Home Blog Four Tips for Going Back to College for an MBA in Your 40s

Four Tips for Going Back to College for an MBA in Your 40s

July 12, 2021
Middle aged man in black shift sits on couch at home while working on laptop

We’re living longer, retiring later and upward mobility has never been more important. While 65 used to be the gold standard for retirement, many people are delaying retirement until 70 or even later. That might be due to job enjoyment, but for many, it’s due to the rising cost of living and shrinking pensions.1

If you’re thinking about the next 20+ years of your life and hoping it will be fulfilling, think about going back to school for an MBA degree. It’s not too late! In 2018, adult learners made up 35% of the college student population, proving that it’s never too late to reach your goals or set new ones.2

In this post, we’ll explore tips on why you might choose to earn an MBA, how to set up a financial plan, a realistic schedule and reasonable expectations for adult learners. An MBA can help fulfill a lifelong dream, increase earning potential and provide a rewarding learning experience for your second chapter. Here’s how to get there.

Evaluate your current role and career potential

Now’s the time to think about your job, or job prospects, and why you want to go back and earn an MBA. Some people hope an MBA will increase earnings. For many, it’s a personal choice.

Maybe you’re an executive or advisor and you want to deepen your problem-solving skills and strengthen your leadership strategies. Or perhaps you’re on the executive track with your current company and you need an extra edge to be the top candidate.

An MBA can do all that and more. It can challenge your ways of thinking, help you understand younger generations, make you more open to change and bring surprising opportunities. In fact, 95% of MBA alumni find the education personally rewarding.3

And then who knows? Your MBA might help you realize a second chapter you never saw coming. You might change companies or roles where you could work another 20-30 fulfilling years before retiring.

Make a financial plan

First things first. As a responsible professional, you’ll first want to make a plan to finance your degree. After you find out how much your MBA degree might cost, think about ways to meet that expense without going into debt.

Ask your employer if they offer tuition reimbursement

Tuition reimbursement or even an upfront employer contribution is a wonderful—often hidden—benefit that many companies offer. In a 2018 SHRM survey, approximately 49% of respondents offered graduate educational assistance.4

Despite how helpful tuition assistance could be, less than 10% of eligible employees take advantage of it.4 So don’t be afraid to ask—if there’s money available, take it.

Research Scholarships

Make friends with the financial aid office and graduate school at your university. Ask them for help looking for adult learner scholarships or scholarships for nontraditional students.

You can also search the web for scholarships and fellowships. Don’t worry, free money abounds. Try searching at CollegeScholarships.org and filtering for Master’s-level study.

Consider Savings Plans

If you’re planning far in advance, it could be worthwhile to start a 529 plan to help you save. You can set up automatic, recurring contributions from your bank account.

With a college savings plan, your money will grow tax-free. You can also withdraw it tax-free as long as you spend it on eligible education expenses.

Think About Other Potential Tax Advantages

Some states might offer tax deductions or credits for 529 plans. You could also talk to your tax advisor about how you could use graduate tuition expenses to claim the Lifetime Learning Credit on your tax return.

And beyond that, sometimes a Roth IRA can be a good savings option. Roth contributions can grow tax-free, and you can withdraw it without penalty if the money is used for higher education.5 The nice thing about a Roth is if you don’t end up spending the money on a degree, you can keep it for retirement. Win-win.

Tap into Additional Income Streams

To pay for tuition and maintain their lifestyle, many people keep their full time job while they complete their MBA studies. If that’s not an option or if you need more money, consider cultivating additional income streams.

Don’t worry, we’re not talking about a side hustle—those can be too time-consuming. But you can explore renting a room or your entire house on Airbnb, sharing your car on apps like Turo, consulting or designing an online course to increase your cash inflow.

Map out a real-life schedule

You’ll be most successful in your graduate studies if you can create a sustainable work-life-study balance. Look for a program that caters to working adults with 100% online, part-time and flexible degree options. Some programs might waive the GMAT or GRE, or they might even give credit for prior learning or experience.

Now think about the amount of time you can dedicate to your MBA while still working and living. Maybe it’s just a few hours per week. That’s okay! Talk to an advisor about the possibilities of taking one class at a time, or request release time from work so you can concentrate on your studies.

Be realistic and set your own expectations

Be honest with your family, your colleagues and especially with yourself. Earning an MBA is hard work. Prepare yourself for some rough times ahead—and for some incredibly satisfying experiences.

You can prepare in advance by setting your own expectations—maybe even lowering the bar—for travel, socializing and home improvement projects. Start blocking off time now on your personal and work calendars for class and study. And just remember...this won’t last forever.

Step into your future

Ready to take the next step in your career? Consider how an online MBA from Marquette University can help you take that leap. GMAT and GRE waivers are available. Explore your potential today to make a difference, become a thoughtful leader and advance your career. Take a look at Marquette’s online MBA program as your first step.

  1. Retrieved on April 23, 2021 from npr.org/local/305/2020/01/07/794209698/seniors-are-working-longer-out-of-choice-and-necessity
  2. Retrieved on April 23, 2021 from ewa.org/blog-higher-ed-beat/adult-college-students-undercovered-66-million
  3. Retrieved on April 23, 2021 from chicagotribune.com/business/blue-sky/ct-bsi-older-mba-students-20170817-story.html
  4. Retrieved on April 23, 2021 from shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/spring2019/pages/education-benefits-present-learning-opportunity.aspx
  5. Retrieved on April 23, 2021 from nytimes.com/guides/business/how-to-save-for-college