Is an MBA in Singapore Really Worth It?

Getting a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) can help professionals enhance their career opportunities. But attaining one, especially from a top business school, can also easily cost you nearly S$100,000 – a substantial expense for early-career professionals.

Is pursuing an MBA in Singapore a smart move? Let’s explore the various MBA programmes here and delve into the pros and cons of pursuing one.

Overview of MBA programmes in Singapore

Singapore boasts of a vibrant ecosystem of MBA programmes offered by both locally and globally renowned institutions. For examples, programmes by INSEAD, National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Management University (SMU) and ESSEC’S Global MBA are among the top choices for MBA aspirants.

MBA coursework usually involves a broad spectrum of business-related topics including accounting, statistics, economics, communications, management, and entrepreneurship.

There are two routes one can take to earn a regular MBA: full-time and part-time. A full-time MBA allows you to complete your studies over a shorter period of time, but a part-time MBA allows you to finish your studies while keeping a full-time job.

In addition, MBAs are also offered in the form of an Executive MBA, which is a 2-year programme targeted at professionals with at least five years of management experience, with most students in their late 30s.

The cost of pursuing an MBA in Singapore

While pursuing an MBA in Singapore offers immense opportunities for personal and professional growth, it comes with a substantial financial investment.

An MBA comes with a hefty price tag. A full-time MBA at NTU costs S$81,750, while both part-time MBA and full-time MBA at NUS costs S$94,830. Both part-time and full-time MBA programmes at SMU cost S$76,300. Meanwhile, INSEAD charges a flat tuition fee of 89,000 euros (S$143,325) for an MBA at both its Singapore and Europe campuses.

Should you choose to pursue a full-time MBA, you may also want to consider the opportunity cost of the income that you forgo while studying. The median gross monthly income of full-time employed residents in 2023 is S$5,197. Assuming that one chooses to take on a full-time 17-month MBA at NUS, that could mean an opportunity cost of more than S$88,300, on top of the hefty tuition fees.

If the cost of a full-time MBA is too heavy for your current financial situation, a part-time MBA is likely to be the more suitable choice of the two.

Potential financial benefits of an MBA

Despite the significant financial investment, pursuing an MBA in Singapore offers numerous potential financial benefits. Graduates of MBA programmes often command higher earning potential and gain access to a broader range of career opportunities.

Surveys have shown that MBA graduates typically experience a substantial increase in their earning potential post-graduation, with some earning double or triple their pre-MBA salaries within a few years.

For example, career statistics revealed by NUS showed that 93% of MBA graduates received at least 1 job offer within three months of graduation and earned an average annual salary of S$105,223 after 3 years from graduation.

Statistics from SMU demonstrated that 90% of graduates get employment offers within six months after graduation, and earn an average annual salary of S$85,000, with some earning up to S$153,000 a year.

If you’re considering a career pivot, an MBA can also help you to gain exposure to peers, faculty, and a network of alumni from many professional backgrounds, which can help you to consider your future career with a clearer view.

An MBA can also equip individuals with invaluable skills, including leadership, strategic thinking, and decision-making abilities, which are highly sought after in today’s competitive job market.

The prestige and expanded professional networks associated with top MBA programmes can open doors to lucrative positions in multinational corporations, consulting firms, entrepreneurial ventures, as well as job opportunities in emerging industries.

The global network established during an MBA programme can also facilitate career advancement and business opportunities beyond Singapore’s borders.

Mitigating financial obstacles to getting an MBA

Scholarships, grants, and financial aid offered by institutions and government agencies can help offset tuition fees and living expenses for deserving candidates. Typically, full-time MBA candidates will have access to more funding opportunities than part-time MBA candidates.

Be sure to check out the funding and scholarships offered by various institutions before submitting your application so that you don’t miss out important deadlines and information.

Apart from scholarships offered to outstanding applicants, many institutions also offer grants for deserving alumni admitted to their MBA programmes. For example, The NUS Alumni Loyalty Grant is a one-time grant of S$10,000 awarded to deserving NUS alumni who have completed an undergraduate or postgraduate degree at NUS. NUS also offers The NUS MBA Local University Alumni Grant, which is a one-time grant of S$5,000 that is awarded to selected alumni who have completed a degree from NTU, SMU, SUSS, SIT or SUTD.

NTU also offers a NTU Alumni Grant for NTU alumni, which covers 10% of the tuition fees before GST. In addition, Singapore Citizens and PRs admitted to the full-time Nanyang MBA are eligible for a study grant of 10% of the tuition fees.

If you require loans to support your studies, Singaporeans and Singapore PRs can apply for educational loans offered by Singapore-based banks.

Furthermore, you can explore alternative sources of funding outside of the institution, and tap on opportunities such as employer sponsorship or tuition reimbursement programmes.

Alternative paths to career advancement

While an MBA is undoubtedly a valuable credential for career advancement, it’s definitely not the only path to success in the business world. Alternative education options, such as specialised courses, certifications, and executive education programmes also offer targeted skill development in specific areas of interest.

For instance, individuals looking to pivot into emerging fields like data analytics, digital marketing, or sustainable business practices may opt for short-term courses that provide relevant skills and knowledge without the time and financial commitment of a traditional MBA programme.

Individuals in the finance industry looking to upgrade their skills through self-study programmes can also consider courses such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program, the Financial Risk Manager (FRM) designation and the SOA actuarial exams. They are all widely recognised credentials that come at a much lower cost.

Other options include gaining hands-on experience through internships, apprenticeships, and project-based work. They can also supplement formal education and enhance employability in competitive industries.

Earning an MBA may enhance one’s career path or help land a high-paying job, but it does not automatically entitle you to career success. Often, the returns only exceed the cost if the degree is earned from a top-tier business school, and if the career path sought is business-related.

Before committing to the pursuit of an MBA, it may be prudent to pause and reflect: Why do I want to get an MBA? Where do I see myself in the next five or 10 years? Do I want to continue building a career in my current industry? Will business school accelerate what I want to do or slow me down? Can I afford it?

Take time to consider if an MBA is aligned with your long-term professional ambitions, weighing the potential benefits against the associated investments of time, effort, and financial resources.

Let’s embrace the path that resonates most with our aspirations!

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