The MBA is still the world’s most popular graduate management degree. MBA students learn from the best professors, bolster their networks, transform their careers, and see their salaries skyrocket after graduation.
There are so many reasons to pursue an MBA, and with business schools offering generous scholarships and funding options, the fact that the MBA comes at a cost shouldn’t put you off.
It does however make sense to understand the full cost of an MBA program before you apply. You’ll need to prepare your finances ahead of time, weigh up the different programs on offer, and also assess the opportunity cost you’ll face by taking time off work.
Understanding the cost of a MBA also means looking beyond tuition fees alone. For full-time MBA programs, you’ll need to consider additional costs including living expenses, healthcare cover, and paying for course materials. All these extra costs contribute to the overall cost of an MBA and, like MBA tuition fees, can vary each year.
In the BusinessBecause Cost of MBA Report 2020, we give you the latest figures to help you plan for your MBA studies over the next two years.
There are so many MBA programs out there at different price points. Here, we’ve broken down the total cost of the world’s top MBA programs as ranked by the Financial Times. These may cost more than many lower-ranked MBA programs, but may well deliver more too.
Of course, preparing for anything this year is more difficult than before. As you take in the data below, it’s worth reading how the total cost of your MBA may be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Read on to find out the total cost of an MBA in 2020 or skip to your section of interest by clicking one of the links below.
MBA Cost: An Overview
So, how much does an MBA cost? Well, pursuing an MBA at a top-ranked business school remains a significant investment. The total cost of an MBA includes:
Tuition: The main fees you pay for an MBA program; teaching, experience etc.
Fees: What schools charge in addition to the tuition fees for processing, admin, and which also include fees for student associations etc.
Living expenses: How much you’ll pay for accommodation and transport during your MBA
Healthcare: What you need to pay for healthcare cover for the duration of your MBA
Program materials: Additional costs for books, case studies, and other program materials
Taking all these into account, our research shows that the average total cost of studying one of the world’s top MBA programs is $168k.
World’s most expensive MBA programs
The world’s most expensive MBA program in terms of total cost is the MBA at MIT Sloan with a total cost of over $237,600. MIT is followed closely by Stanford, at over $237,200, and Wharton at over $229,700.
The least expensive place to do a top-ranked MBA is at NUS Business School in Singapore, with a total cost of over $87,600, followed by CEIBS in China and Oxford Saïd Business School and Cambridge Judge in the UK.
The highest ranked MBA programs are not necessarily the most expensive. MIT Sloan is ranked sixth by the Financial Times but top for overall cost, while Harvard Business School, which is ranked first by the FT, comes fourth overall in terms of total cost.
CEIBS is ranked fifth in the world by the FT but is the second cheapest MBA program out of the top-25, while the cheapest, NUS, is ranked 15th by the FT.
MBA Cost vs Location
MBA programs in the United States are typically two years long, compared to shorter format programs popular elsewhere, which means doubling your...
US schools are therefore the most expensive MBA programs in terms of total cost (although Cornell, Kellogg, and NYU Stern among others do offer one-year MBA programs which have not been considered here). The average cost of tuition for all the MBA programs in our report is just over $117k, while the average cost of tuition for the US-based MBA programs is over $146k.
Outside the US, NUS Business School charges significantly less than most other business schools in terms of tuition at $49,250, while MBA course fees at CEIBS, Cambridge, and Oxford are also comparably low.
However, where you live while you study also has an impact on the total MBA cost. Pursuing the INSEAD MBA in France, for example, may be slightly cheaper than doing so in Singapore.
The graphic below shows the average total cost of a top-25 MBA program in Europe, the USA, and Asia, based on our research.
See the full Cost of an MBA data table page 2
The Cost of an MBA in 2020
Read on to find out more about MBA tuition fees, living expenses, and healthcare cover
Total cost breakdown
MBA tuition fees
For any MBA experience, the bulk of the cost comes down to tuition fees.
Schools list their tuition fees either as one total sum or, in the case of the two-year US MBA programs, as an annual fee. For these US MBA programs, we have doubled the cost of tuition for 2020-21 to get a total two-year figure.
Tuition fees actually tend to increase by a percentage or two each year, so tuition costs may well be slightly higher than our estimates. However, some schools, like Harvard, have frozen MBA course fees in recent years. Plus, with the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic causing some students to petition for reduced fees, schools may hesitate to increase fees in 2021.
Although MBA programs in the US charge more, tuition fees vary by school. The most expensive MBA in terms of tuition, at Wharton, costs almost $30k more than the MBA at Berkeley Haas.
Some business schools offer MBAs with a variety of exit points—ESADE Business School, for example, offers 12, 15, or 18-month formats—but the tuition fees they charge are fixed regardless of your length of study.
If you are looking at MBA fees versus time spent on-campus, NUS offers the best bang for your buck, costing under $50k for 17 months in a top-ranked MBA program.
Tuition vs program length
INSEAD is the most expensive one-year MBA program in terms of tuition, followed by IMD in Switzerland. Fees for INSEAD vary by intake (tuition fees for the September 2020 intake are €87,000 and the January 2021 intake are €89,000), so we have taken the median figure and converted into US$.
Some tuition fees will pay for the program alone; others will cover things like books and program materials. Fees at INSEAD also cover compulsory health insurance, for example.
Fees also vary based on a candidate’s individual circumstance. At Darden and Berkeley Haas, for example, in-state students pay less. Our listed tuition fees are all for out-of-state, international students.
