Is An MBA Worth the Cost In a Post COVID World?

African American woman works in the new workplace with a mask on.
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Higher education is expensive and may become more expensive due to COVID-19. Affording a reasonable lifestyle after graduation isn’t getting any easier, either. In the last dozen years or so, we’ve lived through the Great Recession, or 2008 Financial Crisis, and now a global pandemic. At the same time, housing is expensive and homeownership is getting increasingly competitive.

It’s easy to feel that continuing education is more and more of a splurge — but is that a feeling, or a fact? The answer depends on how you would answer a number of questions.

Is an MBA Worth It?

According to The Princeton Review, business school tuition can cost a student $130,000 or more on average. That can take many years to pay off, depending on your career. Remember when former U.S. President Obama acknowledged that he had only recently paid off his college loans? That illustrates exactly know how hard they are to cover.

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What Is the Average MBA Salary?

One of the appealing aspects of earning an MBA is that your starting salary is likely to be $20,000 higher, on average, than it would be without an advanced degree — and you may find that you’re more eligible for a signing bonus, too.

The Benefits of an MBA Beyond Earnings

There’s more to having an MBA than earning power. The advanced degree shows that you have:

  • A deep commitment to being an expert in your chosen line of work
  • Training that may better qualify you for leadership roles
  • A potentially large network of highly qualified people with similar expertise to you

These traits can make you especially attractive to an employer.

The Value of an MBA Varies by Industry

An MBA will work harder for you in certain professions than in others. For example, in the finance and technology sectors, you may find that an MBA alone won’t get you top employment opportunities. There are many reasons for this.

Holistic Hiring Is on the Rise

Employers are taking an increasingly broad view of job candidates, meaning that they may opt to evaluate your pre-MBA education, work experience and even life experience. Who you are outside of your education matters more than ever, especially because companies are being held to higher standards.

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Certifications Are Becoming More Common

As the cost of formal education continues to rise and online learning opportunities continue to expand, more people are turning to professional certifications. Employers are beginning to recognize them, too.

According to executive job site Glassdoor, some certifications can interest a recruiter:

  • Sales
  • Human Resources
  • Project Management
  • Help Desk / Desktop Analyst
  • Network Engineering or Admin

The site also notes that these software certifications can prove beneficial:

  • Salesforce
  • Google Certifications
  • Hubspot’s Inbound Certification

Job seekers have taken note. During the COVID-19 pandemic, professional certifications had an increase in demand. For example, the number of professionals training to be certified management accountants on the Institute of Management Accountants was 12% higher in the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2020, compared to the previous fiscal year.

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Across industries — from marketing to healthcare, finance, technology and beyond — it is easier than ever to establish expertise without investing the money and time required for a degree from a college or university.

Technology Is Lowering Barriers to Entry

Another factor to consider is that it’s easier than ever to find an audience and grow your brand in an age of YouTube coaches and social media influencers.

In an interview about the COVID-19 pandemic on the School of Greatness podcast, personal finance expert Robert Kiyosaki commented on the role of technology in creating opportunities. He said, “I say to younger people — this crisis, this pandemic is the best thing that ever happened to you. You think about the iPhone — you have more power in that iPhone than I had with my spare UNIVAC mainframe computer.”

Kiyosaki also cautioned listeners against placing too much emphasis on formal education. “You’ve got to choose your teachers wisely,” he says. “The best teachers are not in colleges. The best teachers are on YouTube.”

Entrepreneurship Is More Feasible Than Ever

Just a decade or two ago, it was rare to start your own business. Today, technology has made it possible for many professionals to hold down a full-time day job and then go home to a bustling side hustle.

From resellers to freelancers and beyond, side hustles are popular. Tools like bots and user-friendly content management systems make it easy to source materials and build a website quickly, and professionals in every industry are taking advantage of it.

The Bottom Line: Is an MBA Worth It?

The best way to answer that question is to make sure that you’ve evaluated the industry you’re in or planning to go into. Ask yourself:

Questions To Consider

  • Is technology transforming my industry at a rapid pace, compared to other industries?
  • Are there certifications that would support my goals without the cost of higher education?
  • Is there a way for me to start looking for my audience now, without further education?
  • Can I use my personal experience to launch into my desired industry or role?
  • Does anyone in my professional or personal network have connections to the industry or role I’m interested in — even for the sake of helping me land informational interviews?
  • Do I have extensive personal, first-hand knowledge about the subject matter?

Your answers to these questions will help you determine whether investing in a formal business degree is worthwhile. No matter what you decide, remember that you have more options than ever at your disposal. Now is the time to think flexibly and pursue every avenue you can.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “Is an MBA worth it?” But the better you understand where you want your career to end up, the better you can forge the path that will take you there. Begin with the end in mind, explore every option, and make the choice that’s right for you.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Kelli Francis is a writer and content strategist. She started her career with a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and went on to work in some of the industry’s busiest newsrooms, from The Seattle Times to, WebMD and Yahoo. In nearly a decade at Yahoo, she worked as an assistant managing editor at Yahoo Finance, specializing in personal finance content; a producer for Yahoo News; and a managing editor on Yahoo’s home page team. A perennial seeker, Kelli is currently expanding her knowledge of all things finance as a student at The American College of Financial Services. She is also the very proud mom of a wonderful and unstoppable 7-year-old with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  

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