The Value of an MBA

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A Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) is the single most common graduate degree in America. If so many people have earned this degree, how much value can it have? And is it worth the cost of going to graduate school?

Fortunately, the MBA may be the most studied degree in America too, and it turns out it’s worth a lot of money, if nothing else. A 2014 study for Poets and Quants, a website reporting on graduate business education, found the average MBA worth about $470K above a bachelor’s degree in cash compensation over 20 years.

The difference is even greater at the top schools, like Harvard, Columbia, Wharton and Stanford, where the difference between a degree and no degree can top $2 million over 20 years.

The Substantial Upfront Investment
These schools cost a bundle up upfront investment, though. Top programs charge $200,000 for two years of study, and that doesn’t count living expenses. The average annual MBA price tag of $60,000-a-year is widely blamed for a slide in applications to business schools each of the last four years.

An MBA at South Carolina State University sets back a South Carolina resident just $11,000 a year for tuition and fees. The program offers the same accounting, statistics, global business perspectives, economics, marketing, finance, information systems and business analysis courses as their Ivy League counterparts.

The SC State MBA also offers students the opportunity to specialize in three areas, including healthcare management, whose courses are taught at the Lowcountry Graduate Center.

The MBA Mindset
Beyond the cost of the degree are the irreplaceable lessons students learn during their two years in school that make them valuable to employers. Frank Rodriguez, senior director of global community impact at Johnson & Johnson, told Business Insider magazine that employees with an MBA learn valuable leadership and collaboration skills unavailable in a baccalaureate curriculum. He said they also understand how to work effectively with different cultures.

“The MBA definitely gives the student a broad business background,” he said.

Graduates See the Difference in Themselves
Graduates of the South Carolina State MBA program agree. Avona Henry, a 2015 graduate, said the advanced study developed her analytical, strategic and communication skills. “You come away with a different mindset when you graduate,” she said. “You have a holistic view of business and how you can add value.”

For Stanley Montgomery, also a 2015 SC State MBA degree holder, the diploma’s value was a new job. He took a position upon graduation in the USC Aiken finance department. Today he serves in the important role of system administrator for the financial accounting section of the South Carolina Automated Payment System in the SC Department of Education.

There are Doubters
Detractors of the MBA degree make the case that the only reason MBAs earn more than people with bachelor’s degrees is that programs select for the most talented students. One leading detractor advises readers to apply to the best graduate business programs just to receive acceptance for admission, then reject all offers and show the acceptances to potential employers.

People who have experienced business graduate school are having none of that. Nearly all MBA graduates regard their investment in school as a good, excellent or outstanding value, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.  GMAC’s 2017 report also found 90 percent of full-time one-year graduates and 89 percent of part-time graduates rated their MBA experience as professionally rewarding.