I graduated from the part-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2019. An MBA degree has long been considered one of the most prestigious and valuable qualifications in the business world. However, despite its popularity and reputation, many MBA programs also face a number of significant challenges, such as declining attractiveness to prospective students, fluctuating global rankings, and uncertain career prospects for graduates. A frequently asked question among my friends is whether pursuing an MBA is worth it.

One major challenge facing MBA programs is the declining number of applicants. For example, MBA programs in Hong Kong have been significantly impacted by the pandemic and political unrest, leading to a decline in applications for the third consecutive year. This downward trend is a cause for concern among business schools. Several factors may contribute to this decline. One possible reason is the escalating cost of MBA programs, which can deter many international students. Another potential factor is the reduced recognition of these qualifications by employers, especially in Singapore, which lowers the perceived value of the investment.

In my opinion, the worth of an MBA program depends on your personal career goals and the specific program you’re considering. An MBA can be a valuable investment, equipping graduates with a wide range of business skills and knowledge, including leadership, strategic thinking, financial analysis, and communication. These skills are highly sought-after by employers and can help you advance your career and increase your earning potential. More importantly, the network and friendships formed through the MBA program have broadened my perspective. Keeping an open mind can also pave the way for new opportunities.

Another challenge is the inconsistency of international rankings. While rankings can be a useful tool for students when choosing an MBA program, they can also be unreliable. Different ranking systems employ different criteria and methodologies, resulting in disparate outcomes. This inconsistency makes it difficult for prospective students to accurately compare and evaluate different MBA programs.

Many people are unaware of the methodology behind Financial Times’ business school rankings. The system only considers full-time MBA students and excludes part-time programs. Graduates from years past also influence the ranking through survey responses. If graduates do not respond to the survey or cannot provide updated salary information, this could negatively impact the school’s ranking. Also, career changes or relocations by alumni can skew the ranking, which may not necessarily be a fair metric.

Graduates may also face challenges in finding employment and progressing in their careers. Although an MBA can impart valuable skills and knowledge, it doesn’t guarantee success in the business world. The degree may open some doors, but graduates often face intense competition for top positions. The current economic climate can further complicate job searches. For instance, there may be layoffs and fewer entry-level opportunities in investment banking. Employers might prefer candidates with different types of experience over MBA graduates.

Personally, I believe the value of an MBA degree may be diminishing. This devaluation could lead to a situation where an MBA is no longer a minimum requirement for certain positions, thus failing to differentiate candidates. This trend is concerning for society at large, as it limits opportunities for individuals with potential and ambition. Ignoring the merits of diverse backgrounds could result in social mobility issues, where opportunities are only available to a lucky few.

Overall, MBA programs face numerous challenges that affect their appeal to prospective students and their potential for career advancement. Despite these challenges, they also present opportunities for business schools to adapt and innovate. By addressing these challenges head-on, MBA programs can continue to offer valuable education and prepare graduates for future career success. As a CUHK MBA graduate, I found the program provided quality education, excellent career prospects, and unique insights into doing business with China—particularly beneficial for international students.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue an MBA should be based on a thorough evaluation of the costs and benefits. You should consider your career goals, personal circumstances, and financial situation before making a decision. Research various MBA programs, taking into account factors like accreditation, reputation, curriculum, and alumni networks. By doing so, you can make an informed decision on whether an MBA program is the right fit for you. If you are interested in learning more about the CUHK MBA program, feel free to drop me a message on LinkedIn. I would be happy to answer your questions.