Going back to school to earn a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) can have a major impact on your future earning potential, but the hardest part may not be the classes. Even knowing it will eventually pay off, graduate school is still an intimidating monetary investment that not everyone can justify.
However, with proper planning, an MBA degree may be more attainable than you think. With options that fit a variety of schedules, little known sources of funding to tap, and proper savings in advance, you too could be walking across the stage with your new master’s degree after just a few years.
Flexible Programs Can Minimize Costs
One beneficial side effect of the move towards encouraging more people to obtain college degrees is the increased availability of options for degree programs that aren’t full time.
A typical MBA program, for example, takes about 2 years to complete, operating on a standard full-time class schedule.
It’s a tried and true method, to be sure, but not everyone can afford to take 2 years off of work to dedicate to classes.
For those people, universities having begun rolling out part-time coursework programs, focusing heavily on the night, weekend, and online courses to better allow students to work and attend school at the same time.
While part-time programs tend to take longer as a result, and can sometimes cost more, the added benefit of being able to continue working often outweighs any added expenses.
There are also numerous fully online MBA programs out there, where classwork is done at your own pace and classroom lectures are conducted via video chats or prerecorded lessons.
The duration of an online MBA program can vary wildly depending on where exactly you decide to attend, so check around and find a program that’s got the right schedule for you.
And of course, when dealing with online universities, make sure that the program is properly accredited in your area to ensure the degree will help you to do what you wanted.
Alternatively, for those who are eager to get their degree as quickly as possible, there are the new “accelerated” degree programs, which can be completed in under 2 years with the dedicated study.
By minimizing the amount of time you have to spend enrolled in school, you can potentially save an entire semester’s worth of tuition and have that MBA ready to start earning for you much sooner.
Accelerated degree programs are best for those who are driven and self-motivated, with the ability to fully concentrate on their courses.
Tuition Doesn’t Have to Be a Barrier
If your concerns are more about the upfront costs rather than cut after you’ve already enrolled, there are still quite a lot of opportunities to ensure you have the funding to follow through on your MBA. For residents of the USA who are planning to return to school, it might be a good idea to set up what’s referred to as a 529 savings plan.
These plans are either classified as education savings accounts or “prepaid tuition” plans, the former of which is an investment account that can be spent on all costs associated with college, including room and board, while the latter essentially buys credits from a particular university at a set rate.
Family can even contribute to your education directly through these types of accounts. Both plans are taxed at lower rates, or sometimes allowed to be deducted, and can be quite advantageous when it comes to saving for a master’s degree.
With a few years of preparation, you may be able to avoid taking on student loan debt entirely.
Another option that’s not as well known as it should be is receiving employer funding. Companies as diverse as Wells Fargo, Apple, and Ford all have programs in place to support employees in their quest to gain an MBA.
While the details of how these programs work vary from company to company, they often involve tuition reimbursement.
If you work for a major corporation, it’s worth contacting their human resources department and finding out if there’s a tuition reimbursement program you could take advantage of.
Companies may have their expectations of students, such as regularly providing copies of transcripts that show target grades are being met, but these requirements are often a very fair tradeoff in exchange for help paying for a degree.
Remember, your business degree isn’t just valuable to you—your employer will benefit from your new-found knowledge as well!
Lastly, there’s one fairly obvious source of potential funding to address: scholarships. While scholarships for master’s degrees aren’t always as easy to find as those for bachelor’s, they still exist, and many are just as underutilized as employer programs.
Special scholarship programs for women, persons of color, and immigrants are available to MBA students both through universities and third-party organizations trying to increase diversity in the upper tiers of business.
On top of that, there are countless scholarships available to all grad students offered through universities, which can pay for some or even all of your tuition costs.
For example, the University of Florida and Arizona State University both offer “full-ride” scholarships to MBA students planning to study full time, with the latter giving these scholarships to every student who is accepted into the school.
Many other schools offer both need-based scholarships, aimed at those who will have the most difficulty paying for their education, and merit-based scholarships, designed as a reward to entice high-performing students to attend.
Individuals can qualify for both and will have that many more opportunities available to them.
While simply applying for a scholarship is better than not, consider brushing up on your writing skills, as many of the most lucrative scholarships will require submitting an essay along with the application.
These essays are often looking for personal anecdotes describing your situation, adversities you’ve overcome, or your performance and achievements in the world of business.
A student who has a way with words and a few stories to tell could become the recipient of quite a few scholarships.
By making use of flexible program options like part-time, online, and accelerated degrees, there’s a university out there that can fit everyone’s lifestyle.
Even the challenges of tuition can be tackled by utilizing methods like education savings accounts, employer funding, and scholarships.
Put it all together, and an MBA may not be as far out of reach as it once seemed—so long as you handle it the right way.