With $70,000, would you obtain an MBA or Start a Business?

The median starting salary of new MBAs hit $100,000 according to an annual survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council

Perceived Benefits of MBA

With the rise of the Information Age, alternate paths to technical business prowess have proliferated. But, people tend to believe that there’s no substitute for the leadership savvy, decision-making and strategic skills that an MBA degree provides. The following are some of the perceived benefits of an MBA degree

  1. Career advancement and opportunities
  2. Higher earning power
  3. Employer support for growth
  4. Become business savvy
  5. Leadership in a field
  6. Powerful network
  7. Job security


These are a few of the numerous benefits of an MBA program. But, at what cost are they acquired, apart from the academic challenges. The cost of a two-year tuition in top American universities as gathered in a post by John A. Byrne are presented in a table below

School Total MBA Cost Two-Year Tuition Percent Getting Aid Amount of aid/loans
1. Columbia $168,307 $106,416 55% $115,716
2. Pennsylvania (Wharton) $168,000 $108,018 76% NA
3. Stanford $166,812 $106,236 75% $115,954
4. Chicago (Booth) $165,190 $101,800 NA NA
5. Dartmouth (Tuck) $162,750 $101,400 80% $90,150
6. MIT (Sloan) $160,378 $100,706 71% $130,418
7. Harvard $158,800 $97,200 63% $113,038
8. New York (Stern) $157,622 $94,572 NA $114,628
9. Northwestern (Kellogg) $156,990 $102,990 66% $111,782
10. Yale School of Mgt. $151,982 $99,800 70% $87,182
11. Carnegie Mellon $149,400 $105,000 81% $88,240
12. UCLA (Anderson) $147,278 $97,854 80% $85,744
13. Berkeley (Haas) $144,746 $95,274 68% $67,052
14. Cornell (Johnson) $142,404 $98,544 70% $87,182
15. Virginia (Darden) $142,000 $99,000 80% $110,160
16. Michigan (Ross) $141,210 $107,600 72% $107,228
17. Duke (Fuqua) $137,744 $95,920 81% NA
18. UNC (Kenan-Flagler) $136,860 $93,176 73% $87,924
19. Emory (Goizueta) $130,280 $84,800 85% $90,534
20. Texas-Austin (McCombs) $127,144 $90,256 75% $97,740

Source: Poetsandquants.com

The arguments for and against spending such relatively large sums of money on an MBA are many. And I think whether or not it’s affordable or expensive depends on several factors including the earnings of the individual paying for it. Whether this makes a good investment or not, also depends on which part of the globe you find yourself, among other factors. Let me bring this to Ghana, then.

In Ghana the cost of an MBA is between US$5,000 and US10,000 depending on the university, programme type (weekend, evening, regular) and sometimes the course offered. This is not affordable by many Ghanaians. You’ll usually have to work and save for at least four years before you can go back to school for your MBA, – if you don’t have rich parents to pay your MBA fees and your employer doesn’t have a human resource development policy of paying for the MBA fees of its employees.

Now back to my title question; given the benefits of an MBA, would you pay $70,000 for one? Or you’d rather start a business now. Would you be able to grow this $70,000 beyond the earning power that a top American or UK university will give you at end of the MBA program? Unless you’re an experienced entrepreneur or businessman, I would say no.

In Ghana, $70,000 is a lot of money. An amount that an MBA awarded in Ghana, and foreign-awarded MBAs may not be able to repay in two years, if they were to start a career in Ghana. It is an amount that many jobs cannot payback in two years. It is against this backdrop that you’d want to consider doing business with your $70,000 rather than pursuing an MBA degree. With good expertise, passion and organisation, you’ll be able to double this amount in two years if you choose the right business to do. There are many businesses in Ghana that can return 50% or more in a year if you were to invest GHc268,000 (the cedi equivalent of $70,000).

There is risk in everything. You will face risks if you invest your money in business or pay for your MBA. None of them guarantees a return. What you’re faced with is reducing the risk in the face of steady and high returns. Which one has a bigger risk? “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” —Mark Zuckerberg. Our goal is to manage risks, not avoid them, if we want to advance in our chosen fields.

Either path you choose, it all depends largely on your efforts. Hard work and determination would surely get you to the land of success. “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” —Colin Powell