Why I should have an MBA degree

WANTING AN MBA IS a good thing. It suggests that you are ambitious and willing to push yourself to achieve a goal. But before starting on your application, you should examine what an MBA means to you. Be clear of your motivations and goals before embarking on the extremely challenging and expensive application process. All top business schools will expect you to address why you want an MBA. They each will word this question differently, but what they want to understand is what your career goal is and whether an MBA is necessary to help you achieve it. Equally important to theMBA Board is understanding whether your career aspirations reflect your true passion or whether they are simply the way for you to get your ticket punched. The issue of fit is also a very important one to business school Admissions Boards. They want to ensure that their program is right for you and that you are right for their program.


Responses to why you want an MBA often fall into four categories:
financial reward, intellectual challenge, personal development, and professional advancement. Let’s examine each and discuss how Admissions Boards view them.

Financial Reward

There is no doubt that the return on investment of an MBA (especially for top MBA programs) is very high. A glance at career brochures or websites of leading MBA programs reveals that after graduating from business school the average starting salary for the newly minted MBA is about $100K. And these data do not include the bonuses that can often be in the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the industry. You don’t have to be a math whiz to recognize that the MBA offers significant financial reward that pays for itself. If this is your main reason for pursuing an MBA, that’s fine—but I recommend keeping it to yourself. The MBA Board already recognizes that financial reward is one of the key reasons people choose to study for an MBA. Stating this reason as your main driver for an MBA communicates a superficiality that doesn’t help your candidacy. You are better off focusing on a deeper reason like personal or professional fulfillment.

Intellectual Challenge

For many candidates, the draw of the MBA is the intellectual stimulation and challenge that they will experience in the classroom. Without a doubt, the MBA builds skills and equips students with new insights to business issues. The joy of learning new material and concepts makes the MBA attractive to candidates who welcome the intellectual and invigorating conversations inside and outside the classroom.

Stretching yourself intellectually is a fine rationale for why you want an MBA. However, this rationale can raise flags for the MBA Board if you have multiple graduate degrees but no work experience; candidates with this background can be seen as “degree collectors” or “perpetual students.” Your comfort level operating in the real world may be called into question. So, regardless of what your background is, it is important to balance your quest for knowledge with practical experience.

Personal Development

The personal development justification for the MBA is often tied to professional benefits as well. The draw for many people who chose to pursue the MBA is the personal confidence and credentials that an MBA gives them. As an MBA alumna phrased it, “My MBA gave me the courage to think bigger, step farther, and pursue my lifelong dream…” The one thing that mostMBAs have in common is an ambitious spirit and a desire to achieve something significant—the teacher who wants to create charter schools across the nation, the cellist who plans to transform her national music conservatory in Bulgaria, or the business analyst who wants to run an emerging market hedge fund. What all these individuals have in common is a desire to have greater impact beyond where they are in their lives. The confidence that an MBA provides allows many individuals to achieve significant goals, and this remains a major driver for many who seek a graduate business education. One can’t talk about the personal development impact of the MBA without addressing the incredible social network that surrounds the MBA experience. Through lifelong friendship and diverse networks, many MBAs are able to achieve their goals. It is no surprise that personal development is a popular rationale given by many applicants for why they want an MBA. This rationale makes complete sense to the Admissions Boards.

Professional Advancement

The majority of applicants indicate that they are seeking an MBA for the career development benefits. More specifically, they say that they want the MBA to increase their understanding of the business world. This is a popular and compelling reason to give for why you want an MBA. For some candidates, an MBA is a necessary next step to jump-start a stalled career. For others, they have been bypassed on promotions because they lack the degree. And then there are those applicants who are ready for a significant management role but who lack some fundamental skills that would be necessary to succeed in the new position. Entrepreneurs also find the MBA environment to be a great value in building their skill set and helping them refine their business model, reposition their product, and learn more successful ways to scale an already successful enterprise.

However, it is not enough to say you plan to use the MBA to change your job. You must be able to show that you have made a significant impact in your current career. It is also important that you present strong evidence based on your brand that you have what it takes to make a career switch. Regardless of whether you will change careers or remain in your current industry, it is acceptable to use professional development as your justification for why you seek an MBA.