In the current economic downturn, many professionals are debating whether the cost of an MBA is worth it. Considering what an MBA costs these days, it’s easy to see why. Earning the degree from a top two-year program can add up to as much as $238,502 in tuition and living expenses.
No, that’s not a misprint. That’s the latest NYU Stern MBA cost, and it’s up more than $17,550 (nearly 8%) from four years ago.
If you want to spend less and achieve results faster, consider investing your money in MBA alternatives. Here’s everything you need to know about rising MBA costs and alternative career paths.
What Does An MBA Cost at Top Programs?
These MBA costs are based on 2020-2021 data from the schools. If one year is listed on the school’s website, we multiplied by two. The price tags reflect both tuition and associated costs like living expenses, books, and supplies.
A full-time MBA program requires mid-level professionals to leave the workforce and forgo their salaries for two years. That means the total MBA cost — one that includes the opportunity cost involved — is around $500,000.
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The MBA Costs Too Much — Consider These 3 MBA Alternatives Instead.
For many aspiring executives and entrepreneurs, spending $200,000 (or more) on an MBA may simply be out of reach. Others may wonder how that money could be invested instead.
So let’s do the math and see: What can the cost of an MBA program get you if you invest the funds differently? What are common MBA alternatives?
Instead of investing in the cost of an MBA (around $200,000), you could put your funds toward these alternative paths:
#1: A Mini MBA, with $198,000 left over to invest in lifelong continuing education.
Growing in popularity, mini MBAs are a much faster (think weeks or months to complete) alternative to the traditional two-year MBA program. They’re also a lot cheaper. Some mini MBAs, such as the 2-month Business Intensive course, are available for as little as $1,500.
That’s $198,500 less than a traditional MBA, leaving you with the funds to complete nearly 100 mini MBAs over the course of your lifetime. That’s one per quarter over 25 years!
By investing in lifelong continuing education, you will keep your skills fresh over time. You will keep exposing yourself to new areas of business and new networking opportunities that will sustain your growth and relevance for the long haul.
#2: Business conference attendance and professional organization dues for decades.
Top leadership conferences, like Forbes Under 30 Global Women’s Summit and other annual favorites, offer unmatched opportunities to make valuable business connections and get up to speed on the latest industry trends. The same holds true for professional networking groups and organizations.
Depending on the event or association, the price tag ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. So, there’s the potential to take the $200,000 cost of a typical MBA program and invest it in a lifetime of programs.
For instance, you could pay for 400 conferences that cost $500, and attend more than 15 professional events annually over the course of 25 years.
#3: Your own side hustle or business.
There’s no way around it. The reality of launching a startup is that it takes money.
And the truth is, most founders get started using their own cash. In fact, more than three quarters of small businesses rely on self-funding—i.e. using their personal savings to launch their companies. Only 1% of startups ever receive outside venture capital funding.
As such, if you’re thinking about launching your own venture, finding ways to set money aside and bootstrap your business will likely be key to your success.
With one third of small businesses getting off the ground with less than $5,000, you could take that $200,000 MBA cost and have enough money to test up to *40* different business ideas (Not that we’d necessarily recommend doing that, given that the typical startup needs more capital to get started.)
Earning an MBA can certainly be costly. Thankfully, it’s not the only way to propel your career, expand your network, grow your business knowledge and skills, or launch your own business. There are many other alternatives that cost a lot less, making the reality of becoming a business leader much more attainable for professionals of all backgrounds.
Paulina Karpis is the co-founder and CEO of brunchwork, a co-learning company that delivers modern business education. brunchwork teaches thousands of millennial professionals annually via a online business class, membership, and a popular newsletter.