Home Blog How Much Does an MBA Cost? The Return on Your MBA Investment

How Much Does an MBA Cost? The Return on Your MBA Investment

April 26, 2018
cost of an mba

If you've ever had a job that you didn't enjoy or that made you question where your future was headed, you've probably wondered about options you have to improve your situation. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is one such option. The Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that MBA holders typically enjoy wage premiums over bachelor's degree holders, particularly when working in business, sales and financial occupations.1

But business school can require some upfront costs, and you might be wondering just how much you should be willing to invest in your professional future. Of course any significant commitment of time or financial resources requires careful thought, so we’ve compiled some information for you about typical MBA costs, how you can save by studying for an MBA online and what kinds of return on investment are possible after graduating.

Upfront MBA Costs

While MBA programs may vary in how costs are collected over the study period, students are typically billed per term, which allows them to pay for their education as they're studying instead of having to pay one sum all at once.

At California State University, Monterey Bay, for example, tuition for the Online MBA program is $5,200 per term [or $1,095 per credit] as of March 2020. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the tuition page. There are four terms per year, so Online MBA students can expect to pay about $41,600 total over the course of the two-year program. In contrast, on-campus MBA programs at some schools can cost more than $100,000 for tuition and fees alone for just a single year.2

Some of the cost savings an Online MBA student at CSU Monterey Bay will receive compared to students who earn their MBA on campus include:

  • Travel: Online students don't have to travel to campus for class
  • Relocation: Moving costs or having to maintain a home away from school are negated
  • Health fees and medical insurance: Some schools require on-campus students to enroll in university health insurance programs
  • Time: Sitting in traffic is eliminated, so students who value their time in order to work on other projects can reap savings

Because online MBA programs allow students to study anytime, anywhere, the flexibility they offer may make it easier for students to continue to work full or part time while they are studying. This helps to offset tuition costs, whereas the demands of on-campus study may not enable flexible work schedules.
Students who are studying for an online MBA can also potentially apply the skills they are learning to their current professional role. For some MBA students, this can mean that they are able to apply for higher positions while they're still in school and earn higher salaries. Many employers also offer tuition offsets for MBA programs, and some even fully fund graduate study. Talk with your employer to see what financial aid options are available to you.

What Can You Expect After an MBA?

Upon graduation, students with MBAs may be able to earn higher salaries compared to those with bachelor's degrees alone. In fact, with an MBA, you can:

  • Earn up to $45,000 more than bachelor's degree holders in the year after graduation: A study by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found corporate recruiters planned to offer MBA graduates a median starting salary of $100,000, compared to a median starting salary of $55,000 for those with bachelor's degrees3
  • Earn up to $200,000 a year or more after 10 years of work: MBA graduates with more than seven years of experience can earn more than $150,000 a year, too4
  • Get your investment back in about four years: Another GMAC study found MBA alumni may recoup the cost of their degree in as few as four years after graduation5

Compared to other investments, an online MBA's return can grow exponentially depending on the career path graduates pursue after they complete their studies. This investment can also lead to a happier, more fulfilling career, which can positively impact other areas of life including physical and mental health.

More Ways to Earn With an MBA

how much does an mba cost

MBA grads can earn a median of about $2.5 million in base salary over 20 years, according to GMAC research.6 MBA graduates can increase the amount they earn after graduating by:

  • Applying for a higher-ranking position: Armed with management skills learned from an MBA program, graduates can apply for a role above their current position, at either a new company or their current one. Some positions require an MBA degree in order for a candidate to be considered, and these typically pay more than those requiring only bachelor's degrees.
  • Using new connections to gain referrals: The professionals you meet in MBA classes, including both professors and other students, may be able to introduce you to influential people at places you’d like to work. These referrals can lead to more fulfilling—and better-paying—roles.
  • Opening a new business: MBA graduates with entrepreneurial goals may start their own businesses that serve their communities. An MBA program is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for the challenges of starting a business. Ideally, you’ll learn how to develop a business plan and how to talk to investors, among other vital tools.
  • Moving into a fast-growing business profession: Students who don't currently work in the business world may find it easier to pursue a career in business upon graduation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment in business and financial operations positions is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than average for all occupations.7 Globalization and a growing economy are contributing to the need for business innovators.

While ambition, location, work experience and connections will ultimately go a long way toward determining an individual’s earning potential, an MBA can still be a vital tool for achieving exceptional professional outcomes.

Get an Affordable and Flexible Online MBA From CSU Monterey Bay

CSU Monterey Bay’s Online MBA program gives students the flexibility to work part time or full time while studying. CSU Monterey Bay also offers new enrollees in the Online MBA program a tuition discount opportunity to save $3,000 on their graduate education.


  1. Retrieved on February 14, 2018, from www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm
  2. Retrieved on February 14, 2018, from poetsandquants.com/2017/06/21/9-schools-break-200k-total-cost-barrier/
  3. Retrieved on February 14, 2018, from gmac.com/why-gmac/gmac-news/gmnews/2015/august-2015/gmac-salary-estimator-tool.aspx
  4. Retrieved on February 14, 2018, from fortune.com/2015/05/19/mba-graduates-starting-salary/
  5. Retrieved on February 14, 2018, from gmac.com/market-intelligence-and-research/research-library/measuring-program-roi/2016-alumni-perspectives-survey-report.aspx
  6. Retrieved on February 14, 2018, from poetsandquants.com/2016/02/22/the-roi-on-an-mba-degree/
  7. Retrieved on February 14, 2018, from www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/home.htm