Frustrated businessman at desk

Disadvantages of MBA

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a popular degree proudly held by many CEOs and other business leaders. However, this qualification has its dark side. Graduates sometimes end up tired, poorer, and disappointed with their decision to study for the degree.

Cons of an MBA

The MBA is an expensive degree that will almost inevitably cost you a lot in terms of time and money. For it to pay off, you need to be at the right stage in your career and overcome any difficulties. There are real risks that it won’t help your career and may effectively be overlooked during job interviews.

1. Foregone salary

The biggest downside of an MBA is the salary you forgo, unless you can find a way to maintain your earnings. If you’re not being sponsored by your employer or studying part-time online, you may need to sacrifice at least a year’s salary.

2. Cost of your time

An MBA is a big time commitment. It usually takes at least a year of full-time study, or two years if you’re doing it part-time. 12 months is the absolute minimum length in Australia. This means for a significant period, you’re tied up with studying and can’t easily take on other education or career opportunities.

3. Tuition fees

MBA programs can be expensive. Online degrees range from $15K to $45K USD. In Australia, the cost of an MBA starts at around $35K to $45K AUD. The most prestigious programs can be much more, making it a hefty financial commitment to consider.

4. It’s a marathon

An MBA is a long-term commitment, often taking 1.5 to 2 years or more. It’s a test of endurance, requiring you to stay focused and motivated over a lengthy period. This extended time frame can be challenging, especially when balancing studies with personal and professional life.

5. It takes discipline

Discipline is crucial for an MBA, which is a hard degree in some ways. You need to manage your time effectively and stay organized, often juggling studies with work or family. Staying on top of coursework and maintaining the motivation to study regularly is essential for success.

6. It may not pay off

While there’s no guarantee with any education, an MBA might be seen as a relatively risky degree. It’s an investment in your future as a manager, but there’s no certainty that this will materialize. Other degrees are arguably less risky because they qualify you for specialized professional roles like being an accountant, teacher, engineer, or software developer.

7. Employers may not rate it

There’s a risk of struggling to find a job post-graduation if you don’t have complementary skills and experience. An MBA carries weight when it’s from a prestigious business school or bolsters an already strong resume. Don’t expect the degree alone to secure you a good job. Employers usually look for more than educational attainment.

Related: Why Study an MBA? 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

FAQs on the Disadvantages

Questions? Answers!

Does an MBA hold value?

Holding value over time is not a concern with MBA degrees, indeed, it’s an area of strength. Unlike other masters degrees that often focus on building technical capabilities in a particular discipline, MBAs are about gaining principles and approaches to leadership.

The degree is just as relevant when you are going for your first management job as it would be perhaps 15 years later when applying to be a CEO. Most graduates never leave the degree off their CV or resume and continue to highlight this achievement until they retire.

It is a different story with many other master’s degrees. That Master of Information Systems degree someone earned 10 years ago may have little to no relevance to their current role. Degrees can easily become outdated and useless, but generally not MBAs.

At what point is an MBA not worth it?

In my mind, there are three clear points where you might be considering an MBA but should not proceed. It’s not worth it when you (a) lack professional standing (b) are locked in your career with little prospect of rising into higher roles or (c) cannot carry on with your studies for personal reasons.

Understand that an MBA works its magic when you are on a career arc that is leading you towards managerial and executive roles. The optimal time for it is after you’ve established yourself as a professional in your field, whether that’s a business discipline, engineering, human resources, public service, or something else. An MBA is a management degree for people who are ready to manage.

I’ve also seen many established professionals who I would not recommend the degree for because it won’t make a difference. To be brutally honest, a significant proportion of people are not cut out for being a senior manager, for any of numerous reasons, or are at least not perceived as executive material. If that’s the case, there may be no degree that could give you the boost you need to propel your career to new heights.

Another circumstance is being in the midst of studying for the degree but you are finding it too difficult or time consuming. Hopefully, you have the option to leave with a lower-level graduate qualification. In Australia, you can receive a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration aftert completing four subjects or a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration after 8 subjects.

What are the disadvantages of online MBA?

While an online MBA is convenient and allows for part-time study, it does have some drawbacks. One disadvantage is the limitations around networking. In-person interactions are lacking and hard to replicate with virtual classes, forums and discussions.

Maintaining motivation and persistence in an online study environment can also be challenging. Without the structure and community of a traditional classroom, students may struggle with self-discipline and motivation. This can lead to a higher likelihood of dropping out or underperforming, especially if you are unaccustomed to self-directed learning.

A slight concern with online MBAs is the potential for a perceived lack of educational quality. Not all prestigious business schools offer online MBA programs, which can lead to perceptions of a lower standard compared to on-campus programs. However, employers respect online MBA degrees for the most part, treating them as equal to on-campus degrees.

Related: Is an Online MBA Worth It?

What are the downsides of a part-time MBA?

The major disadvantage of studying for an MBA part-time is that your week becomes filled with work and study. You’re effectively adding around 10-15 hours of study time per week (1.5 to 2 hours a day) to your schedule. That can dramatically cut into the amount of spare time you have for living life.

The only reason I did my postgraduate studies full-time was because of this consideration. I didn’t want to devote my life wholly to my career. However, good online study options were unavailable back then and I probably would opt for online learning today.

If considering part-time study, first outline what your weekly schedule might look like. If you are comfortable with your work-study-life balance, go for it. Part-time study, while hard, allows you to continue advancing your career and earning an income without interruption.

Related: Study Planner and Timetable Template

Follow Andrew Lancaster:
The director of Lerna Courses, Andrew Lancaster, is experienced in analytics, technology, and business development. He has a PhD in Economics from the Australian National University. His writing helps people make informed choices about education and careers. He covers a range of topics, including university education, psychology, and professional growth.