College graduation season is in full swing and graduates are focused on their career goals. Some will be embarking on first jobs, and others will be going to graduate school. We have written about the hiring outlook for college graduates, and we discovered where some of the nation’s top CEO’s earned their degrees; but with today’s sky-high cost of tuition and fees, those contemplating graduate school must calculate the value of an advanced degree and its potential contribution to their careers.
If you are in a field like management consulting, finance, or marketing, it can seem to you that everyone you work with has an MBA. If you have higher ambitions and want to compete, as do many who pursue an advanced degree, it is easy to justify wanting to keep up and compete on a level playing field.
Is an MBA a Must-Have to Advance?
Forty-two percent of Fortune 500 CEOs earned MBAs, and another 18% invested in master’s degrees. So, while one could argue that famous college drop-outs like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson, have made it without MBAs, they are the exception, not the rule. And tellingly, all three started their own companies.
Why Get an MBA?
The decision to obtain an MBA is ultimately a personal one, but there are several reasons why an individual chooses to attend graduate school:
You don’t want to roll the dice on a start-up – Fortune 500s recruit potential future leaders from B-schools. You want to play the odds.
You want to acquire more leadership and management skills - An MBA offers indoctrination into real life knowledge and skills. A quality MBA program emphasizes the foundations of accounting, economics, operations, and marketing—the building blocks of business leadership. MBA programs teach students to assess and decide strategically and also to make career decisions suited to their long-term interests.
You want to make connections that last a lifetime – B-school students and alumni are prolific networkers who make connections that extend beyond graduation. You will benefit from the prestige of the program—its professors and alumni networks—and its exposure to professionals across industries.
You need more time - Many graduates have not decided upon their ultimate career path. An MBA allows time to learn about business, complete internships and consider a broader array of options.
An Enticing Option – Employer Tuition Reimbursement
Does your current employer offer tuition reimbursement or MBA sponsorship? Fortune 500 companies that provide educational assistance include Target, Monsanto, Apple, Disney, Google, UPS, and Starbucks. However, relatively few employees take advantage of their MBA tuition reimbursement programs. According to studies of Ivy-League students attending full-time business school programs, only 3 to 5 percent receive tuition reimbursement.
What makes company-sponsored MBAs enticing? Tuition reimbursement and a hefty compensation increase. An MBA has a hefty price tag—on average, $125,000. But, the average compensation increase is $45,000.
Executive MBA Programs
Executive MBA programs are designed for busy professionals and offer much-needed flexibility while allowing the working candidate to accommodate their employment needs and academic desires. These programs typically allow for online work coupled with monthly interactive weekend classes.
Some companies have formal written EMBA policies, while others have informal policies. You may need to make a pitch to get financial assistance and permission to attend an EMBA program. If an EMBA is your goal, you will want to convince your employer that this is an investment that will pay dividends to them as well as to you.
Read the Fine Print
Most corporate-sponsored programs have strings attached—a written contract or clear, detailed written policy—which addresses the employer’s reimbursement limits, and repayment terms- should you leave the company or drop out of the program. For example, BP gives both its employees and potential employees a comprehensive view of its educational assistance and reimbursement policies.
Whatever your employer’s EMBA program is, get all of the details you need to make an informed decision and carefully weigh the pros and cons before you take them up on their offer.
Your employer’s sponsorship and financial support should help you focus on the curriculum, not on the logistics, and should generate increased motivation and loyalty.
After graduation and fulfilling your commitment to your employer, you can weigh future outside offers against what your employer has done, is doing, and hopefully, will do for you, as well as your increased ability to have an impact and make a difference.
If you plan to work at a large company, especially one with generous reimbursement policies, an MBA is a good career move. Whatever your motivation for attending B-school, take the time to determine if earning a higher degree is a smart investment in your career—regarding both what you will get and what it will enable you to achieve.
June 1, 2017 AT 4:17 PM CST
DJ Stephens wrote:
If I knew my company was going to foot a large part of the bill I'd definitely go get an MBA.