Justifying the cost of an MBA

7 ways to justify the cost of an MBA to yourself, your partner, and your boss

By Marjorie DeGraca

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to pursue an MBA. But before you can proceed, you may need to think about the price tag and ensure you’re able to justify the cost of an MBA program to yourself, your significant other, or your boss. Choosing to go to business school is a major commitment of time, money, energy, and other resources. The realization of those costs alone can deter many potential candidates who already have steady jobs, partners, or kids.

Need some talking points? You’ll find each of the seven following justifications for the cost of an MBA broken down for three different parties, as applicable:

  • Personal: Benefit to yourself (and your career or entrepreneurial pursuits)
  • Partner: Benefit of your MBA to your spouse or significant other
  • Boss: Benefit of your MBA to your employer and/or direct supervisor

Consider these seven ways you can justify the cost of an MBA to anyone who asks, especially if they depend on you financially.

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How to justify the cost of an MBA degree

1. Higher salary projections

Personal: This may be the easiest and most obvious justification for the cost of an MBA because, once you earn your degree, your potential salary can increase significantly. The cost of an MBA is significant, and paying for the program takes time but finding one with a decent salary-to-debt ratio is a great way to justify earning the degree.

Partner: Debt is a major concern for many people, so include any relevant salary-to-debt ratios to assuage those fears for both you and your partner. Include a comparison of your current salary projections for the next 10 years versus your salary projections after you’ve earned your MBA. A higher salary also ultimately contributes to significant purchases for your family, such as a home, travel, or your children’s college fund, if applicable.

Boss: Those higher salary projections in part stem from the assumption that MBA graduates generate more income for or otherwise bring additional value to their employers. When companies make more money—or become more cost-effective—they have greater flexibility to pay higher salaries to reward high-performing employees. MBA graduates come armed with the business knowledge that can drive income and profits, cut costs, and improve efficiency, which makes their higher salaries a worthwhile investment for employers.

2. Greater mobility

Personal: Earning your MBA degree helps you stand out in a pool of job applicants, which makes finding a job with a desirable wage easier than before. When it’s easier for you to qualify for more jobs, it gives you more options for where and how you choose to earn a solid income and live your day-to-day life.

Partner: Between your higher potential salary projections and having a strong differentiator among other applicants, an MBA can introduce an array of opportunities for places to live and general lifestyle options over time. This also means a greater potential of opportunities for your partner to pursue.

Boss: Greater mobility can also make your boss’s life easier by making you more versatile across departments. You can apply many of the skills and knowledge you acquire while earning your MBA degree to anything from sales and marketing to operations and investments. If your boss needs someone the company can trust to sort out a problem or improve a particular division, an MBA graduate is a strong choice no matter which department or location needs assistance.

3. Better handling of personal finances

Personal: While working through the MBA coursework, you naturally learn more about financial concepts that you can apply not only in the business world but also to your own personal finances. Money smarts is a useful type of intelligence to have no matter your profession, and you can’t help but pick up on many of these money management skills while you earn your MBA.

Partner: This includes a better understanding of budgeting, which leads to greater savings and fewer debts for you and your family. It also means being better at assessing risk, which can benefit any investments you and your partner choose to make.

Boss: Risk assessment, budgeting, and other personal financial concepts are just as applicable to companies as they are to individuals. But having employees who are more knowledgeable and responsible about their personal finances can also mean having employees who are less stressed and distracted and more focused while at work.

4. Increased self-confidence

Personal: MBA graduates regularly mention increased self-confidence as one of the most important and heavily weighted intangible benefits of an MBA. This makes sense, as you naturally feel more confident due to the personal achievement of earning an advanced degree. That increased self-confidence produces benefits, such as a willingness or eagerness to pursue higher-value opportunities or to share ideas in a meeting that catch your boss or investor’s ear.

Partner: That confidence can then spill over into other areas of your life to improve relationships and your ability to identify and express your needs. Increased self-confidence can also impact the level of mental, emotional, and physical intimacy with your partner, or you may find yourself more confident in social situations with your significant other.

Boss: The confidence you exude with your newfound business acumen comes in handy when presenting new ideas to a potential investor, lead, or employee. Your confidence can also shine through during high-pressure, high-stakes business meetings when you have to represent your company and its best interests.

5. Better communication skills

Personal: Communication skills are critical in the business world. But you can also apply many of the communication skills you learn in your MBA coursework to other areas of your life. For example, you may be able to better express your needs and suggestions for solutions when you encounter everyday problems in or outside of the office. Like increased self-confidence, the ability to be a better communicator can significantly benefit many of your relationships, not to mention your ability to navigate daily life.

Partner: Better conflict resolution skills can benefit your relationship with your significant other. You can also better express your thoughts which can enliven your conversations and improve your ability to communicate about almost any topic or relationship issue.

Boss: Communication skills are critical in the business world, from handling complaints from customers or colleagues to overseeing or participating in meetings, whether one-on-one or in groups with other staff or clients. Your employer needs someone who can also reliably communicate the needs and solutions of the company and its clientele at conferences, forums, and other networking or business-related events.

6. Skills applicable to any industry

Personal: As part of your MBA coursework, you’ll learn a number of business-specific terms and strategies. You may even choose to specialize your MBA to focus on one particular industry, such as technology. But as an MBA graduate, you also gain a number of widely applicable skills and qualities, such as:

  • Leadership
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity

These skill sets can help you succeed in your job or business, regardless of your industry, and can also contribute to greater job mobility.

Partner: Qualities like creativity and skills like teamwork or critical thinking are also applicable to everyday life with your partner. Being a better team player or being able to approach problems at home with a sharper mind and more open perspective can also benefit your relationship and your partner’s day-to-day life.

Boss: The general skill sets above benefit supervisors and employers across industries, and your versatility makes their lives easier. When they can rely on an MBA graduate in whom they have confidence, they can focus on other areas or problems that need their attention.

7. A jumpstart to your career

Personal: If you’re like many MBA applicants, you may be feeling stagnant in your career. That feeling can stem from hitting a ceiling in your potential pay rate or possible promotion opportunities. You may feel stuck in an industry or job position that has left you feeling unfulfilled and unmotivated. These feelings can all too easily bleed into other relationships and parts of your life and create unnecessary stress or conflict.

Partner: Sometimes the final push you need is to simply explain how earning an MBA can not only bring you more money and mobility but also more happiness and job fulfillment. It may be impossible to accurately measure the monetary value of happiness and job satisfaction, but this talking point alone may outweigh many others for you and your partner—even higher salary projections!

Boss: Employee morale is critical for companies and their ability to thrive, particularly during the most stressful parts of a company’s financial or calendar year. If you’re feeling stagnant in your career, this can also impact your performance at work. If an MBA can jumpstart your career again and improve your morale in the office, it can directly benefit your employer as well.

If your partner or boss is hesitant about your decision, consider these seven talking points when it comes time to justify the cost of an MBA to those who depend on you. You may find the conversation going more smoothly than you’d imagine. And then you’ll be one step closer to earning your MBA and potentially changing your life—and theirs.

To learn more about how you can (and should) justify your MBA dreams to those who rely on you most, read our post on 16 benefits of an MBA.

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

Posted on June 6, 2018
Themes: MBA Benefits
Marjorie DeGraca
Marjorie DeGraca is the Executive Director of Admissions for Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals.