Recently retrenched? This might be the best time to get an MBA

SOURCE: Victor J. Blue/Getty Images/AFP
Businesses continue to close days after bars and restaurants shuttered in New York City.

By U2B Staff 

Read all stories

COVID-19 is ravaging the economy around the globe, with retrenchments and layoffs making headlines.

In the United States, more than three million new unemployment insurance claims were filed in March alone, shattering the previous record as the first wave of coronavirus layoffs hits the United States economy.

In the UK, HM Revenue and Customs (HRMC) reported that more than 70% of private companies have furloughed staff since the start of a nationwide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a BBC survey reveals that more companies will need to access the HRMC-run scheme. This is in addition to the staggering 30% of firms that have reduced up to 75% and 100% of their workforce.

It is common for professionals to opt to go back to school to earn a postgraduate qualification, including an MBA when it seems that at this time, there’s nothing left in the job market for them.

MBAs are a great way to upskill yourself, but is now the right time?

Professionals who have reached a certain point in their careers feel compelled to enrol in a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA programme), to equip themselves with the right knowledge and skills to take on higher management positions.

An MBA can add specific business skills to your toolkit that can all work in your favour. Additionally, MBA programmes have been helpful in opening new and bigger career opportunities and promotions that lead to improved remuneration and compensation.

However, MBA programmes come with a financial and time cost factor – a good MBA programme from a reputable higher learning institution can set you back by about US$100,000, on top of the two-year investment.


MBA graduates who complete accredited programmes are also more likely to enjoy good prospects for employment in any industry. In fact, 85.2% of those who graduated from the 131 MBA programmes ranked by U.S. News found employment within three months, according to a survey of recent graduates.

MBAs offer different specialisations and many universities and business schools offer MBA programmes through various modes of study. Online MBA programmes are becoming increasingly popular, allowing students the opportunity to balance their careers while studying.

Whether earned full-time, part-time, or online, an MBA degree grants an opportunity to propel your career forward. We reached out to Michael Horn, a prominent speaker, and writer about the future of education, and works with a portfolio of education organisations to improve the lives of students to seek his comment on enrolling in an MBA programme as the job market turns murky.

Horn is the author of Choosing College : How to Make Better Learning Decisions Throughout Your Life , a book designed to students understand why they are going to school and how to make better choices, as well as aids schools in designing better experiences. He is currently a programme advisor at Quantic School of Business & Technology.

When asked if professionals should pursue an MBA qualification at a time when retrenchment and layoffs are making up most of the headlines across the globe, Horn told U2B that getting more education and upskilling is important.

However, Horn added that whether students should pursue an MBA, is a question that they need to answer for them as individuals in their specific circumstances.

MBA programmes can certainly offer undeniable value, predominantly through the connections, network, and relationships to access job opportunities and learning. However, even before this recession hit, MBA programmes were suffering and people were questioning whether the traditional MBA programme offered the same value that it did, he adds.

The programme advisor added that MBA students were already questioning if the qualification really provided the benefits it promised or if they would have benefitted more from a non-traditional MBA option that provided. For example, a clear set of technical or digital skills alongside the management learning.

Michael Horn is a prominent speaker and is the author of Choosing College : How to Make Better Learning Decisions Throughout Your Life.

Another consideration is the caliber of the programmes on offer and the individual value they offer. Some programmes offer more value and are ultra-affordable which would suit professionals who are concerned about accruing hefty student loans, as opposed to an MBA programme that is both expensive and lacks a solid reputation.

As the economy recovers and organisations start recruiting talent once again, MBA hopefuls would expect to re-enter into the workforce quite easily upon completion of the programme. However, some MBA candidates may wonder if this qualification would put them at a disadvantage when talent in the job market would be available at a much lower price tag.

Horn does not believe that an MBA qualification would be disadvantageous if the cost of the programme is manageable. However, he cautions that the MBA should not be viewed as a panacea, especially in terms of getting hired.

“Think about the program itself, the progress you’re trying to make in your own life—what will an MBA allow you to do that you couldn’t do without it, for example—and then chart your course,” he added.

Horn adds that there are other options for upskilling available for professionals, “People should look to a variety of options, from joint-degree programs that pair an MBA with another marketable skill or credential to shorter-term and more cost-effective programmes like boot camps and affordable online programmes that build management skills.”

In order to successfully pair learning options, learners should be clear about the end result they’re aiming for and know what they hope to gain from the programmes which could be the connections and relationships built through the programme or simply the learning.

Horn has this advice to impart on to freshly laid-off professionals and even undergraduates who want to develop themselves to be workforce ready, “Invest in understanding what you like and dislike, what activities bring you energy, and what are your strengths. Learn what different pathways can build off of that and then, with an honest assessment of your current skill set and social network, what additional learning or connections can help catapult you into those different pathways and shop accordingly.”