To MBA Or Not? Here’s Why I decided To Go For It
To MBA Or Not? Here’s Why I decided To Go For It
One big question that many working professionals ask themselves is whether or not they should pursue higher education. Almost immediately after graduating with my undergraduate degree I was asked by family and friends if I was going to pursue my MBA.
At the time I had no interest in doing so. After all, I’d just been in school for 16 years straight and was ready to start earning a living with the degree I had. I was adjusting to life as a working adult, and suddenly have rent to pay and a new lifestyle to adjust to. Did I really want the hassle of taking on more school will all the changes in my life?
The other question that I constantly asked myself was what would be the reason to pursue higher education in the first? The most often reason that I heard for going after an MBA was that it would put your career on a ‘fast track’ to the top, as many companies won’t even consider putting someone on their executive team nowadays without one. The MBA has become what the undergraduate degree was 20+ years ago.
Thats all well and good, but since I had no aspiration to get into management at the time — which is a view that persists to this day — that wasn’t much of an incentive for me to get ahead. Especially when compared to the cost of getting the MBA in the first place — which I measure in both dollars and time.
Thus, I stayed far away from the prospects of graduate school. That turned out to be a good move as my career wasn’t hindered at all from not having the degree. Hard work and a bit of lucky timing moved into a much higher paying job within the same company quickly.
However, after a few years passed I began to rethink my decision. The fun of my new job had worn off and I was growing bored. It also becoming an increasing stressful place to work, so I knew that I was unlikely to last long in the industry.
That presented a bit of a challenge for me. I didn’t have many business contacts or experience outside of my industry, which has a way of trapping you in. In addition, I was in a sales position that required full time travel by car, so I did not have a ‘normal’ co-worker situation. I kept in touch with my company through phone calls and emails, which prohibits face to face relationship development. That also hindered my ability to create business contacts in other industry.
I felt stuck. I knew I wanted out eventually, but I didn’t have a clear path ahead of me for how to accomplish it.
That caused me to reconsidering warming up to getting my MBA, as doing so would help out my situation in two ways:
- It would give me a credential to put on my resume. I knew that I wanted to do something related to finance, so I figure that having a MBA in the field would give me a leg up with potential employers.
- It would give me face to face access to a group of students & professors who worked in entirely different industries then I did. That would help me to grow my network of contacts and could potentially open doors.
Suddenly, I had two powerful reasons for wanting to pursue higher education. So I began the arduous process of studying for and taking the GMATs (which is a big ball of no fun) and started to research schools.
Then, I got the ultimate ‘DO THIS NOW‘ signal. My company announced that they were changing their tuition reimbursement process. They would now willing to cover 100% of the tuition costs up to $5,250 per year as long as you:
- Got a “B” or better in the class
- Received approval for the class ahead of time, and
- Stayed at the company for a full year after being reimbursed
I’ve always gotten decent grades without really trying hard, so I figured #1 & #2 would be easy enough. Since I knew I wanted to ride out my job for another few years I figured #3 wasn’t a problem either.
So I went for it.
Which school to choose from?
Now that I’d made the decision to say yes, I now had to pick a school. There is the always the online option available, and I know people that have done that and really liked it, but that didn’t interest me. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to attend college was to meet other other students in person. Building a relationship with someone only through a chat window is difficult, so I narrowed my search to drivable schools.
A quick google search of my area produced a few options, which I narrowed down to just two choices. One was a private school that looked like it had a fantastic program, but its two year program costed $20,000+ each year. That would have put my out of pocket costs at $30,000+, after being reimbursed.
My state University, on the other hand, was far more affordable at a price of just under $2,000 per class. I had to complete 15 class over a 4 year period, which would put the total cost at $30,000 (not an incredible savings over the private school), but it had a few BIG advantages working in its favor.
- Summer classes were half price. Thus, but loading up on my course load over the summer, I could save a bundle.
- You could take a final exam in up to 4 classes on your own time, and if you passed it you did not have to take the class. Sweet!
- I could space out the courses over a 5 year period, so in theory I could use that $5,250 offset 3 or 4 times, versus just twice, to help shave costs.
With all of those factors working it its favor I starting asking around about the schools reputation. Overall it received positive reviews, which was encouraging.
I took the GMATs, applied, got in, and went for it.
How the math shook out
With cost reduction as my main goal for proceeding, I started off with my first class in the Fall of 2012. The $2,000 total cost of the course would be nearly 100% reimbursed (the company didn’t cover fee’s, parking costs, or books), and since the ‘reset’ button for the $5,250 total reimbursement per year started on Jan 1st, I’d be able to start again in the Spring with a fresh course load. That gave me a good starting point.
Next, I decided to go crazy in the summer time, and maximize the tuition discount from taking summer time classes. I ended up knocking out 5 classes at half price. It was a ton of work and my summer’s kinda sucked for a while, but the cost savings were worth it.
Finally, I tried my best to test out of all 4 courses. I rented the books from the library (of course), watched videos, studied hard and spent the 2+ hours on each exam. Sadly, I only passed 2 of the 4 (I literally missed passing another by 1 question). But still, that sped up my graduation and saved me a few thousand.
Here is how everything ultimately panned out.
So, by testing out of 2 classes and taking 5 courses over the summer, I dropped the gross cost of my MBA to just under $20,000.
Next, by spacing the classes out to maximize my reimbursement while I was still at the company, I knocked another $12,000 off of my costs.
I ended up taking the Fall of 2014 off since we just had our 3rd kid (life is hard enough with yet another new baby). I also left the company in March 2015, so I didn’t get to score any reimbursement in all of 2015. Still, coming out the other end with many new contacts throughout the state and a fresh degree for under $8,000 was a bargain.
- It helped fill in the education gaps that existed in my knowledge of finance.
- Several of the professors, who are highly respected in the state, would now be willing to become refineries and vouch for my work ethic.
- I met lots of other students who I made sure to connect with on LinkedIn.
- Homework can be a massive chore when you also have a full time job AND kids at home. I ended up doing a lot of it after 8 PM, when I had already worked all day and spent time with my kids. It was a bit tough at times to muster the energy.
- A lot of the classes were simply a review of what I already knew. Several were boring.
- Unlike undergraduate school the camaraderie amongst students wasn’t as high as it was when everyone lived on campus. When class was over people were looking to get home (me included), not build friendships by heading to the bar afterwards to hang out.
- Classes restricted my schedule. Giving up my free time that would have otherwise been spent with my family/friends was tough.
- It was hard on my wife, who often times had to watch the kids 3 kids for hours on end by herself when I would be in class. No small task at any age, but especially difficult with an infant when you are sleeping like crap for 9+ months
Would I do it again?
Now that its over and done with, thats a tough question to answer. I landed my current spot at the Fool without the MBA helping me, and it was a hell of a lot of work to get done. Thus, I havn’t really benefitted directly from having an MBA on my resume……at least not yet.
Only time will tell if it was worth it, or if it was just an expensive waste of time. Still, having it won’t hurt me, and who knows what the future will hold.
I’m honestly just happy that its over.
What do you think? Is an MBA worth it or not? Let me know in the comments below.