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ROI on mba

Higher Degrees Are Still A Solid Investment In Corporate America

If ever there was a time for a Master in Business Administration to pay dividends, this is it. In a troubled economic climate, experts say businesses are more careful about who they hire. Having an MBA opens doors to jobs and salary levels otherwise out of reach, and it provides a layer of protection against downsizing.

When the economy is in a downturn, the employees businesses let go first are the least valuable. People who are investing in themselves, gaining new skills through an MBA, send a signal to the marketplace that they are the one a business wants to keep.

Gerry Keim, associate dean for the W. P. Carey MBA in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, says MBAs are better off in the job market under any circumstances.

“They’re more likely to get hired in today’s environment than people without an MBA, and when the economy is booming and everybody is getting hired, these are the people who tend to move up,” Keim says.

Craig Bartholomew, MBA, vice president/director of the Phoenix Campus of the University of Phoenix, says economic downturn, slow market and rising prices are terms being used to describe the current economic landscape.

“The word recession is looming over everyone’s heads, employers are hesitant to add staff, and one’s climb up the career ladder may look like it is coming to a sudden halt,” Bartholomew says.

Earning an advanced degree goes a long way toward enhancing one’s economic future.

“Initially, it might seem like a risky investment, but trends traditionally indicate that now is the time to gain a competitive career advantage through a higher-education degree,” Bartholomew says. “A slow economy is temporary, but higher education is a long-term investment that can make a professional more valuable today and in the future.”

But Keim doesn’t necessarily believe that having an MBA in and of itself makes a difference.

“The market is very discriminating,” he says. “Having a degree is not enough. Having an MBA from a school with a very strong program is a good investment. You have to have skill sets and mind-sets that enhance your ability to manage in today’s business world.”

Last year, 97 percent of ASU’s MBAs landed jobs within three months of graduation, and the program was on target to match that mark in 2008. In what Keim calls “a very down economy,” salaries and bonuses are in the upper $90,000 area, perhaps even six figures. MBAs are making almost double what they were before entering the program, he says.

One of the key elements of the MBA field involves competition. Schools compete for the best students and the students compete against one another for the best jobs. Competition among students gets especially tense. Earning an MBA from an elite, private university can cost upwards of $120,000, compared to $32,000 for a full-time student at ASU, Keim says.

Some students from elite schools, such as Harvard, wind up owing $100,000 when they graduate.

“Our students graduate with virtually no debt,” Keim says. “They get to take home their entire salary. I’d say that’s a pretty good investment.”

Richard Bowman, area chair for graduate business at the University of Phoenix, a faculty member for 16 years and a financial planner, sums up the value of an MBA, telling his students: “You will run into a point in your career that to move up to the next level, a master’s degree is required or desired. If you want to be promoted to operations manager, director, vice president or general manager, you will not be competitive without an MBA degree or a master’s in general.”

An advanced degree is also vital in the military if an officer hopes to rise above the rank of captain, Bowman says.

Pursuing an MBA online has the advantage of flexibility. Bowman says he has taught students online who were in such places as Iraq, Kosovo, Japan, Great Britain and China. It’s convenient for mid-level managers who travel a lot, he says, but there is little opportunity for interaction with other students and the instructor.

He tells of working mothers who are full-time employees.

“After they put the kids to bed, they can do their master’s degree,” Bowman says.