Are You Ready For The Post-Covid Workforce? Learn How Getting an MBA Can Give You a Competitive Advantage

After almost two years in the COVID-19 pandemic, the way we work has changed in numerous ways. What hasn’t changed is the value of higher education. If you are looking for a way out of your current job and want to pursue a master’s degree for a chance at a high-paying career, you may be a prime candidate for a Master’s of Business Administration (also known as an MBA). 

What is an MBA?

An MBA is a terminal graduate-level degree with coursework focusing on building business and leadership skills such as networking, finance, operations management, HR management, economics, statistics, and business strategy. The first MBA program was established by Harvard University in the early 20th century, and the prestige of the degree has only risen since then. 

A typical full-time MBA program lasts two years, but there are also accelerated options for one year programs or flexible part-time programs for individuals who want to maintain their full-time job while attending school. Part-time programs are typically geared toward individuals who want to stay on their career path with their current employer, but are looking to move to upper-level management.

What Careers Are Available With an MBA?

Like with any degree program, part of the value of an MBA post Covid comes from the institution that bestows it. Graduates from top 10 MBA programs can expect to work in C-suite jobs at companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. 

However, even without attending a top 10 program there is a wide variety of jobs in numerous sectors that MBA graduates will be eligible to work. For example, almost 20% of MBA graduates work in the tech industry helping companies such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft with their finances and employee management. 

Your future career path will likely be determined by what coursework you choose to specialize in while working toward your degree. Besides the tech industry, other top sectors for MBA graduates include investment banking with companies such as Goldman Sachs; consulting with firms such as Bain & Company; healthcare management at large hospitals; marketing; real estate management; data analytics; entrepreneurship; and even blockchain analysis. Before starting your MBA, you should consider what sectors you are interested in working in after graduation, and use that information to guide your course of study. 

What is the Cost of an MBA?

According to Bankrate, the tuition for an MBA program can range from as low as around $50,000 to as high as $160,000. Don’t let the price scare you away; fortunately, most MBA candidates don’t pay the full price out of pocket; universities have financial aid options, fellowships, grants, and scholarships, and for candidates who plan on staying with their current employer, there may be employer-sponsored financial aid options. Do note, however, that employer aid often comes with the caveat that the student must attend a specific university (such as Starbucks only covering tuition for Arizona State University) and must remain with the employer for a set period of time to make up for the employer’s investment in their education. 

What Is The Average Salary With An MBA?

The average is less than helpful in the case of an MBA because, as mentioned earlier, several MBA holders work in high positions in multi-billion dollar companies, which skews the average fairly high. That being said, it is still helpful to look at the salary range available to MBA graduates. According to this article, the lowest paid MBA graduates in 2020 received a little more than $35,000 annually (which is only about double the annual minimum wage salary), and the highest received upwards of $400,000, plus bonuses. These wages depended heavily on industry, with consulting firm workers receiving the highest pay and government employees making the lowest pay (although the article does not denote a difference between federal and local government pay). MBA holders are also likely to make 20% more than workers who have only an undergraduate business degree.

What is Job Security Like for MBA Holders?

With all the furloughs and mass layoffs seen during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, it might seem like job security is no longer a guarantee. However, most of the workers who lost their jobs during COVID were either younger workers in service industries or manual laborers. MBA holders most often work in sectors that grew during the pandemic, such as healthcare and technology, or were in positions that allowed them to continue working remotely. Employees who are able to work from home are much less likely to face layoffs than employees who must work in a storefront or other secondary location. Taking that into consideration, MBA holders had, and continue to have, higher job security than those without master’s degrees.  If you’re one of the unfortunate workers who experienced job loss during the pandemic, an MBA can help ensure that you don’t suffer such major insecurity again. 

What Do I Need to Apply for an MBA program?

It’s easy to say you want an MBA, but it can be difficult to take the first step to getting one. Knowing what you’ll need to apply for a program is a good way to begin down the right path.

The obvious first thing you will need to have a bachelor’s degree; however, you don’t need a bachelor’s in business to apply for an MBA. Although almost 30% of MBA candidates come into their graduate programs with a business degree, about 25% of candidates come in with a liberal arts degree. Liberal arts degrees prepare graduates in fields such as economics, political sciences, communication, and graphic design, all of which can have applications in an MBA program and can help narrow down specialization so that all of a candidate’s skills are utilized. 

If you’ve already received your bachelor’s, you should begin narrowing down potential programs that you would be interested in attending. Programs often specialize in specific sectors and will hire professionals in that field to teach courses; knowing early what you want to specialize in will keep you from wasting your time applying for programs that don’t carry the coursework you’re interested in.

After narrowing your list of potential schools (and checking program deadlines), you’ll want to start studying for the GMAT and the GRE (MBA programs will usually ask for one or the other). The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is a specialized graduate test specifically for business school applicants meant to assess an applicant’s skills in analysis, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. The GRE (Graduate Records Examination) is a more generalized test used across multiple disciplines. Scores for both tests are good for up to five years.

Once you’ve taken these tests and sent the results to your potential schools, you may need to start working on your personal statement. A personal statement is a short essay that generally answers three questions:

  • What is your personal history?
  • Why do you want to be part of this program?
  • What do you intend to do with your MBA?

Note that the second section often requires you to tailor your essay for each and every program. Take a look at the available courses and the professors, and mention why you think you’d benefit from working with them. These personal touches tell the reader that you’ve done your research and give you a leg up over applicants who turn in the same generic essay for every program.

At the same time that you’re preparing your essay, you should start getting your recommendations in order. Most programs will require three personal recommendations. If you’re coming straight out of undergrad, these recommendations will most likely be your former professors; if you’re coming back to school from the professional world, you might want to consider asking your supervisor or another higher-up who is familiar with your work. Make sure to ask for recommendations 4-6 weeks before the application deadline to give plenty of time for your recommenders to get their letters in order. 

After you’ve sent in all the required information (and paid the application fee), you should prepare for an admissions interview. It’s a similar process to a job interview, and might touch on some of the topics you brought up in your personal essay, so be prepared to elaborate on what you’ve written. 

It looks like a lot, and truthfully, it is; higher education is always a daunting pursuit. But in the uncertainty of our post-COVID economy, there is no better time to take a chance on yourself and your skills. The value of an MBA has only risen post-COVID. If you are between jobs and have been thinking about pursuing higher education, an MBA is one of the few master’s degrees valued in dozens of career fields. If you are satisfied in your career, but want to move into upper management, an MBA is the strongest way to show your employer your dedication. Either way, getting an MBA is a move that can only make your quality of life better.