By Ryan Ayers

Grad school is challenging, time-consuming, and expensive. If you decide to pursue an MBA, you’re committing to a few years of intensive study with no guarantee of a job at the finish line. That’s not to say that getting a grad degree isn’t worthwhile—it absolutely can be. What it does mean is that it’s important to spend some time carefully considering if an advanced business degree makes sense for your career goals and options. Is an MBA worth it for you? That’s a question only you can answer, but let’s take a look at the different factors you might want to take into consideration.

Deciding if an MBA is Worthwhile

If you’re considering a graduate degree, you’ve already made it through four years of intense academic study. Will another two or three years be worth the time, effort and expense a graduate degree requires? That depends on what you want to get out of an MBA program.

An MBA can be completed part-time or full-time. Working while in a full-time program is nearly impossible, and part-time students may have a very full plate if they choose to work full-time and go to school. The curriculum usually includes a broad base of business topics and skills and prepares students to work in a business setting, often as company founders or in management roles. Topics of study may include accounting, management, communications, entrepreneurship, and economics.

Although an MBA program can provide excellent training for the real world of business, there are other options for those who would like to learn these kinds of skills. Upon closer introspection, you may find that there are suitable alternatives to an MBA program. An MBA might be worth it for some people, but many can gain skills through other, less intense options. If you want to work for companies that require an MBA, it may be important for you to go through a program. If you want to work for a startup or start your own company, you may not need a degree.

What’s the Return-on-Investment?

Anyone who is business-savvy knows that return on investment, or ROI, is an important consideration when making an important decision that will be costly. If you’re considering an MBA, then you’re probably wondering how much getting an advanced degree will put in your pocket. Is the grad degree worth it from a financial standpoint?

In most cases, yes. The average starting salary for someone in finance with a bachelor’s degree was $55,609 in 2017. For someone with a master’s degree, it jumped to $70,957. That’s a significant difference that adds up quickly in just a few years. If you plan to work for at least ten or more years, the ROI from an MBA could be significant.

Benefits of Earning an MBA

Salary potential is an important consideration, but it’s not the only reason to pursue an MBA. Students will gain prestige through these programs and make connections with like-minded professionals. These national and global connections can serve graduates well during their job hunt. Many candidates also gain crucial leadership skills that help them enter organizations at a higher level. It’s important to understand the benefits of an MBA and make sure you’re pursuing this learning path for the right reasons.

Should You Go for an MBA?

Nobody’s life or goals are exactly the same. It’s up to you to make sure that your expectations for an MBA are reasonable and make sense for your situation. Because it’s a big investment, it’s important to make sure the ROI will be there for you and ensure you don’t go into long-term debt over a degree that was supposed to help you advance. Planning your finances and creating a budget and way to save can help you in your future goals. Remember that although spending all that money on a degree could be daunting, you can make hundreds of thousands of dollars more in the future.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll work for a Fortune 500 company right out of school, or even land a job at a corporation. But if you choose to advance your education for the right reasons, you’ll probably find that an MBA is worth it after all. Global businesses are growing bigger all the time—and they’re looking for talented candidates with MBAs.

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis. You can find more from Ryan on Twitter at @TheBizTechGuru.

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