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How to Calculate the Return on Investment of an Online MBA

November 4, 2021

Earning an online MBA degree is a considerable undertaking. Unless you receive a full scholarship, business school will cost money. And that’s hardly the only expenditure; you’ll need to devote significant time and effort to earn the degree as well. Which leads to the inevitable question: is an online MBA worth it?

To answer that question, first, consider what you’ll gain. You’ll acquire a broad new set of skills and knowledge that will make you a more desirable job candidate. You’ll also build a professional network that can lead to novel professional opportunities. Your skills, knowledge and connections should ramp up competition for your services which, in turn, should improve your compensation.

According to a PayScale analysis, an MBA increases lifetime earnings by $2.3 million, or 67 percent more than what you’d earn with just a bachelor’s degree. That’s certainly enough to offset whatever tuition and expenses you incur earning the degree. And not only will you earn more, but you’ll also likely do more interesting and impactful work in the process.

Weigh those gains against your investment of time, effort and money and you’ll be on your way to calculating the return on investment for an online MBA. Is an online MBA worth it? Only you can decide that for yourself.

This article should help you with that calculation. It lays out the costs and benefits that accompany a top-flight online MBA like the one offered by Howard University School of Business.

Why earn an online MBA?

Business master’s degrees are the most popular graduate degrees in the United States. Every year, nearly 200,000 students earn a master’s in business, the majority of those MBAs. That makes business administration by far the most popular master’s discipline in the U.S., trailed by education (146,000) and healthcare (131,600).

There’s an obvious reason MBA graduates are so popular: Employers value them. A Graduate Management Admission Council study determined that average starting MBA salaries in 2020 ranged from $105,000 to $115,000 per year—not including signing bonuses and other incentive compensation. The same survey projected that 89 percent of consulting, finance and technology employers planned to hire MBAs in 2021. An MBA can be your entry into an active, lucrative job market.

You’ll be in demand because you’ll have accrued expertise and developed valued skills. As an online MBA student at Howard University School of Business, you can expect to boost proficiency in all of the following disciplines.

Data Analytics

Explore the collection, storage, organization and analysis of data to understand past events, predict future outcomes and drive business planning.

Economics for Global Leaders

Examine the macroeconomic principles that drive economic growth, banking, government regulation and fiscal policies. Understand microeconomic principles regarding consumer demand, cost and production, incentives, pricing and competition.


Interested in starting your own business or company? Entrepreneurship requires a special set of skills and knowledge around business plan development, raising capital, market analysis, feasibility analysis and creativity.

Financial Accounting

Financial accounting is the process by which business transactions are recorded and reported. Your financial accounting studies will teach you to evaluate business transactions, read, prepare, and understand income statements, balance sheets and statements of cash flow.

Financial Management

Delve into risk-return analyses, cash flow valuations and capital budgeting and management. Gain insight into all the processes by which a business funds itself and evaluates the risks associated with various proposed strategies.

Financial Modeling

Build skills in financial modeling tools such as spreadsheets and statistical analysis apps to model stock, bond and portfolio performance. Apply principles of financial accounting to evaluate in more detail balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements.

Global Management Consulting

According to the previously cited GMAC study, consulting offers the highest average starting salaries, ranging from $115,000 to $145,000. Consulting involves working with clients to identify and remedy major challenges. It requires mastery of a broad set of business disciplines as well as acute analytical and communication skills.

Informations Systems

Computing lies at the heart of all modern business. To succeed, you need to understand the various technologies and systems that drive business operations and planning. You also need to appreciate the importance of keeping systems optimized, secure and interconnected.

Managerial Accounting

Managerial accounting applies accounting principles to the management and operation of a business. Learn how to prepare a budget, structure compensation, manage tax obligations, implement transfer pricing plans and address other business management challenges.

Marketing Management

Modern marketing is more science than art, requiring business practitioners to master such techniques as segmentation, targeting, pricing, promotion, branding and distribution. Digital data allows marketers to track the effectiveness of their messaging as never before; you’ll learn the various analytical tools required to measure and improve your marketing strategies.

Organizational Management

Overseeing an organization requires leadership, organizational and planning skills. It also requires an understanding of the different business organizational structures, including hierarchical, flat, matrix, agile, functional and network.

Project Management

Much of what gets done in modern business consists of discrete projects that pull together various divisions and assets within an organization. A project manager oversees the coordination, scheduling and management of all contributors to ensure on-time, on-budget delivery of a final product.

Production and Operations Research

Production and operations research and management are especially significant in the manufacturing sector. You’ll learn to design, manage and upgrade production systems and to apply analytic tools to inform business decisions.

Statistics and Business Analytics

Statistics and quantitative analysis underpin much of modern business strategy and planning. Effective leaders apply their understanding of descriptive statistics, probability, sampling, statistical inference and correlation and regression analysis to business problems.

