Earn your ROI while in School

5 ways to earn ROI before you complete your MBA

By Marjorie DeGraca

When many prospective applicants calculate the return on investment (ROI) of their Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree, they often use figures and equations that only account for life after graduation. However, you can begin earning returns on your MBA while you are still working through the program.

These returns are not always financial in nature: they may indirectly impact your finances, or they may simply improve your quality of life in other areas—the monetary value of which can be more difficult to calculate. To make the most out of your MBA prior to graduation, consider these five MBA benefits and how you can start earning a ROI from those benefits while still in school.

MBA benefit #1: career advancement even before graduation

While in school: apply what you learn to your current job for faster benefits

Many MBA students continue to work full- or part-time jobs while earning their degree, and these students may be among the earliest to earn returns from their MBA. The sooner you begin applying what you learn in the classroom in real-world business scenarios, the sooner you could begin reaping financial benefits in the office. For example, you may earn yourself a raise or promotion from your current employer, or you may make a change to a more lucrative position, company, or industry entirely--all while still in school.

Students who are in the workplace while earning their degree also often find that including a degree-in-progress on their resumes or LinkedIn profiles attracts interest and establishes credibility even before completion.

Further, applying management or financial concepts and strategies to your actual job also serves as additional homework and real-world practicum outside of the classroom. This practice solidifies what you learn in school which could lead to better grades and a deeper understanding of your MBA coursework as you earn your degree.

By applying what you learn to your current job, you could begin enjoying the financial rewards of your degree before you graduate.

MBA benefit #2: time management and prioritization

While in school: learn to prioritize many tasks and commitments while your time is limited

Strategic prioritization is a critical soft skill and an element of MBA coursework, but it also has a practical application in managing your own personal or professional life. Many MBA students juggle not just coursework but often also any of these other critical but time-consuming commitments:

  • A part-time or full-time job
  • Internship(s)
  • Family obligations
  • Relationship with a spouse, significant other, or simply dating
  • Friends and a social calendar
  • Volunteer work and other community efforts
  • Regular exercise and/or organized team sports

Prioritization becomes key to completing your MBA and making the most of it while still earning the degree itself. You simply cannot dedicate 100% of your time, energy, and focus to every one of the commitments above and your MBA at the same time. You can begin applying the prioritization strategies you learn in business management classes to your own busy slate of coursework and assorted commitments.

If you’re still working a part- or full-time job while earning your MBA, you can also begin applying your new prioritization skills at your company right away. Or, you may be able to use your time management strategies to convince your family or current boss that the coursework will not interfere with other commitments.

How much is it worth to you to better manage and prioritize your own resources? The answer to the question may vary, but its result can be compared to the cost of business school to add to its ROI.

MBA benefit #3: career support services

While in school: utilize services your school offers to potentially find, secure, and negotiate your future job title and salary

This may be one of the more obvious suggestions and one that ties more directly to your MBA's financial ROI. For example, your program may cost more in part due to better career support service offerings at your school.

However, students may still easily overlook the value of the career support services included with their MBA.

Career support services can vary widely among schools and MBA programs, including, but not limited to:

  • Job fairs
  • On-campus recruitment opportunities
  • Personalized coaching
  • Workshops and programs focused on particular topics and skill sets
  • Industry-specific clubs
  • Industry-specific classes
  • Business card printing
  • Resume and cover letter assistance

Taking advantage of these career support services inherently strengthens your chances as a job candidate before your graduate. You leave with a stronger sense of what you want professionally and a stronger resume, cover letters, and networking and interview skills to get there.

Earning a better position and higher salary are two key reasons prospective MBA applicants decide to pursue the degree in the first place. An MBA program with a truly high ROI arms its students not only with the hard and soft skills needed for success in the business world, but also offers the services to help its students potentially find, secure, and negotiate their future job title and salary.

Your MBA program can pay for itself before it is done by helping you find a job and maximizing your salary.

MBA benefit #4: professional network

While in school: take every opportunity to establish and follow-up with business connections at your school—from students and teachers to visiting faculty and guest speakers

Your fellow students are likely among the foundational members of your invaluable professional network, even if you’ve been in the workplace for awhile. The connections you make while earning your MBA can last a lifetime and lead to an array of both work and personal opportunities.

Use this opportunity to offer assistance to--and accept it from--your fellow students. You might exchange updates on industry developments, figureheads, or regulations. You may even share tips on job openings, investment deals, or company mergers and acquisitions deals. By establishing and nurturing these relationships before graduation, you’ve already proven yourself a dependable and helpful connection to have.

Aside from students, the professors and faculty working within your MBA program can also be essential members of your professional network. They offer expertise and a litany of career-related experiences you may recall during just the right moment during an exam, team meeting, or client call.

Take advantage of office hours and learn more about your professors and their career paths. These individuals could eventually become mentors and have a more direct impact on your career path in the future. They may also potentially offer access to their own networks of business contacts and experiences.

Thought leaders in your industry and the business world in general may visit your school as public speakers or participants in panels and other events. Make a point to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation with these individuals during or after the event as appropriate.

All of these different individuals can be valuable additions to a mutually beneficial professional network that you can cultivate while earning your degree.

The more you build a meaningful professional network while still in school, the more value and ROI you create from your MBA experience.

MBA benefit #5: listening as a skill

While in school: start applying attentive listening skills to class discussions, job interviews, and when pitching ideas to classmates in group projects

In a client meeting or any discussion with a boss or colleague, being able to not only hear the words but understand the sentiments and context behind them is one of the most invaluable skill sets across industries. By learning to appreciate and master the art of listening, you become a more intuitive thinker and can often more easily solve problems and create benefits for your company and clients.

You can most easily apply the listening skills you acquire (unsurprisingly) to your in-class discussions and when pitching ideas to classmates and hearing their ideas during group projects. You may find yourself remembering more about and understanding more deeply the topics discussed in class, which could boost your testing and writing grades.  If you continue to work while earning your MBA, the same goes for team meetings at your current company.

Finally, these experiences could be direct sources of anecdotes you use in a future job interview to describe your strengths as a good listener and team player. Being a better listener could also make you a stronger candidate for a position even before your graduate simply by demonstrating your ability to follow directions and clearly interpret and answer questions.

Listening is a great way to strengthen your critical thinking and to mine diverse opinions for seeds of greatness for your team endeavors. Though hard to quantify, this is a great way to attain ROI from your MBA while you are still at it.

How to make the most of your MBA while still in school

Making the most of your MBA and enjoying your ROI while still in business school boils down to this: Apply the skills you're building—prioritization, networking, listening, and so on—while you are still in school. Apply them at school, on the job, and in your personal life. Managing your experience in an MBA program may be more similar to effectively running a business than you realize.

If you're undecided about pursuing an MBA, our blog post on 16 benefits of an MBA offers more than a dozen financial and non-financial factors you should consider when calculating the potential ROI of earning an MBA degree.

Calculating the ROI of an MBA 14 steps to see what an MBA might be worth to you. Download Ebook

Posted on May 23, 2018
Themes: MBA Benefits
Marjorie DeGraca
Marjorie DeGraca is the Executive Director of Admissions for Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals.