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Business degrees come in many flavors. Students can opt for degrees in accounting, finance, international business, administration and plenty more, as well as a plethora of certificate programs. The two primary degrees in the field are bachelors of business administration and the ubiquitous masters of business administration, or MBA. Bachelors degrees in business administration cost about the same as bachelors degrees in other fields, while MBAs cost significantly more and at top schools can pass the $100,000 mark -- each year.
Bachelors degrees in business administration (or accounting, finance or any other field) cost the same as a bachelors in English or computer science at the vast majority of universities and colleges. Most institutions publish school-wide tuition rates. The College Board reported that nearly half of all undergraduates reported tuition costs averaging $9,000 each year. Public universities average $7,605 a year for in-state students and $11,990 a year for out-of-state students. Private universities and colleges charge a significantly higher $27,293 in tuition each year.
The average cost of an MBA is $40,000 a year, and most programs run two years, for a total bill of $80,000. The average hides a huge range of costs, from dubious online programs that advertise MBAs in a matter of months for a few hundred dollars to Harvard's School of Business, which charges $51,000 in tuition alone and estimates costs to be around $100,000 a year. Forbes notes that not all MBAs are created equal, and MBAPrograms.org advises students that cost often translates to quality and the impact of a business school's brand on the job market.
Aside from tuition, getting any type of degree involves a lot of other costs. You might not be able to work very much while in school, but you still pay rent and buy food, you need to buy books and pay school fees, and you will probably buy clothes, go out occasionally and pay for transportation. These costs depend on where you live and your spending habits, making them difficult to average. College Board reports that undergraduates living on campus in 2010 spent an average $1,200 on books, $1,900 on personal expenses and $1,000 on transportation. Costs are higher for MBA students living off campus. The cost of rent varies wildly across the U.S. and college campuses but can easily run over $10,000 a year.
Undergraduates studying business have access to more grants and scholarships than MBA students, especially if the undergraduate falls into a low income category. The federal government distributes Pell Grants and subsidized loans to undergraduates, while College Board reports that most students pay less than sticker price and that financial aid can considerably reduce the cost of an undergraduate education. MBA students can take out subsidized student loans, but grant and scholarship money is very scarce for graduate students studying business.
- College Board: What It Costs to Go to College
- College Board: Break Down the Bill
- MBAPrograms.org: The Cost of an MBA
- "Forbes"; Best Masters Degree for Jobs; Kurt Badenhausen; May 2010
- MBA.com: Types of Financial Aid for B-School Students
- Quint Careers; The Masters of Business Administration: Is the MBA Worth the Time, Effort and Cost?; Randel Hansen, PhD
Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.