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The Big Question: Is a MBA Worth It?
By Bryan Lipiner
Did you know that business is the most popular field of study for graduate students in the U.S.?
Since 2010, nearly 200,000 students in the U.S. have earned master’s degrees in business each year, with the vast majority opting for an MBA. Business master’s degrees accounted for 23% of all the master’s degrees awarded in the U.S. in 2020, the last year for which U.S. Department of Education data is available.
Think you might be ready to take the plunge yourself? We break down all the questions you should consider as you begin your MBA journey.
Is a MBA Worth It?
In a word: Yes. Is a MBA worth it is ultimately a decision each student has to make for themselves, but the benefits outweigh the time, money, and effort it takes to earn the degree. According to Harvard Business Review and The Washington Post a few of the reasons an MBA is worth it include:
- Developing influential skills
- Offering a chance to explore a new industry
- Building a network
- Providing a required career springboard, especially for certain fields such as consulting
- Preparing an individual for administrative or managerial roles
For most students, career outcomes are a major motivator. U.S. News & World Report describes the MBA as a “stepping stone to C-suite jobs.” An MBA from a top business school can serve as a gateway to competitive sectors such as the Silicon Valley technology industry or the Wall Street finance industry. Plus, a study published in the Wall Street Journal showed that full time MBA students can potentially double their salary upon graduation.
You probably have some ideas about how your classes will prepare you for landing a job already, but that’s only half the story. Is a MBA worth it also depends on the network you build and the student experience you want. Do you value a small program with a tight-knit cohort? Are you looking for an online MBA and not expecting much campus involvement at all? How big a priority are friendships with peers and professors for you?
As you consider different schools and programs and ask is a MBA worth it, make sure you look under the hood at everything from alumni outcomes, to the curriculum, to the day to day student experience.
What Do You Learn in MBA Classes?
The MBA is often regarded as a generalist’s degree. Most programs offer some version of a core, in which you will ground yourself in business fundamentals like accounting, marketing, basic financial analysis, strategy, and operations. From there, what do you learn in MBA classes hinges on the electives you choose, which often build on what you’ve already mastered in the core.
Different programs are known for specialized strengths, and it’s important to find a program that matches up with your goals. For example, Babson College’s entrepreneurial MBA is a good fit for developing entrepreneurial leaders, both those who plan to work for established companies and for those with startup ambitions.
Consider this handful of experiential learning programs for a snapshot of what do you learn in MBA courses at Babson:
- Babson Consulting Experience (BCE) is a core consulting experience course for all MBA students that offers an opportunity for students to learn about organizations big and small, from the inside out, and to work with leading executives to solve real business needs.
- Management Consulting Field Experience (MCFE), an experience that connects organizations from all over the world with talented Babson students, who work as consultants to address a current business challenge in one of the top experiential learning mba programs.
- In the Project Leadership course, graduate students mentor undergraduate MCFE teams, gaining valuable management experience while providing value to local organizations.
The Best MBA for Entrepreneurs
Aspiring entrepreneurial leaders might want to consider pursuing a degree from an institution with the best MBA for entrepreneurs. But what are the factors that set the best apart from the rest?
Among other factors, Poets & Quants ranks the best MBA for entrepreneurs on these criteria:
- Percentage of graduates launching businesses
- Percentage of courses focused on entrepreneurship or innovation
- Ratio of MBA students to available entrepreneurs-in-residence
At U.S. News & World Report, the best MBA for entrepreneurs is decided based on which programs best help students develop skills and a plan to turn their idea into a venture.
Babson College has been ranked the best MBA for entrepreneurs for 28 consecutive years. Here, student entrepreneurs have a vast ecosystem of support and resources they can plug into, including access to the Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership, powered by alumnus Arthur Blank’s historic $50 million gift to the College.
Students whose sights are set on post-MBA life get real-time feedback from the Graduate Center for Career Development on how the market will perceive their skills, so they’re able to address potential gaps immediately. “Employers say it’s equally important that students have MBA smarts and human skills,” says Senior Director Cheri Paulson.
“At Babson, in addition to teaching certain subjects, we’re developing people,” says Professor Sebastian Fixson, Associate Dean of Innovation. “The environment is different today: it’s more than how we teach, it’s also how it happens, where it happens, and with whom it happens.”
According to Fixson, any MBA offers students knowledge, a credential, and the network. But the Babson MBA has a unique perk that other institutions cannot match, in that so many of your classmates, now or in the future, are entrepreneurs, and they come from across the world. 73% of full-time graduate students attend Babson from other countries, and all programs feature almost 50% women.
What Can You Do with an MBA in Entrepreneurship?
In an article for Entrepreneur, Unicurve Director Andrew Lancaster argues that an MBA in entrepreneurship could help you:Develop an idea for a startup
- Target and advance specific skills
- Take chances in a risk-free environment
What you can do with an MBA in entrepreneurship is limited only by your own imagination; an entrepreneurial mindset applies to both corporate and startup career paths. Being able to think like an entrepreneur means being innovative and flexible in your problem solving, comfortable navigating uncertainty, and willing to take action even without a clear vision of the destination. It’s a skillset that is especially useful in times of transition and disruption, and not unique to the startup environment.
Many students use their time at business school to launch a company. And there’s no better place to do that than at Babson College, where project-based experiential graduate school courses give entrepreneurial leaders a crash course in learning by doing.
Babson MBA students land corporate roles post-graduation as well. “Students want to go into innovation hubs built inside organizations, so that they can be working in teams and making a difference in companies,” said Paulson.
“The world is shifting faster, and you need entrepreneurial skills and tools to figure out what’s going on. It’s part creative thinking, and part willingness to explore what’s possible,” said Fixson. “There is a much greater opportunity to experience and learn the challenges of entrepreneurial leadership during your time at Babson than you would have at other schools.”
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About the Author
Bryan Lipiner is a journalist at Babson College. His work has appeared in several media outlets throughout New England.
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