An MBA is a really expensive bet that more than a half million people place each year. Some people go with the top schools to increase their chances of a big payday. That strategy comes at a huge cost and as one who blogs about being frugal I wasn’t willing to take out a huge loan to complete a degree whose value is under ever-increasing scrutiny. What I was willing to do look for a school that offered a good education at a great value. This search led me abroad to Lisbon and even MIT.
I chose to attend The Lisbon MBA, ranked 40th when I applied and currently 80th. The full-time MBA is a one-year program that includes an one-month expenses-paid trip to study at MIT. The month at MIT was incredible and I’m jealous of the students who get to spend two years there, but everything comes at a cost. There are many positive things I could say about my program, but like gambling it is the experience and outcome that really matter. I will simply say it has been a great experience doing the program with fewer than forty classmates from all over the world while living in one of Europe’s hottest tourist destinations.
I wanted to study business in college, but being in the Bay Area I saw that many leaders were engineers and figured it would be better to do that first. My career led me to data analysis and it is the field I would like to stay in. After a few years, I thought doing an MBA would be a good time to get a new experience and move up in my career and salary. However, I really do love learning and have always been learning a language, data skill, or personal finance even out of school.
Since the program is only one year, I had to prepare prior to the start of the program. Not only did I need to gather documents to get a visa, but I also applied to dozens of summer internships in America. I applied only to ones in which I would be working with data and was lucky enough to spend the summer at a tech company. I noticed that almost all the other MBAs were from top schools, so there is certainly a well-trod path between elite schools and big companies. However, there is a huge pool of talent as those schools have such a large class size. It was a fantastic summer and I have happily returned to the company. Could I have done the job without an MBA? Certainly. To be fair, I don’t know how much of my college education I’ve applied in my past work experience either. However, since this was an MBA internship, being enrolled in a program was the only path to take.
So how did I save so much money? Let’s start with the tuition. If I went to a top school, and that’s a big “if” because they don’t just let anyone in, it would cost around $140,000 in tuition. The Lisbon MBA costs €36,000, with the strong dollar earlier last in the year I paid under $40,000, so I’m already a $100,000 ahead.
A one-year program is nine months shorter than a two-year program, so I was able to work four months longer than my American B-school counterparts and will start my job five months earlier. This means an extra $74,000 in income. My internship was two weeks shorter than a typical one, so they earned an additional $4,000 making the total difference $170,000. When adding the differences in cost of living and health insurance I’m sure the difference could top $200,000.
I am not recommending that people enroll in an affordable international MBA simply because it worked out for me. I recommend challenging conventional wisdom and looking for the options that work for you. If you are set on doing an MBA or masters programs there may be a program that doesn’t drown you in debt and caters to your needs. There was certainly luck involved in getting a job I’m happy with, but working with data is quite in demand. The year did at sometimes feel like a vacation, but it was an unforgettable experience.