Smart Ways to Earn an MBA

The world today places a high premium on education, and the marketplace has picked up on that. Turn on the TV and see high-powered ads trying to convince the masses that they need whatever MBA degree is being marketed, or they will end up at the bottom of the employment totem pole. For many years, going back to school for an MBA meant spending a lot of money and missing out on income opportunities. Consider the following points when thinking of going back for the MBA.

Considering the Alternatives

Deciding whether to attend graduate school involves weighing the opportunity costs to decide if the investment is worth it. Attending any institution of higher learning to pursue a master’s degree is time-consuming, stressful and expensive. Potential students should remember that if they choose to enroll for two years, or however long the program is, they will miss out on earning an income for the time they are in school. In essence, they are postponing the potential income they could be making, in the hopes that afterwards they will earn significantly more.

In traditional programs, unless the student has been paying tuition per class, they are left with a huge debt to repay after graduation. A master’s degree hasn’t come cheap in previous years.

The projected 2012-2013 costs for an MBA at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School is $93,000. At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the total costs for a student expected to graduate in 2014 exceed $59,000. Florida State University’s projected 2012-2013 tuition is about $28,350, not including books or supplies. A tuition hike is planned for summer 2013.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the typical tuition for a two-year MBA program is $60,000. Most students are convinced the financial gains are worth the expense, but will the salary for the new high-powered executive position make it easy to pay back the college loans?

Consider the Life-Experience Alternative

For many, spending money on an MBA delivers only marginal success in their efforts to get ahead of the pack. If the ROI calculations don’t seem to equate, there are other ways to learn. Putting aside the prestige factor an MBA degree lends to a resume, there are other, less flashy strategies.

The knowledge students pay to gain in the classroom can be gained elsewhere for a fraction of the cost. Often, students pay big bucks because a corporate executive or professional in the field is teaching the course. They can learn the same theories and concepts from books on the subject and information from the Internet.

Skills learned through grad school, such as reading a balance sheet, negotiating a deal or using evaluating a business strategy, can be learned without paying someone thousands of dollars. Much of it takes simple common sense and the ability to use critical thinking. Again, there are plenty of how-to books available.

Consider the Online Alternative

Online programs are seeing huge growth spurts in the last few years and with this growth comes improved programs and a stronger faculty pool. Online MBA programs are standing up to traditional programs and often cost a fraction of the price. Not only could you save money by enrolling in an online MBA program over a traditional program, but you could also maintain your current job and maintain your income.

Lex Armstrong writes for several higher ed blogs. To read more about online MBA degrees click here.

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