Would You Ever Pay for an MBA With Your OWN Money?

by Darwin on January 4, 2012

A few years ago, I wrapped up an MBA that was primarily funded by my employers (I paid for books).  It was a decent program and I’m glad I did it for multiple reasons both professional and personal (for instance, I have my MBA program to thank for this blog ironically, when for my New Ventures course, my professor laughed at my idea of blogging to make money on the side LOL!).  Anyway, in hindsight, I’m not sure I would have paid for the same program with my own money if my employer weren’t funding it.  I know a few people who have, given their particular circumstances, and I’m curious what your thoughts are.




  • Why Are You Thinking About an MBA?  A lot of people go into an MBA program because it’s “the thing to do” without really knowing what it’s about or why they’re doing it.  Often times, they end up in a totally different profession or even out of work and surely, must regret having spent the time and money on the program. Of course, some of the main reasons for earning an MBA include having the ability to command a higher salary, being able to seek promotions, and improving your skills so that you can perform at a higher level on the job. For many who have already started their careers, however, earning an MBA comes down to choosing between their current jobs and quitting to pursue additional education. The presence of the online MBA is starting to change that, however, as these programs are much more flexible and allow students to continue working while they complete their coursework.
  • How Good is the Program?  (School Name Recognition, Actual Utility in Your Profession) – Personally, if I had it to do over again, I probably would have pursued a more marquee name like Princeton, Harvard or Wharton or something as opposed to doing a “decent program” like I did at Penn State.  Scandals aside, the school has a decent name academically, but it’s not a top 10 program.  It beats an online degree or no-name school, but it doesn’t carry the same weight as a top 10 program.  For all the time and effort I put into the program, I didn’t come out with the great networking and contacts that other programs offer, didn’t travel abroad, and it didn’t propel my career any faster than the track I was already on.  I don’t regret it, but I’m not sure it’s helped me much professionally to date.
  • ROI – Let’s say you wanna drop $100,000 on a top school.  Think about how many years you see yourself in the workforce, what additional salary you think this might earn you and what those funds could have been used for instead.  If you’re fresh out of college, have mediocre career prospects and want to get into the fast lane, a prestigious MBA might help.  If you’re 45 and want to retire at 55, doing an MBA now probably isn’t going to yield the ROI that would make sense.  Anecdotally, I have two old colleagues that were an equivalent level to me when I was in my twenties that quit to do a full-time MBA program which they paid for themselves (Harvard and Kellogg which are both top 10).  One is now the managing director of a division of a biotech firm, so he’s probably making double what I do.  Another is back at my company 2 levels below me.  They were both high performers when we worked together and I’m sure they both are now too – the opportunities can really be hit or miss in this economy though.  Having a top MBA doesn’t guarantee success, it just gives you more options.
  • MBAs are Becoming a Dime a Dozen – It seems like everyone has an MBA these days which begs the question as to whether a) you NEED one just to keep up with the qualifications of peers and competitors but also b) if you’re already outperforming or at the same level as all these people, is the ROI really there?  Was it worth it if you’re doing just as well professionally?
  • What is the Opportunity Cost?  Aside from the financial burden, what about the countless hundreds (or thousands) of hours you’re going to spend commuting, in class, working on assignments, etc.?  What if all that time spent was instead directed toward your career – or even starting your own business?  Then again, often times, an MBA program spurs ideas, innovation, networking and opportunities. Worth thinking about.


What are Your Thoughts on MBAs?

Would You Pay for an MBA Yourself?

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