Read about living expenses and healthcare on page 4
Living expenses can vary depending on where you are based during your MBA. California, for example, is one of the most expensive states to live in and pursue an MBA in the US, according to our report, with Stanford MBA students paying an estimated $69k in living costs over the two years, and UCLA Anderson MBAs paying $64k.
Major cities like New York and London tend to have higher living costs, whereas Upstate New York is significantly cheaper. Based in Ithaca, New York, Cornell students have the lowest estimated living costs out of any US-based student in our report.
How long you stay in a city will obviously impact your living expenses during an MBA. MBA students at Cambridge Judge will incur estimated living expenses of $17k—the lowest in our report—covering the duration of the short, 10-month program.
CEIBS in Shanghai, meanwhile, provides affordable living costs compared to time spent in the city, at just over $18k for 18 months. This includes the cost of CEIBS campus accommodation plus an independent estimate on living costs in Shanghai.
The important thing to note is that our figures are estimates. They are for an individual student living a moderate lifestyle, including accommodation for the duration of the MBA program.
Our living expenses do not cover entertainment or miscellaneous activities and candidates going to business school with families or partners will incur higher living costs. Our figures can therefore be viewed as minimum estimates.
Living expenses are the most variable out of any of the data presented in this report. Savings can be made in various ways, by sharing rooms or living with relatives. But even if you live like a monk, you’ll need to pay for program materials and books not covered in your tuition fees.
Remember, an MBA is also a time for socializing with classmates and extra-curricular fun, so you’ll need to save some extra cash for that. Class social activities are optional of course, but when everyone else in the class is heading off for a ski trip to Aspen or a week-long trek in the Himalayas, it feels less so!
So many of the networking benefits of an MBA come from these off-site excursions—including international study immersions which are not always covered in tuition fees—so while you shouldn’t underestimate their cost, you shouldn’t underestimate their value either.
The cost of healthcare insurance cover is another big variable that can make a significant difference to your outgoings during your MBA. It is almost always compulsory for students to be covered for healthcare during an MBA. However, what this entails varies hugely between country.
At HEC Paris, all students are eligible for health insurance under the French National Healthcare System which, the school says, is completely free. The documents needed to apply for this insurance are provided to students during their first days on campus.
In the UK, students have access to the National Health Service. This is free for UK and EU students. Non-EU students pay a visa surcharge of just £300 ($369, per year) for access to healthcare.
Healthcare is also low cost or free in Spain and Singapore. MBA students at NUS pay for treatments if needed and then can claim back through the NUS student insurance scheme. At INSEAD, in both France and Singapore, health insurance is included in the cost of tuition.
In the United States, however, healthcare costs skyrocket. The average cost of healthcare cover for two years at the US schools in our report is close to $10k. In fact, one year of healthcare cover in the US costs more than you would pay for several years elsewhere.
US schools offer their own compulsory health insurance schemes at competitive annual prices. Healthcare cover at Wharton costs the most at an estimated $18.7k for two years, while Yale offers the cheapest cover for a US school at $5.2k
We have doubled the fees given for 2020-21, although these are subject to change. Our health insurance costs include any additional healthcare-related fees.
Read how to fund your MBA studies on page 5
Funding your MBA
The cost of a full-time MBA might seem intimidating at first. Even before you go to business school, you’ll spend a bit of money to apply.
Application fees range between $150 and $250, although some schools offer application fee waivers to students depending on their profiles (BAME, ex-military, or female candidates, for example).
You also have to think about the opportunity cost; the salary you lose out on taking one-to-two years out of work.
However, there are many ways of funding an MBA which will reduce your overall cost significantly. Business schools offer very generous scholarships, including full-ride scholarships which cover the your entire b-school experience (including tuition, room and board, books, and sometimes even living expenses), and full-tuition scholarships.
Some schools automatically consider every accepted student for some sort of scholarship (most commonly a percentage reduction in tuition fees) and there are various scholarships based on nationality, gender, industry background, and academic performance.
Ultimately, the return on investment you will eventually get from an MBA—whether that’s doubling your salary, entering an exciting new industry, or starting a successful business—will likely make that initial expense more than worth it.
And, with plenty of funding options, your MBA dreams can be made a reality.
Check out our methodology on page 6
The business schools included in this report were ranked in the top 25 by the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking in January 2020. 26 schools are included as UCLA and IMD are ranked joint-25th. We’ve also separated out the MBA programs at INSEAD offered in France and Singapore.
The data in this report was sourced direct from business schools, from business school websites— which give their own breakdown of total costs—and from some external sources between February and April 2020.
All figures were recorded in, or have been converted to, US$. Conversion rates are subject to change.
MBA tuition fees stated are for the 2020-21 year. US tuition fees, which are charged annually, have been doubled for the two-year MBA duration. These fees are subject to change. Fees and the cost of program materials and healthcare have also been doubled for US programs and are subject to change.
Living expenses in this report are minimum estimates and will vary significantly depending on an candidate’s individual circumstances and other economic factors. Where no value is stated in the table above, the figure is either zero or included elsewhere (for example, within tuition fees). We have sourced living expenses estimates direct from business schools, who may estimate differently. Columbia doesn’t include transport in its living costs, for example.
The figures in this report have been vetted and approved by leading MBA admissions consulting company MBA360. Barbara Coward has over two decades of experience in the industry, including as a business school admissions director, an MBA recruiter, and as an MBA student herself.
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