It used to be that a high school diploma was enough to land a good job. Then, a bachelor’s degree became the minimum standard. Now, it seems everyone is compelled to get a master’s degree.

Whether it is a perceived requirement in our industry, something to improve our network, or the pursuit of a lifelong dream, here are the reasons to — or not to — get an MBA.

Who, what, where?

No job requires an MBA, but in many positions having the degree can validate that we possess a set of knowledge required for the role.

Similarly, if we have less experience than the role we are seeking normally demands, an MBA can serve as a substitute. This is often represented in job postings as a "combination of education and experience."

In addition to the specific role, considering the current industry landscape is critical, both generally and geographically. In other words, seeking a role in an area where a high concentration of MBAs live may raise the standard. Conversely, showing up to a role with an MBA where few people have one can make us look overqualified or expensive.

At what cost?

After considering necessity and benefit to our professional development and relevance to our career path, we must consider cost. Program costs vary widely so it is important to understand not just the cost of the program but how it affects our current and future salary.

In other words, will we forego advancement and raises now because we are committed to school? How much do we expect our salary to increase after we get the degree, and how long will that take?

In some cases, employers may provide an offset to program cost. However, before taking advantage of any employer program, it is critical to understand whether the benefit requires an additional time commitment to the employer after completion; what the responsibilities are for paying back the money if we leave during or after the program; and how easy the employer can adjust the program while we are in it.

For example, if the benefit is in the handbook, it is subject to change at the employer’s discretion, whereas if it is in our offer letter, it may be more challenging to change.


The next factor to consider is time. It is important to consider the timing of attending school as it relates to our careers, lives and daily schedule.

If it must be now, what type of program fits? Do we have the luxury of attending full-time and not working? Or would an executive program offering night and weekend meetings be better? With the wide variety of programs available, it is possible to fit a degree into almost any schedule.

However, if there is nothing in our career compelling us to go right now, then we have the benefit of being able to plan, save and research. Again, with so many programs available, the ability to plan can save us time as well as money and ensure we find the best program for our needs.

The bottom line is that an advanced degree of any kind requires commitment, from us, our family and friends and our employers. It is not a decision to be taken lightly; by taking the time to consider our true goals, the real costs of time and money, and the reality of post-degree opportunities we will be better prepared to succeed.