni Network

In addition to the network of peers and professors you build throughout your academic experience, you also 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 that you’ve never met before,” Bennett says.

Harvard Business School has a community of more than 80,000 alumni in 167 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.

8. It Can Help You Launch Your Own Business

Some individuals choose to earn an MBA in order to better perform their job duties. But many others may choose to pursue an MBA because they want to start their own company and know that if they’re going to succeed, then they need to have a better understanding of the world of business. For all of the reasons listed above, pursuing an MBA can help you reach this goal.

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 will 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 things in a new way that could lead to great things for your business. And an extensive network of classmates, professors, and alumni ultimately becomes an excellent resource for advice that can guide you through business obstacles.

Determining If an MBA Is Right for You

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 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.

Are you interested in pursuing an MBA? Get ready for business school with our online Credential of Readiness (CORe). Through this three-course program that Harvard Business School offers to incoming students, you can gain a deep understanding of essential business concepts and can prepare for the rigors of the MBA classroom.

This post was updated on August 7, 2019. 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 content writing and social media. 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, cycling, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.