Could an MBA degree help you earn more?

An MBA degree has become a qualification which many South Africans pursue with the purpose of earning more in their current or future workplace. But is this degree really the ticket to a better earning power? Nicolette Dirk speaks to heads of business schools and recent MBA graduates about the pros and cons of an MBA degree and the impact on career advancement and salary.

What is an MBA degree?

According to the Twenty Recruitment Group, the first MBA programmes, were developed in the United States in the early 20thcentury and focused mainly on finance and accounting. Besides finance, programmes now cover economics, human resources, marketing, IT and business strategy.

What can it do for your career?

Milpark Business School is one of the institutes in South Africa that offers MBA courses at its campuses in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. According to them the average MBA holder can see his/her career accelerate more than 30% faster than someone without an MBA degree.

And the figures do speak for themselves. The salary information on payscale shows that a Chief Executive Officer (CEO), with an MBA degree, can earn between R602,003 and R1, 865, 637. A marketing manager, with an MBA degree could earn between R172,749 and R788,615.

What are the pros of an MBA degree?

Professor Nicola Kleyn, executive director of academic programmes at the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science, says that aside from a higher salary, an MBA graduate will gain relevant knowledge and skills that they will use  to improve their performance and management practice.

“Most companies recognise the value that an MBA candidate can bring as these individuals have good decision-making and critical thinking skills. In our experience MBA alumni receive a significant salary increase on completion of the programme,” says Kleyn.

USB communications manager, Heindrich Wyngaard, says they find that their MBA graduates leave with greater self-awareness than when they entered the school.

“For example, an engineer or accountant  wishing to progress at a managerial level enter the programme in search of functional knowledge, such as finance, marketing and operations. They become aware of their own growth areas, which stretch far beyond the functional knowledge areas,” says Wyngaard.

Professor Frikkie Herbst, head of the MBA programme at USB, says the programme is based on relevant content that can immediately be applied in the workplace.

“Those that invest time, money and effort into this programme, will distinguish themselves from others,” says Herbst.

Edward Paulsen, a contracts manager at Skynet World Wide Express, is currently in his final year of his MBA degree at Stellenbosch’s Business School. Paulsen pursued the degree for better job prospects and says the leadership component of the course has already helped him to identify better with his staff.

What are the cons of an MBA degree?

You need to sacrifice time and be prepared for hard work to complete the program. This is especially taxing for people already in the workplace.

Jaco Bekker, an attorney at Jardim Bekker Inc, is currently studying his MBA on a part-time basis. For him, time and money are one of the biggest sacrifices he has made in pursuing an MBA degree.

Ensure that you have enough money to last you for the duration of your studies. Studying full-time will also mean that you are out of the job-market for that time period. An MBA degree will not guarantee that it will be easy to get back into the market.

If you decide to do your MBA online or through distance learning you could lose the element of networking with your other co-students.  Students like Bekker and Paulsen work with other students on tasks and assignments and this element of networking can be lost with on-line or long-distance studying.

Moneybags says:

Although an MBA degree could help you get a salary increase, it will not guarantee a better job.

Speak to your employers to find out if it will be relevant for your career improvement.

Speak to lecturers involved in the program to find out how the MBA program can benefit you.

An MBA degree is not a cheap one so find out if part-time or full-time classes will be the best way for you to complete your studies.