This is the most common question asked by people considering an MBA. To find an answer, we spoke with three students from Fox School of Business MBA programs. We discovered there are many ways to consider the ROI of the MBA, and that salary increase, while important, is not the only one. Here’s what we learned.
Not All About the Benjamins
The salary boost is the main reason cited for pursuing an MBA. But it was about something greater than bank roll for Chris Wallace.
Wallace worked at Comcast and was eager to rise in the company when he began the Fox School Executive MBA program in 2010 (which was partially funded by his employer). His objectives were to improve his financial acumen, leadership skills, and strategic thinking, all of which he claims he did tenfold.
After completing his MBA, he founded Incite, a consulting firm specializing in optimizing sales teams. In 2015, he sold Incite to GrowthPlay, where he now works as a managing director.
“If I didn’t have the MBA skillset, I couldn’t have done this,” he says. “Financially, my MBA paid for itself two years after graduating.”
“But,” he continues, “I don’t evaluate the ROI of the MBA solely from a financial perspective. For me, the knowledge, the experience, and the personal enrichment made it worth it. Some do it just to put it on their resume; you can tell who they are. If you don’t have the hunger and curiosity, you won’t learn as much. Thinking of it as a sterile business transaction is completely missing the point.”
Serving the Public Good
Heather Qader was working with the NAACP, in Washington, D.C., when she realized her colleagues climbing the career ladder had something she didn’t: MBAs. She wanted to climb, too, but was worried it would jeopardize her commitment to community activism and the public good.
She ultimately made the MBA leap. She took student loans to finance 100% of the full-time Fox School Global MBA program, which she completed in 2016. And she found a way to balance the MBA with her altruistic commitments.
“I thought business school was shallow, but I was wrong,” she admits. “It was more collaborative than selfish and individualistic. Now my business acumen is sharper and I have more confidence in business conversations.”
Qader pursued startup job opportunities after graduation, worked freelance for a real estate investor, and did marketing for a friend’s company. Within a year of graduating, she landed the perfect job.
“I’m at the intersection of business and government, which is exciting,” says Qader, now the manager of business development for the City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce. “And I’m able to balance my interests and skills.”
“The ROI depends on what the timeline is,” she says when asked if the MBA was worth it. “The year after? Maybe not. As far as recouping expenses, I haven’t done that yet, but I will eventually. But now I’m in a great place and I love my job.”
The Network Is Priceless
A robust professional network can make or break your career. Jeff Fonda knows this—he also knows earning an MBA is a great way to build one.
“A big part of it was building a network—paying for access to alumni, local and national companies, and recruiters,” says Fonda, who completed the full-time Global MBA program in 2018. “I knew it was the path I had to pave to get to my next job. The education was secondary, but that changed, because I learned much more than I expected. Still, the network was the key.”
Prior to starting the MBA, Fonda had significant work experience. He was the founder and CEO of Earth Literary Project, which has opened 13 public libraries in Uganda, and also the vice president of a textbook company, Bell Tower Books. But he felt more contacts were required to make major moves. The MBA program fixed this.
“Fox helped me jumpstart my network,” says Fonda. “There were tons of events where I was able to meet many employers, alumni, and important industry representatives. Since the number of MBA students was small, we had meaningful individual time and access with recruiters and people I would’ve never met otherwise.”
Fonda’s connections in the program led to an internship with IBM’s prestigious Summit Program. He now works for IBM as a senior client relationship manager.
“My salary will definitely be higher with an MBA,” says Fonda. “And there’s no way I’d be considered for the job I’m taking, or even get my foot in the door, without the MBA network. Without a connection to the recruiter, I never would’ve gotten the job. Fox was the key to landing me here.”
“There’s no doubt,” he continues, “an MBA is worth it.”