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Why Get an MBA? Benefits & Return on Investment

Industry Advice Business

“Should I get an MBA?”

It’s a question today’s professionals ask often—and for good reason. Demand for Master of Business Administration degrees and compensation for graduates has continued to climb over the years. A 2019 press release from the Graduate Management Admission Council reported that the median annual starting salary for MBA graduates in the United States rose to an all-time high of $115,000 per year—more than double that of new bachelor’s degree hires. 

Additionally, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education, a majority of master’s degrees conferred by U.S. colleges and universities each year are for business studies. That has made the MBA one of the most sought-after graduate degrees in the last few years. 

Part of the MBA’s popularity can be attributed to its high versatility as a degree; MBA students learn skills that prepare them for a variety of roles in business management and analysis.

“An MBA provides you with flexibility for the future,” says associate professor Todd Alessandri, faculty director of Northeastern’s full-time MBA program. “It teaches you to see the whole picture of a business.”

What is an MBA Degree?

A Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is a graduate-level degree that equips students with the technical, managerial, and leadership skills needed to build a successful career in the various fields of business. 

MBAs are different from other business degrees in that they help students develop a well-rounded view of how a business functions. (For students who know the exact industry or role they want, Alessandri suggests exploring more specialized degrees, such as a Master of Science in Finance or a Master of Science in Innovation.)

“The MBA provides you with a broad foundation,” Alessandri says. “You might not be an expert at every function, but you’ll be able to see how it all fits together.”

The reasons students choose to enroll in an MBA program vary. For those already in a business career, an MBA can help propel them toward a management position. The core coursework provides general leadership, analysis, and decision-making skills, while degree concentrations, such as supply chain management, entrepreneurship, and finance, allow students to specialize their knowledge.

For others, an MBA is a way to break into the business field. The degree enables career changers, particularly those with some quantitative ability, to make the transition. 


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What Are MBA Programs Like?

The structure and content of coursework in an MBA degree varies depending on the program length and the institution’s standards. According to The Princeton Review, traditional full-time MBA programs generally take two years to complete, and include coursework that dives deeply into specific business management topics. These include:

  • Scientific and experiential studies of effective management practices, trends, and outcomes
  • Best practices surrounding finance and accounting functions, as well as standard accounting principles
  • The structure of the corporate supply chain from both a local and global perspective, and concerns surrounding sustainability and efficiency in international markets
  • Foundational principles of entrepreneurship and marketing, which provide frameworks for starting new businesses, bringing products to market, and growing through targeted investments

Full-time programs often offer students experiential learning opportunities so that they have the chance to put what they learn in the classroom into practice and gain confidence in their leadership skills. Northeastern’s Full-Time MBA program, for example, includes a paid corporate residency at leading businesses in a student’s field of interest.

As an alternative to the traditional format, many students opt to complete their MBA degree online or part-time. Online and part-time MBA programs offer the same level of insight from knowledgeable faculty members and fellow students, but extend a greater level of flexibility in terms of course format, structure, and time to completion.

As such, online and part-time MBA programs from accredited universities often align more closely with the lifestyles of working professionals who want to push their futures forward without pausing their careers. Students are able to apply what they learn in class to their current jobs and leverage the experience for real-time career acceleration. Without geographical restrictions, one could reasonably expect to complete online MBA degree coursework at any time of day and from any location. In comparison, an on-campus part-time MBA program can offer the network-building and community connections similar to that of a full-time program.

Each of these formats has its own set of advantages that make them more suitable for different types of students. By evaluating your specific needs and professional goals, you can determine which MBA format is right for you.

What Are the Benefits of an MBA?

With an MBA, graduates are better equipped to identify career opportunities, build new connections with like-minded individuals, and drive innovation in their chosen field. Here are some of the top benefits of an MBA.

1. Competitive Salaries

With the knowledge and connections gained from an MBA degree, graduates are qualified for promising careers. According to U.S. News & World Report research, 2018 graduates from top-ranked MBA programs in the U.S. reported an average salary of more than $102,495.

The impact of an MBA can increase vastly depending on the graduate’s characteristics and career goals. U.S. News found that MBA graduates who entered management consulting, for example, command salaries nearly $73,000 higher than those who entered the lowest-paying industry. But even MBA holders from that field—nonprofit management—could still earn a salary much higher than the national average for other careers.

In general, most students graduating from accredited MBA programs face strong prospects for employment in any industry. Eighty-four percent of those who graduated from the 131 MBA programs ranked by U.S. News found employment within three months, according to a survey of recent graduates.

2. New Connections

A strong MBA program connects students with professionals who are at the top of their field as business leaders or entrepreneurs, putting them on track to excel in their own careers upon completion of their degree.

“The connections you make [in your MBA program] are, for many, the single most valuable aspect of the MBA,” according to U.S. News contributor Stacy Blackman. “Your alumni network helps you stay connected to the university, as well as to countless professional opportunities you can tap into throughout your career.”

3. Specialized and Diversified Career Options

With the ability to declare a concentration in one of several specialized fields of study, MBA graduates complete their programs with the skills and experience to fit into niche roles or high-growth industries. This can prove particularly helpful for those interested in growing fields like technology or healthcare. 

For example, students interested in pursuing an MBA from Northeastern choose two concentrations from the options below:

  • Business Analytics
  • Corporate Innovation and Venturing
  • Entrepreneurship
  •  Finance
  • Healthcare Management
  • International Business
  • Leading People and Organizations
  • Marketing
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Computer Science

The right degree can also provide an easier entrance into a more specific field of study. For example, more MBA candidates are finding success in emerging fields like sustainability and renewable energy.

What’s the Return on Investment for an MBA?

In a survey of career outcomes for MBA graduates, U.S. News found that a typical student earned around $100,000 a year after completing an MBA degree. Compared to the costs involved in obtaining that degree, the estimated return on investment for most MBA programs was high across the board. For example, U.S. News found that some highly ranked institutions boasted average MBA graduate salaries that were seven times higher than the estimated total cost of their respective programs.

The Princeton Review cited additional findings on the ROI of an MBA degree with similarly positive results. According to this analysis, the ROI of an MBA degree—calculated as the difference between the average 10-year earnings of a bachelor’s degree-holder and an MBA graduate—could be as high as 300 percent.

Whether earned full-time, part-time, or online, an MBA degree grants an opportunity to propel your career forward. An MBA program from Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business can give graduates access to valuable new career prospects with a high degree of flexibility. Designed for working professionals, the program makes it easier to prepare for new business ventures without putting life on hold.

Is an MBA Right For You?

Each MBA program is different and offers its students a unique set of benefits. Choosing the program and format that is the right fit for you will require a thorough evaluation of your personal and professional goals, and how each program is equipped to help you achieve them.

Northeastern specifically is known for its strong employer relationships. Partners find value in the university’s experiential learning model, which combines academics with professional practice to provide students with real-world, hands-on experience. Several companies look to recruit Northeastern MBA students and alumni for that reason—because they’ve proven they can produce immediate and lasting results.

In an age where the MBA job market is better than ever, applying for your advanced business degree could be the next best step for you to take in your career. 


Explore Northeastern’s graduate business degrees or connect with an enrollment advisor to learn more about our Online, Part-Time, and Full-Time MBA programs