Strategic Management

Integrate all your MBA and professional training to develop successful business strategies. These are the skills required to join upper management and rise to c-level.

What can you earn with an MBA?

Scan management-level job postings online and you’ll doubtless discover that many require an MBA. Other recruiters may not require an MBA; even so, many are likely to favor candidates with job-related graduate degrees. One thing is for sure: graduating from a respected b-school undoubtedly upgrades your resume with an impressive credential that impresses many employers. Your Master of Business Administration should create many new career opportunities for you.

We’ve gathered data on the average salary for some of the higher-paying jobs that typically require or prefer candidates with an MBA.


Chief Financial Officer

Oversee financial planning and cash flow management for a company or organization. Contribute to the formulation of long-term strategy and vision. Average base salary: $137,123 (PayScale), plus incentives.

Finance Manager

Manage portfolios, create financial reports and contribute to long-term financial planning. Average base salary: $93,507 (PayScale), plus incentives.

Investment Banker

Work with clients, including businesses, to select and manage investments and navigate the complex process of mergers and acquisitions. Average base salary: $101,543 (PayScale), plus incentives.

Senior Financial Analyst

Conduct research, advise on investments and report on your organization’s financial status. Support the Chief Financial Officer in all responsibilities, including forecasting and planning. Average base salary: $82,037 (PayScale), plus incentives.

General Business

Business Development Director

Manage an organization’s sales and marketing team. Oversee an organization’s business growth through new opportunities, sales increases and brand development. Average base salary: $187,852 (, plus incentives.

Management Consultant

Work with business clients to identify and address business problems, optimize performance and improve growth. Apply an array of analytical skills to assess challenges and propose solutions. Average base salary: $102,150 (Glassdoor), plus incentives.

Operations Manager

Oversee all activities that keep a business running day-to-day. Track, analyze and address problems in productivity, quality control, job safety, compliance and worker satisfaction. Average base salary: $106,517 (, plus incentives.

Sales Manager

Oversee the sales team. Forecast periodic results, set goals, procure leads, pursue new sales opportunities and manage relationships with consumers. Average base salary: $119,801 (, plus incentives.


Marketing Director

Formulate marketing strategies and lead the marketing team in their execution. Average base salary: $148,490 (, plus incentives.

Marketing Manager

Oversee the marketing team. Communicate and implement marketing plans developed by the marketing director and vice president of marketing. Average base salary: $102,496 (Glassdoor), plus incentives.

Vice President of Marketing

Collaborate with marketing directors, creatives, researchers, consultants, and sales staff to devise and implement marketing strategies. Make final decisions, take ownership of marketing strategies and outcomes. Average base salary: $248,333 (, plus incentives.

How much does an online MBA cost?

Online MBA programs vary widely in cost and quality. The most expensive online MBA programs cost well over $100,000 to complete, with the top-priced program exceeding $140,000.

The Online MBA at Howard University School of Business charges $1,896 per credit tuition for its 48-credit degree program for a total cost of $91,008. Students in this program who complete a Financial Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may qualify for federal direct unsubsidized loans and/or direct graduate PLUS loans. In addition, several internal and external scholarship opportunities are available to online students.

What are the benefits of attending a well-respected online MBA program?

Top business schools earn their stature by producing students who excel in the business world. That’s certainly true of the School of Business at Howard University, which has produced over 11,000 alumni since its inception in 1970. In the process, the school developed a reputation for producing outstanding executives, managers and entrepreneurs across business sectors and functions. As a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Howard University has particularly excelled in developing business leaders of color, but students of all backgrounds are welcome. Indeed, Bloomberg ranked Howard University’s MBA program third-most diverse in the nation in 2021-22 and the U.S. News & World Report ranked Howard University #2 in Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The Online MBA program at Howard offers the same exceptional content as its full-time campus program. The chief difference between the two is that the online program offers greater convenience to students whose lifestyles and life circumstances require it.

Here are some of the benefits you’ll enjoy as an online MBA student at Howard University School of Business.

Classroom Diversity

As School of Business Dean Howard Wilbon explained in a recent interview, Howard University has “traditionally found ways to help the most vulnerable, yet high achieving, students find a way to receive higher education. These students can come [here] and feel comfortable in who they are.” Howard understands the minority experience and acknowledges it in the structure and content of its programs. That may explain why The Princeton Review ranks Howard’s MBA program tops in its Greatest Resources for Minorities category.

Alumni Network

As previously noted, Howard University boasts an alumni network of over 11,000 business professionals. Your Howard Online MBA includes you in this powerful global network, opening doors of opportunity and connecting you to influential executives at major corporations and organizations.


Howard University recognizes that good corporate citizenship benefits companies, their employees and society at large. Ethical practice and principles permeate the School of Business MBA curriculum, producing business leaders who work toward the benefits of the greater good and respect the needs of humankind.

Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is integrative thinking. It requires business professionals to recognize the impact actions taken in one function have on the business as a whole, to analyze the impact of external factors and to balance prospective gains against risks in assessing any decision. At Howard, you’ll learn to analyze situations strategically so that policies reduce unintended consequences and promote both short- and long-term benefits.

International Immersion Opportunities

The School of Business at Howard University participates in a Global Trilateral MBA program that “unites three international institutions to work together on various consulting projects,” according to Dean Wilbon. Online students are encouraged to participate; the program is “a good fit for an online program because so much of it is done virtually… online students [can] participate in the travel as well.” A curricular emphasis on global business means all online students gain the skills to understand and address international business challenges.

Recruitment Programs

Recruiters know that Howard University School of Business produces talented business leaders. Its MBA graduates are highly sought after by recruiters from leading corporations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Online students participate in recruitment through job boards, counselor consultations and on-campus events.

Career Services

The Career Center at Howard University delivers superior professional development and career support through its partnerships with businesses, government recruiters and nonprofits. Networking events plug you into a robust alumni network that can help you transition into a new position or advance within your current role.

How can an online MBA benefit your earning potential?

Although tuition for online MBA programs is typically comparable to those at their campus counterparts, attending an online MBA program can still save you money in several significant ways.

Keep working while you earn your MBA

Students in traditional full-time MBA programs typically lose two years of income and professional development as they earn their degrees. In contrast, online students attending part-time can continue working full-time, earning and advancing as they learn. As an added benefit, they are optimally positioned to apply immediately what they learn in the classroom to the real-world professional demands of their jobs.

Figuring out how much you’ll make while you earn your degree can help you plan how to get the best ROI from your MBA program. Compare that figure to how much income you will forfeit by enrolling in a full-time campus program. The difference is substantial.

Avoid the cost and time expenditure of commuting

As a part-time or full-time campus student, you need to travel to campus a lot. You may attend classes one to five days a week. You’ll also likely come to campus for office hours, research and student study groups. How long does it take you to get to campus? Multiply that number by two (for the round trip), then by the number of visits per week, then by the number of weeks per term and, finally, by the number of terms it takes to graduate. The result will almost certainly be a pretty big number. That’s how much time you spend getting to and from campus to earn your traditional MBA.

Now add in the actual cost: gasoline, wear and tear on your vehicle, parking and/or public transportation fares. Now you have a financial cost to accompany that sizable time expenditure.

You can avoid both expenditures by studying online, which allows you to study anywhere you can open a computer and access the internet.

Attend a nationally renowned program without relocating

Among the benefits of online learning is the ability to attend a program anywhere in the world without having to relocate. By choosing to attend online, you avoid:

  • the expense of leaving your home, finding a new home near your school and moving all your belongings
  • the loss of time required to plan your move
  • the cost of return trips to your current location to visit friends and family
  • the expense of relocating yet again when the program ends

Online study also vastly broadens your choice of MBA programs. You no longer need to live in or near Washington DC to attend Howard University. The Online MBA program includes students from across the United States and around the world.

What is the ROI of an online MBA?

To calculate your MBA ROI, weigh the costs against the benefits.


Your outlays in earning an online MBA will include:

  • Tuition and fees: These will be similar if not identical to part-time and full-time on-campus programs
  • Time: By avoiding commuting, you’ll make more efficient use of your time in an online program than in a traditional program
  • Effort: You will work hard, but you’ll gain invaluable knowledge and skills in return


Your MBA experience will provide you with:

  • New business skills and knowledge: You will graduate with a broad-based understanding of all fundamental business principles, and you’ll develop an arsenal of analytical and technician business skills
  • A valuable credential: Many employers prefer or require candidates with MBA degrees
  • Training in learning new personal skills: An MBA develops lifelong learning skills that will continue to benefit you long after graduation
  • Building your professional network: Classmates, faculty and alumni will all join your contact list
  • Increased potential income: As previously noted, an MBA boosts lifetime earnings by an average of over 65 percent

Online MBA vs. traditional MBA

If you’ve decided on an MBA and are now deciding whether to pursue it on-campus or online, consider the benefits and costs of each choice.

  • How much income and career advancement will you forgo by stopping work to earn a full-time MBA?
  • How much will you gain in income and experience by continuing to work while studying online?
  • How much will you spend relocating to attend an on-campus program far from your current home?
  • How much will you spend commuting to and from an on-campus program?

Is an online MBA worth it?

Only you can make this determination, of course. What’s clear, however, is that an online MBA offers a great return in terms of potential income and career satisfaction. It can save you money in comparison to a traditional online program while allowing you to continue working and learning throughout the program. Finally, it allows you to attend a great MBA program—like the Online MBA at Howard University School of Business—from anywhere in the country, without needing to relocate.

We think the answer to the question “Is an online MBA worth it?” is yes. If you agree, why not start your online application today?

Download a brochure and learn more about Howard University School of Business online Master's programs.