Is an MBA Worth It?

An MBA can boost a career, but it costs time and money. Here’s how to decide whether to head back to school.

Written by Nellie Wartoft
Published on May. 03, 2023
Is an MBA Worth It?
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If you are a tech professional, you should be worried about your job. Tech companies laid off over 150,000 workers in the first quarter of 2023, a figure that nearly eclipses total tech layoffs in 2022.

Experts are predicting that tech sector layoffs will continue, meaning that now is the time for tech professionals to gain the qualifications they need to boost job security. Is getting an MBA the answer?

MBA Pros and Cons

PROS: An MBA can help you gain business knowledge outside your tech specialty, build a professional network and help if you aspire to a management role. 

CONS: MBAs can be expensive, they take time to earn, and MBA classroom knowledge can seem outdated compared with the speed at which tech innovates.

In the past, many tech pros have looked to a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree to bolster their tech resume, believing an MBA delivers the valuable know-how and acumen for advancing in a tech career. But does it? Here’s what to consider before spending money and time on an MBA.

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MBA Benefits

The main benefit that tech professionals gain from an MBA is professional networking. MBA students join a community of tech professionals, many of whom are pursuing similar career goals. In addition, they get access to a network of school alumni and a faculty of professors who can share real-world experience and industry connections.

The network development that an MBA provides can be a big help to tech pros early in their careers, with stats showing that networking alone is responsible for filling as many as 85 percent of all jobs. After all, in many ways, networking is all about who you know. 

Tech entrepreneurs and those in business development often rely on the connections made through networking to advance their business interests. Establishing and fostering those connections can help them achieve their management ambitions.

In addition to these benefits, MBA programs can allow tech professionals to improve their knowledge and skills around emerging technologies used in day-to-day business operations, such as AI and logistics solutions. This can help them improve their confidence when going into a job interview, which could lead to them receiving a more competitive salary. 


MBA Drawbacks

To start, they are expensive. Tuition costs for an MBA range from $30,000 to $120,000. If getting your MBA means taking time away from work, you may need to add lost job income to the equation, which will likely only dissuade you further from pursuing an MBA. 

More than half of MBA degree programs don’t show a positive return on investment for students, according to a report from Inside Higher Ed. Despite the MBA still being the most popular master’s degree in the United States, more than 50 percent of those in an MBA program will experience a financial net loss for obtaining the degree.

The blazing pace of tech also creates problems regarding the utility MBAs can provide. From the moment they are produced, legacy MBA classes and the case studies they rely on are already outdated, delivering insights that are irrelevant and sometimes misleading. Similarly, although MBA programs can provide general business knowledge, they do not send graduates into the workforce with the latest and most relevant tech knowledge.

Artificial intelligence is one example of the kind of disruptive technology that today’s tech pros must contend with. AI’s development has been moving at breakneck speed over the past year, impacting virtually every industry. However, today’s MBA graduates most likely have had zero relevant study on the topic.

Standing out in today’s tech world requires a higher level of learning, and to thrive, today’s tech professionals must have an always-on learning routine. Without constant updates, they will struggle to manage disruptions, hit targets and showcase their value to the organizations that employ them.

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MBA Issues and Solutions

As should be expected, new technologies are emerging to address the problems with MBA programs. Social learning, which combines in-the-moment insights, relevant subject matter expertise, and a supportive community, is one example of an innovative approach now available to tech pros for performance improvement and career development. 

Hybrid programs that combine online and in-person learning are also providing more flexibility to MBA students, and 70 percent of employers believe that these degrees are just as good as those earned from traditional MBA programs.

While the goal of an MBA is to provide value through advanced learning and relevant networking, the reality is that they rarely deliver this value. The formal structure of MBA programs simply can’t keep pace with the developments in the tech space, and the sheer costs and net ROI loss of these programs hinder those most in need of career development.

Tech professionals must accept that locking into a costly, two-year commitment in order to learn outdated information is not the right solution for today’s tech landscape. The future of work will be built on communities of professionals learning from one another via social technology that provide a much greater and quicker impact at far lower costs.

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