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Aubrey Chapnick is a strategy professional in the telecommunications and technology industry, with previous experience in the financial services sector.

Five years after graduating with a master of business administration degree from the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business, I want to revisit a basic question I asked when I finished: Was the degree worth it? A lot has changed since I finished my program, and the world looks different now, but as with my first article on this topic, I wanted to examine the three aspects I first addressed to evaluate the value of the degree to date: the numbers, the experiences, and the risks.

The numbers

In 2017, I deemed my MBA to be a good financial investment and continue to believe this today. Since finishing the degree, my pretax salary (excluding variable compensation) has grown 14 per cent a year compounded and is 2.4 times higher than before I started the program. My pre-MBA salary was starting from a low base, so that factor must be taken into consideration when looking at salary gains.

I’ve also managed to recoup the full $125,000 cost of the program through a combination of aggressive saving and investing, leveraging knowledge I gained during the MBA. Looking back at my initial payback projections, I ended up generating a better result than expected, but this was due in part to the strength of the equity markets since 2017. If I hadn’t put the money I saved into the markets, or if I didn’t generate the returns I did, my payback timeline would likely have been more in line with my original projections (10 to 12 years, rather than five years).

The experiences

Since my previous article focused on the experiences I had while doing my MBA, I’ll focus this section on the career experiences I’ve had since completing it. It has taken much trial and error to figure out where I want to ultimately take my career. I’ve tried different things and have moved jobs more frequently than I would have thought. The MBA has provided me with a versatile set of knowledge and skills. That, along with luck and help from my network, enabled me to get a taste of investment banking, equity research, consulting, product management and strategy, organization design, internal controls and corporate development across the financial services and TMT (technology, media and telecom) industries.

While I’ve enjoyed learning about so many fields, it has, admittedly, made my professional life more challenging as most employers look for sustained areas of focus (especially right after graduating). The fact that I have prioritized breadth versus initial specialization has likely turned off some prospective employers, but by using the breadth of knowledge and skills I gained through the MBA, I was able to make interesting lateral jumps and try things out. I continue to believe these decisions were right for me, but this kind of path may not be right for others.

The risks

An important question to ask is whether the benefits of an MBA are worth the risks in terms of time and money invested to obtain one. In 2022, a different set of considerations are attached to doing an MBA than when I graduated. This is especially true given the way the pandemic is changing education. As I mentioned in my first article, the pure differentiation factor that the MBA once brought is gone (in Canada at least), and you will not get a job just because you have an MBA. Many people have them these days and for countless jobs at large companies in industries such as banking, they are often considered the price of admission to apply.

That being said, an MBA can still carry tremendous value when trying to change careers or supercharge one’s current path with help from an employer. If you are contemplating it, you need to be very clear why, as whether you will get the desired value is highly dependent on: your life and career stage, the industry you want to be in, what kind of work you want to do, the type of company you want to be at, where you want to live, who is paying and how much it is.

Closing thoughts

I continue to believe that the MBA choice was right for me, but in 2022, the MBA on its own is not enough to stand out. These days, many employers look for more specialized training and certifications to complement general business programs such as MBAs that provide a broad set of skills. Therefore, if you are planning to do an MBA, make sure it is specialized in areas such as analytics, design, technology or finance, and that the program provides practical, skills-based training.

You should also consider starting a side hustle like a blog or another project, which showcases your knowledge around a specific area and ability to communicate effectively. Some companies will go as far as avoiding MBAs completely these days, preferring candidates with more on-the-job experience or from more technical backgrounds – so again, its imperative you know where you want to go at the end of it all.

This article reflects the thoughts and opinions of Aubrey Chapnick only and do not reflect those of his current employer.

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