A Master of Business Administration (MBA) provides a world of opportunity for professionals of all ages. If you’re over 40, however, you might assume that your ideal window for earning this prestigious degree has passed. Hence, the common question: “What is the best age to do an MBA?”
The answer is different for each person. Every stage in life brings advantages and challenges to graduate education. Still, you can be comforted in knowing that there is no age limit for higher learning. In fact, an MBA at 40 could deliver many unique benefits above and beyond those enjoyed by younger students.
Still not convinced? You might change your mind once you realize how much you stand to gain from earning your MBA after 40. Keep reading to discover key advantages:
1. Freshen Up Your Resume
Employers value motivated employees with a clear desire to better themselves. If you’ve gone years or even decades without making an effort to gain new skills or credentials, employers may assume that you’re not serious about keeping up.
It’s easy to fall behind in today’s fast-paced work world, but an MBA can demonstrate that you’re committed to improving your skills throughout the entire span of your career. This esteemed degree could give your resume the boost it needs at a potential turning point in your career. The mere mention of an MBA helps your resume stand out, regardless of what the remainder of this document contains.
2. Apply Your Experiences to Enhance Learning
Decades of experience in the workforce have allowed you to build both technical abilities and soft skills that can make every MBA course, reading, or discussion more dynamic. As such, you’ll quickly find that you are often better able to relate to the material in a more concrete way than your younger counterparts. By drawing on your workplace experience, you can cement new findings quickly. What’s more, if you work and attend your MBA program simultaneously, you can start applying academic discoveries right away.
3. Build Cross-Generational Relationships
Many professionals fall into the trap of building networks that consist of people with nearly identical backgrounds. This limiting approach prevents us from developing an understanding of or empathy for people from other generations. Yes, we may work with these individuals on a daily basis, but there’s often a power imbalance or sense of competition built into these relationships, making it difficult to collaborate as equals.
All this changes as you enter an MBA program that can include students from several different age groups, phases of life and backgrounds. Each participant can bring important insights to the table. For example, fresh-faced college graduates may help you understand what exactly drives the coveted Gen Z demographic. Meanwhile, Baby Boomer students can draw on decades of experience to share stories of their biggest victories and mistakes.
4. Move Up the Career Ladder
If you’ve plateaued in your career, look to an MBA to provide much-needed professional momentum. Keep in mind that many positions require graduate-level education. Even if it’s not mandated, you may not be seriously considered for certain jobs unless you’re equipped with this credential.
Even if you remain with your current employer, an MBA will signal that it’s time for new responsibilities or, better yet, a promotion. This could even occur while you’re still attending graduate school. In a 2018 Executive MBA Council Survey, over half the respondents reported they were granted new responsibilities while studying for their MBA. What’s more, 40 percent of survey participants received promotions while still enrolled.
5. Boost Your Salary
It’s no secret that professionals with graduate degrees significantly out-earn those who stop their education at the bachelor’s level. This benefit is by no means limited to people who obtain their MBA at a young age. Data from U.S. News and World Report reveals that the average student who graduated with an MBA in 2020 secured an annual base salary of $91,372. This was accompanied by an average signing bonus of $18,546.
Even without bonuses, most MBA graduates can expect to reach six figures based on years of experience. This makes the MBA one of the quickest routes to earning a higher salary—a compelling consideration when, after 40, you don’t have as much time to waste on modest annual raises.
6. Take Control Over Your Career
After 40, you have a better idea of what you want from your career—and the type of workplaces you prefer to avoid. As one of the most versatile degrees, the MBA can help you pivot into a variety of sectors and positions.
Many MBA graduates over 40 opt for consulting work, which allows them to draw on years of experience to bring expert insights to the organizations they serve. Consulting tends to be more flexible, giving professionals extra time to pursue interests outside of work.
Others look to MBA programs to give them the knowledge and confidence needed to launch their own businesses. This is an increasingly popular option after 40 and, if research from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) is any indication, your 40s are perfect for pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams. HBR’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the average age of entrepreneurs when they founded their business is 42.
Focusing in on businesses “closer in spirit to the prototypical high-tech startup,” the HBR study indicates that founders are typically in their early 40s. In some industries—such as oil and gas—the average age is closer to 47.
Should you choose to continue working more conventional jobs within your industry, you can tailor your MBA based on this approach. Concentrations such as healthcare administration, business analytics, or finance could be appealing if you’ve already gained specialized experience in these areas.
7. Fulfill a Lifelong Goal
Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of earning your master’s degree but never managed to make progress on this particular goal. Use this opportunity to finally live up to goals you may have set years ago. There’s no feeling quite like the satisfaction of making good on a long-term goal you previously assumed was out of reach.
Professional and family obligations may make it more difficult to fulfill your academic goals, but solutions such as online classes provide a realistic path to your graduate degree. If you prefer to attend in person, you can enroll in a flexible program on a part-time basis. Evening courses allow you to adapt your schedule to ensure success at both school and work.
8. Rediscover the Joy of Learning
If nothing else, your MBA is worth pursuing simply because you love to broaden your horizons. Each new discovery gets your brain’s reward system going, leading to a swift and powerful release of dopamine. In other words: It feels good to learn something new. If you’ve spent years away from academia, you’ve likely forgotten the satisfaction of having a new concept “click” following hours of hard work.
No matter your personal reasons for wanting to pursue an MBA after 40, you shouldn’t feel intimidated or discouraged due to your age. The question should not be, “Is 40 years old too old for MBA success?” but rather, “What opportunities will I miss out on if I neglect graduate education at this pivotal time?” You just might realize that 40 is the perfect time to enroll.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to enhance your career and prove that, when it comes to education, age really is just a number. You’ll never regret investing in yourself and in your future.
For more information on how the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s MBA can help you pursue your academic and career goals at any stage in life, visit www.utc.edu/mba.