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Degree can pay off

Despite the high price tag and big-time commitment, an MBA degree can pay big dividends for your career.

Despite the high price tag and big-time commitment, an MBA degree can pay big dividends for your career.

MBA tuition at Canadian schools averages about $25,000 and ranges up to almost $100,000 for EMBA programs at certain schools, meaning if you’re thinking of getting an MBA, you have to think strategically about how getting the degree is going to be an investment in your future.

Richard Powers, associate dean at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, says many employers still see the MBA as a gold standard for top-level management positions.

“Many years ago, a B.A. degree was viewed as a ticket to get an upper-level job — now it seems an MBA is that ticket,” Powers said.

Powers argues that the types of skills taught and polished in an MBA program are fundamental to business, and therefore will remain valuable to most employers.

“Even leaders without an MBA are depending on MBAs to help their companies become successful. You need those skill sets in your business,” Powers said.

Maclean’s magazine regularly uses survey results to rank Canadian MBA programs for quality, and the Financial Times ranks all world MBA programs and shows how much average graduates’ salaries increase after finishing their MBA degrees. The 2009 Financial Times ranking shows several MBA schools in Canada made the top 100 and averaged between 83 and 98 per cent or higher increase in salary post-graduation, including the University of Alberta, Sauder (UBC), Ivey (UWO), Rotman (U of T) and Schulich (York).

If you’re planning on investing in an MBA, do your research to see which MBA school matches your specific program needs.

“Make a list of what you want to get out of an MBA. You need to have a return on investment for your chosen MBA program and that ROI isn’t necessarily financial,” Powers said.

For example, Powers says younger MBA grads frequently opt to use their MBA degrees to secure work at non-profit agencies, where they initially earn less but get to take command in higher-level positions much sooner in their careers than they would in the corporate world.

Deborah Hurst, director of MBA programs at Athabasca University in Alberta, agrees that regardless of how the market fares in the short term, the value of an MBA is likely to stay high but adds that the market meltdown should be a wake-up call to schools that sustainability and ethics should be a big part of any MBA degree.

“I think it’s more important now than ever to have the kinds of skills and abilities that an MBA offers, but the experiences have to be real and you have to build in ethics and sustainability. We’ve got to look at high-level decision making that takes into account ethical frameworks,” Hurst said.

 
 
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