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How to Tell If an MBA Program Is Worth the Cost

Enrolling in an MBA program is a major life decision. Not only are these programs demanding academically, they often require a significant investment of time and money. That being said, earning an MBA can bring with it some major rewards, especially for those looking to advance professionally. But how do you know if the cost of an mba will be worth it?

We asked faculty members from three prominent business schools what advice they had for students on the fence about pursuing an MBA. All three recommend looking at the degree as an investment in your career. While the price may seem steep now, the potential ROI could pay off big in the long run. Here's what the experts have to say:

For prospective students undecided about applying due to the cost of an mba, what advice would you offer them?

Stephanie Fujii, UC Berkeley Haas School of BusinessUC Berkeley Haas School of Business

Stephanie Fujii, Assistant Dean for full-time MBA program and Admissions at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business

"An MBA degree requires an enormous investment of your time, financial resources, and of giving up what you are currently doing. Therefore the most important questions you need to ask yourself are: What exactly do I want to get out of my MBA experience? Is an MBA a requirement for my career goals? What kind of experience do I want to have in business school? What kinds of friendships do I want to make for the future?

Be very honest with yourself. Spend time on answering these questions. It will help you write your application essays. And, more importantly, if your goals and expectations are clear, it will make it much easier to determine which MBA programs are right for you. Once you have selected your personal top program choices, you can weigh the cost-benefit analysis more systematically.

Most alumni from top-ranked programs repay their financial investment within a few years of graduating. If your MBA program addresses your particular interests and reflects a culture that aligns with your values, you will be able to make the kinds of connections that will give you a greater return on your investment. Think about the MBA as a long-term investment, not just somewhere you'll hang your hat for the next two years.

But it all starts with you setting clear goals and expectations for your MBA experience."

Gerardo A. Okhuysen, UC IrvineUC Irvine

Gerardo A. Okhuysen, Associate Dean of Masters Programs at the Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine

"This is a wise question and a useful one. I would recommend carefully weighing the financial benefits of the particular MBA you are considering. As a prospective student you can ask the programs you are considering for information on salaries upon graduation. While this information is not perfect, it can be a useful source of information to help you determine the right path to follow."

LaVelle Mills, West Texas A&M UniversityWest Texas A&M University

LaVelle Mills, Associate Dean of Graduate Business Programs at the College of Business at West Texas A&M University

"For many MBA students, this will be their final professional degree. I think it's important that they make sure the program provides them with the opportunity to grow and develop in ways that will help them achieve their future career goals. By researching several MBA programs they can compare both content and costs and select the one that best fits their career goals and budget.

As an observation, students who contact us about the MBA@WT degree program, in addition to affordability, they typically mention the importance of AACSB accreditation, U.S. News & World Report rankings, and access to full-time, terminally qualified faculty."