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.

 

Considerations

 

  • 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.
  • 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?

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger Wohlner January 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Good post. In my case I’m very grateful to Marquette University for a “full ride” via being a graduate assistant. Marquette is a solid program with a good name, but not Harvard, Northwestern, or U of Chicago. I agree that if I was paying my own money I’d want to go to a bigger name school. In my current career as a financial advisor the degree is not as directly relevant as in my corporate finance days but is still a nice credential.

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Darwin January 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Makes sense; I guess a client doesn’t walk in your office and ask what school you went to and walk out if they don’t like it, ya know?

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Invest It Wisely January 5, 2012 at 12:10 am

Getting a MBA in Canada isn’t as expensive, so I would consider getting it with my own money, but it will depend on where things go in the next year or two.

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Darwin January 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm

True; What are the equivalent top couple MBA programs going for in Canada? Six figures USD here.

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101 Centavos January 5, 2012 at 7:23 am

Not at this stage in my career (I’m 49). Right now, it’s experiences and accomplishments that matter more.

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Darwin January 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Totally; I did have some 40-50 somethings in my program, kinda trying to reinvent themselves I suppose. But I’m pretty sure their employer was paying.

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MoneyCone January 5, 2012 at 11:14 am

Good post Darwin! I would apply the same checklist for any career enhancing program, not just MBAs.

If the returns aren’t worth it, I would spend my savings on it. (Employer funded programs are a different story of course!)

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Darwin January 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm

That’s true, people pay for M.S., PhD, etc all the time.

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krantcents January 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

MBAs have value in certain professions. In accounting/finance, many people respect CPAs much more as valuable experience or recognition. The cache depends on industry and profession and to some extent geography. East coast respect education more than West coast.

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Darwin January 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Interesting on the coast thing; never really heard that before.

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Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog January 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm

i’ve considered paying for one, but am not sure it would be worth it – I feel like I could go to the business school of hard knocks and start my own business and do just as well with out the high costs

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Darwin January 6, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Unfortunately, sometimes a useless degree takes you further on a resume than actual relevant experience.

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retirebyforty January 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm

I’m not an MBA kind of guy so I won’t be getting one. I would go to a top 10 school if I want an MBA though. I think networking is the most important aspect of MBA and those schools have better potential.

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Darwin January 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Networking’s huge, especially if your program has a lot of people in your industry or you’re already an executive or whatever. I wasn’t very impressed with the peers in my program, didn’t really make connections that would ever help me professionally. A lot of newer employees, small biz owners (very small), etc that I don’t keep in touch with.

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Corey @ Passive Income to Retire January 6, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I feel like I don’t need an MBA to achieve my goals. My wife is getting a MPA – which is similar.. but she is getting one from a top 10 school. Success!

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Darwin January 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Haven’t heard of the MPA before but sounds good – score!

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