Is Your MBA Degree Worth the Debt?


In an ominous economy and a ridiculously competitive job market, the promise of a fulfilling life seems to be a more far-fetched prospect for the Singaporean youth with every passing day. Unfortunately, the world has still not learnt their lesson as well as they should have because a majority of economic malpractices that led to this disastrous stagnation are still being enforced by a society that’s obsessed with capitalism, but incapable of understanding it.

Yes, the overzealous credit-embracing traditions continue to rage on, and student loan debt is the new recession monster lurking in the shadows that is feeding on hapless students struggling to make ends meet. Although a graduate degree is an unparalleled skill-building tool for anyone entering the job market, the ultra-competitive job market has reinvigorated the demand for MBA post-graduate degrees among students.

Young graduates are being pressurized to pursue the “revered” MBA degree in order to keep their CVs relevant and keep their hopes for a well-paying job alive. However, while the demand for this so-called foolproof educational incentive has gone through the roof, it has done nothing to elevate them above the cut-throat competition in the job market and secure a job lucrative enough to warrant their investment. Except, it’s not just a fruitless burden anymore, but also turned parasitic by sinking students so far down an ocean of education debt that they cannot emerge from for decades.

Today, we put the almighty MBA degree under the scanner and clarify our reasonable doubts for its questionable legacy.

Singapore may not be the most expensive education destination in the world, but that benefit is nullified when you factor in the exorbitant cost of living. The typical cost of a good to excellent  diploma course ranges from S$5000 to S$ 20000 for 6 months to 2 years, S$ 25000 to S$56000  for a 2 to 4 years Bachelors degree course, and S$ 18,000 to S$ 35000 for a 1 to 1.5 years Masters Degree Course.

This means that you will be going from being knee-deep in loan repayments for your degree program to being neck-deep in debt from an additional loan to cover your MBA expenses. And if you happen to be a little more conservative in your financial perspective, this means that you will also be forgoing at least two years worth of income that could have paid off a significant chunk of any previous debt or serve as invaluable savings.

Some people may condemn the growing anti-MBA sentiment as an unwise commoditization of a priceless asset – knowledge. Unfortunately, companies today have become wary of the theoretical proficiency of post-graduates and are prioritizing the candidacies of anyone with even minimum experience in the job market over them. Perhaps, they have good reason to do so too. Remember the infamous dotcom era when an MBA degree was the only ticket into that related tech job market? Well, research studies confirmed that there was no noticeable growth in business wisdom whatsoever during that phase.

One of the major contributing factors to this MBA bubble has been the lingering presence of obsolete educational administration and continued marketing of the immature yuppie school of thought that is obsessed with B-school brand value rather than an updated curriculum.

The ultimate goal of a high-salary job and luxurious lifestyle has become nothing but a misplaced sense of entitlement. The value of even the most prestigious MBA degree programs diminishes after just a mere couple of years in the job market, wherever your industry experience becomes your primary asset.

In today’s market, an MBA graduate from a reputed Singapore institute can expect to earn a starting salary of $50,000-$52,000. Employees can also opt for a lower base salary that offers a plethora of perks like travel allowance, yearly bonuses, tuition compensation, etc. Here’s an estimate projection of the average increment in salaries of MBA graduates once they start acquiring experience in the industry:

1 to 4 years – $56,000

5 to 9 years – $74,000

10 to19 years – $94,000

20 years and above – $103,500
As you can see the salary growth rate still seems promising; however, when you factor in the accumulated student loan repayments, late deposit fees, home loan downpayment and subsequent repayments, car loan, etc., it does not help you swim out of your debts any faster than a motivated graduate who entered the job market with lower debt and gained 2 more years of industry experience than you. Secondly, it is also critical to consider that these incredibly lucrative jobs are usually limited to the investment banking and consultancy industry, and are far from being that abundantly available for all MBA graduates to cosy up to.

In hindsight, the value of a well-performing professional with a graduate degree will only increase with time in the job market as companies narrow their focus on an employee’s total working experience and project accomplishments rather than ponder over his educational credentials.

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