Why Get an MBA? 6 Reasons to Consider an Advanced Business Degree

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Taking the time to consider how well the typical MBA outcomes align with your personal and career goals can help you determine whether it's the right time to pursue the degree.

[Featured image] An MBA student stands outside a columned building holding her mobile phone and looking at the camera.

A Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) degree is typically considered a worthy investment for people pursuing a career in business. However, there are MBA programs designed to benefit people at all stages of their careers, so there’s no real rush to seek an MBA if the timing doesn’t feel right for you.

In this article, we’ll discuss six reasons people commonly choose to get an MBA and a few key considerations that may impact your decision to apply.

6 reasons to get an MBA

Although the decision to get an MBA is personal, MBA programs tend to attract candidates with a few common goals.

1. Broaden your business perspective.

One compelling aspect of MBA programs is that they bring together people with different worldviews but similar interests. Broaden your business perspective while engaging with classmates and faculty in discussions, working together on group projects, and applying your education to real-world situations with a culminating capstone or thesis.

Some MBA programs also incorporate a global aspect to their coursework by encouraging students to attend international seminars, offering courses on international and cross-cultural business, and recruiting students from countries all over the world.

Why does this matter? In broadening your business perspective, you can prepare yourself to make high-impact business decisions across departments, organizations, and even countries.

2. Expand your personal and professional network.

Throughout your MBA program, you can expect to meet many people. Each person you build a relationship with can become part of your network. For example, someone you work on a class project with may end up referring you for a job years later, or an internship may lead to long-term employment.

Additionally, your MBA program will likely have an alumni network. Even though you may not have direct contact with alumni as you work toward your degree, this network can be valuable as you seek new job opportunities. Alumni tend to feel a kinship with fellow program graduates and, knowing what they learned through the same program, have heightened confidence in your particular MBA degree.

Why does this matter? In expanding your network, you can open yourself up to new and unexpected opportunities throughout your entire career.

In a 2021 alumni survey, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that 76 percent of graduate business school alumni agreed that their program developed their professional network [1].

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3. Level up in your career.

Technically, most things you learn in an MBA program, you can also learn through work experience. However, gaining knowledge through experience can depend on your workplace culture and conditions, whereas an MBA program can help speed up the learning process with a more focused approach.

Most MBA students join their programs after at least a few years of work experience, which helps them build upon the knowledge they’ve already gained in the workplace and may fast-track their career development. An MBA degree validates a job candidate’s leadership skills, and that credential can signal to employers that you are ready to level up.

Why does this matter? In leveling up in your career, you can increase your access to compelling projects, clients, and responsibilities—and may have the option to delegate less interesting tasks to junior employees. 

According to GMAC, 77 percent of graduates felt their program prepared them for leadership positions, and 67 percent felt they had gained opportunities for quicker career advancement [1].

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4. Increase your salary and career opportunities.

Alongside the potential to advance your career comes the potential for increases in salary and job opportunities. People with an MBA degree tend to make more money than those without the credential, and they often see returns soon after graduation. Additionally, companies are keen to hire MBA graduates given their advanced knowledge, meaning you may be more marketable during a job search with the degree on your resume.

Although these are common outcomes, it’s worth noting that earning your MBA won’t guarantee a salary increase. Learn more about MBA degree salaries to assess how an advanced degree may impact your earnings potential based on your location, industry, and more influential factors.

Why does this matter? In increasing your salary, you can reach a better financial future for yourself and the people who depend on you.

TransparentCareer’s 2019 analysis of MBA graduates between 2009 and 2018 found that graduates increased their salaries by an average of $36,742 [2].

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5. Fortify your business skills.

On a granular level, every MBA program is different, designed according to the general needs of the school’s typical incoming class. Despite differences in delivery, MBA graduates tend to have certain business skills in common.

According to the 2021 GMAC corporate recruiters survey, high-value skills employers often recognize in MBA graduates include [3]:

  • Strategic thinking

  • Communication

  • Versatility

  • Leadership

Why does this matter? In fortifying your skills, you can enhance your presence in the workplace as a colleague people enjoy working with and as an employee, your bosses can rely on.

6. Add a specialization to your resume.

An MBA degree program will often expose you to many business areas and show how each one connects within the overall business model. Additionally, many programs offer the option to major or specialize in a specific business area, giving students the chance to develop their skills in a particular subject further.

Choosing a major or specialization that aligns with your ultimate career goals can make it easier to achieve them. For example, if you want to go into a data-heavy industry, a business analytics specialization may help prepare you for the roles you anticipate applying for and show potential employers that your skill set matches their needs.

Why does this matter? In adding a specialization to your resume, you can add a credential to your portfolio that shows you have the motivation and drive to work toward your goals.

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Important considerations before getting your MBA

Before you decide to pursue your MBA degree, there are a few key considerations that may sway how or when you choose to go back to school. Three common limiting factors are time, money, and energy.

  • Time commitment: Depending on the type of program, you can expect to spend anywhere from one year to more than five years working toward your degree. Learn more about how long it takes to get an MBA.

  • Financial situation: Even though the long-term returns can be worth it, MBA programs can be expensive—some end up costing over $200,000. Learn more about how to pay for graduate school.

  • Current bandwidth: Once you’re in an MBA program, you’ll need to dedicate energy to your education both in and outside the classroom. Learn more about how to motivate yourself as you work toward a goal.

If you want to level up in your career, but can’t commit to an MBA program right now, consider an online business specialization from the University of Illinois Gies College of Business. You can master a business skill through coursework and hands-on projects with specializations in digital marketing or strategic leadership. Upon completion, you’ll earn a certificate that you can share with potential employers.

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Should I get an MBA?

As you think about whether getting an MBA is right for you, it can be helpful to hone in on your personal and career goals. Consider what it may take to reach those goals, and think about how an MBA can assist in that process.

Remember that an MBA generally isn’t a requirement for career advancement—just a credential that may speed up the process. And in some cases, you can get similar benefits through work experience. For example, if you are already experiencing career momentum, have a clear path toward promotion, or have a supportive manager helping you develop your skills, then you may not need an MBA right now.

There are MBA programs designed for people at all stages of their career, from full-time MBA programs that tend to admit students earlier into their career, to Executive MBA programs for people with at least a decade of work experience. Regardless of the type of MBA program, the benefits of getting the degree remain.

Next steps

For a flexible degree option at a breakthrough price, consider the iMBA from the University of Illinois Gies College of Business. Take online classes from anywhere with an internet connection with students from around the world. Start select courses today for free as you decide whether business school is right for you.

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Article sources

1. GMAC. “Alumni Perspectives on the Value of Graduate Management. https://www.gmac.com/-/media/files/gmac/research/measuring-program-roi/2021_gmac_research_brief_alumni_value_of_gme.pdf.” Accessed December 23, 2021.

2. TransparentCareer. “How Much Does an MBA Increase Your Salary? https://blog.transparentcareer.com/how-much-does-an-mba-increase-your-salary/.” Accessed December 3, 2021.

3. GMAC. “Demand of Graduate Management Talent: And Salary Trends. https://www.gmac.com/-/media/files/gmac/research/employment-outlook/2021_crs-demand-of-gm-talent.pdf.” Accessed December 23, 2021. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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