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Is an MBA right for you?

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To get an MBA or not to get an's a question that hangs over the heads of many who are hoping to advance in the world of business and finance. The master of business administration degree, which prepares workers for management positions, is the most popular post-graduate degree in the world.

That's according to the QS TopMBA Jobs & Salary Trends Report, published by the QS World MBA Tour, a London-based company that produces recruitment fairs for prospective business-school students.  Hiring for MBAs is on the rise worldwide, according to the report, which surveyed 12,100 companies in 42 countries between March and July 2011.

MBA programs can provide an enriching academic experience and a professional boost. MBA specialties include accounting, finance, business management, marketing, economics, risk management, information systems and technology management.

Before choosing a specialty and a school, you'll need to consider your chances of getting a job -- and the money you're likely to earn. The QS report found that demand for MBAs is particularly brisk in emerging markets in Latin America and Asia. The United States provides the largest number of jobs for MBAs, though job growth is moving at a slower pace here. In this country MBA jobs were up 5 percent in 2010 and 24 percent in 2011, climbing out of a recessionary slump.

"Many of the top MBA programs [in the U.S.] were forced to be more creative in uncovering career opportunities for their students these past two years," Dan Beaudry, manager of QS Global-Workplace, notes in the report. "Although traditional MBA employers have recovered from the drought in 2008/9, we are not seeing a big pick up in financial services recruitment, or any significant upturn in demand among mid-sized companies, which are conspicuous by their absence in 2011."

The report lists the typical salary for an American MBA working for a local firm at $84,164, with an annual bonus of $31,940. Salaries were a bit higher for those working for multinational firms: $87,224, with a bonus of $23,456.

That's generous, but it's also important to consider the cost of the program and the burden of student loan debt you may be carrying for years. The average cost of an MBA program is $40,000 year, or $80,000 for two years, according to Harvard Business School, one of the top MBA programs in the country, provides a useful breakdown of the costs students will incur. The annual bill for a single person, covering tuition, health services, and room and board, rings in at $84,000. Scholarships, loans and other types of funding are often available to cover part of the cost.
If you do decide to pursue an MBA, you'll need to think about where the degree fits into your larger career plans. Many people work for a few years in business or finance, then go back for an MBA to burnish their resumes. Others go straight into MBA programs from undergrad (though business schools often like to see some kind of work experience).

MBAs are attractive to a wide range of non-traditional students, too. For example, science or technology professionals sometimes get MBAs to move into managerial roles within their fields. Aspiring entrepreneurs also seek out MBA programs to gain the business acumen that will make their ventures successful.

Last Updated: 02/11/2011 - 12:24 PM

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