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  • Writer's pictureTrudy Horsting

Is it Smart to Get an MBA Later in Life?

Many people go on to graduate school directly after completing their undergraduate degree. However, you may not know what graduate program you want to pursue right after graduation. You may not even think that graduate school is right for you. It may not be until a few years later or even mid-way through your career that you realize a certain degree would be advantageous.

In this blog post, we break down why getting an MBA later in life may be a smart career move.

Getting an MBA later in life may help an individual to move up the career ladder and improve their salary. It may also be advantageous for those who are searching to switch careers entirely. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that there is no age limit to attend business school. Furthermore, age is not a criterion considered on the application for MBA programs. Although the average age at most top business schools is 27-29, many older applicants find success.

That said, there are a few things to consider prior to making the leap to go back to school. Pursuing an MBA is a large time commitment. It’s also a financial investment. It’s important to take the decision to apply seriously, as well as to carefully consider which kind of program to apply to.

We discuss the challenges of going back to school later in life as well as what benefits can come from an MBA later on in one’s career.

The Challenges of Going Back to School

It can be hard to commit to going back to school in the midst of a full-time career with so many other responsibilities. Many people have families and kids, making it difficult to take one more thing on. It can also be difficult to forgo a salary in order to go back to school full-time. As a result, many older students choose to apply to online or part-time programs so that they can maintain full-time employment and some work-life balance.

Online MBA programs are becoming much more popular and much more common. Online programs offer the same comprehensive curriculum of traditional programs but allow students to learn from their own home or even a coffee shop.

However, even if the program itself offers some flexibility, even the process of applying can be stressful. Applicants have to gather resources from their undergraduate career including GPA and transcripts, take the GMAT, and request letters of recommendation. The good news is, many universities have departments which are dedicated to helping graduates with tasks such as procuring transcripts.

The cost of an MBA can also be daunting. However, there are ways to make the cost of an MBA less prohibitive. Scholarships often don’t have age limits, and some are geared specifically for older students. Some companies will help pay for an MBA if you continue employment while getting your degree. This ensures job security while helping to lower the burden of cost. A 2012 study by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that 77% of individuals participating in the study expected their employer to fund at least part of their MBA, if not the entire bill. This alone can be a very appealing reason to wait to get your MBA. Further there are specific tax credits which assist those going back to school. These credits go to tuition directly.

Another challenge of going to business school is adjusting to life back in a classroom. MBA programs are challenging. Students will study corporate finance, information systems, accounting, data models, and more. Learning in an academic environment after being out of school for years can be difficult, especially when you are balancing your professional career and a family at the same time. You have to be truly motivated to go back to school.

Benefits of Getting an MBA Later in Life

Despite the challenges, there are many benefits of going back to school to get an MBA later in life.

Promotion/Salary Raise

First, getting an MBA can open the door to learning valuable skills and the latest business insights. These skills can improve a student’s job performance and potentially lead the way to promotions. Sometimes an MBA is a requirement for consideration for certain roles. Even if it’s not a requirement, many companies won’t seriously consider a candidate for some positions unless they have a graduate degree.

Many individuals who get an MBA later in life feel as though their career has plateaued. Getting an MBA can lead to professional momentum. This momentum can occur even while an individual is still enrolled in classes. A 2018 survey from the Executive MBA Council found that 40% of individuals received a promotion while they were enrolled in their MBA program and more than 50% of respondents were given new responsibilities.

Perhaps one of the primary reasons individuals may pursue an MBA is to earn a salary increase. No matter what age you are when you get your MBA, an increase in salary is quite likely. A 2020 report found that those who earn an MBA have an average salary of $91,372 and an average signing bonus of $18,546. Comparatively, those with a bachelor’s degree in business earn around $62,000 annually. It is very likely one can earn six figures with an MBA from their base salary and bonuses, if they don’t receive six figures from their base salary alone.

Networking & Relationship Building

Further, an MBA provides many opportunities for networking, collaboration, and relationship building. Students will be surrounded by students of like minds who have diverse backgrounds and unique experiences in the field. Further, students are surrounded by brilliant professors and have the opportunity to meet other experts in the field throughout the program. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to network with distinguished alumni from their MBA program.

One specific networking benefit an MBA can afford is the development of cross-generational relationships. It is very easy to only be surrounded by individuals of a similar age and skillset when in your professional career. Even if you do work with individuals of different backgrounds in your department, you may not collaborate closely. While pursuing an MBA, you have the opportunity to engage with colleagues from other backgrounds, ages, and phases of life. Learning within and from such a diverse group can lead to new insights and the development of fresh eyes.

Dedication to New Challenges

Getting an MBA can also demonstrate to an employer that you are willing to participate in life-long learning and keep up with the ever-changing business world. Receiving an MBA can be quite the resume boost as it equips you not only with the skills an MBA provides but demonstrates that you’re willing to take on new challenges.

Strategizing Within Your Career

Another way a later-in-life MBA can be beneficial is by allowing you to craft your career into exactly what you want it to be. The older you get, often the clearer it is exactly what you want.

An MBA can be incredibly versatile and you can choose the concentrations you want to study and the skillsets you want to learn. This flexibility allows students to strategize their education in a way which will complement the exact career or position they desire.

Many older MBA students become entrepreneurs. An analysis of Census Bureau data by the Harvard Business Review found that the average age of entrepreneurs at the time of business founding is now 42. For high-tech startups, the average age is 47. Aspiring entrepreneurs often begin an MBA program to gain the specific knowledge they need to successfully launch their business.

Jump Start a Career

Another group of people an MBA later in life is advantageous for are mothers or others who have delayed or stopped their career to have children. Women are 22% more likely to experience an interruption in their career within the first ten years after graduation from their undergraduate. Mostly, this is due to having children.

Having children is one of the reasons that women’s salaries are often lower than men. Women who take time off to become mothers have less work experience on their resumes, and it can be harder to jump right into a role after maternity leave or after the children have gone off to school.

Receiving an MBA when you are just about ready to jump back into the workforce can be an incredible opportunity to increase your qualifications prior to applying. Earning an MBA at this stage in life can also provide a needed dose of confidence before you re-enter the ring.

In Sum

There are many reasons one may want to receive an MBA later in life. Although going back to school after being in the workforce can present its own challenges, often the benefits outweigh the risks.

It’s an important decision to consider, and one that could provide many opportunities.


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