The value of an MBA: Chicago entrepreneurs weigh in

you ask yourself: Is an MBA worth it?

To answer that question, you must ask yourself what kind of work you plan to do or continue doing.

Do you plan to work in banking, consulting, marketing, finance or insurance? MBA new hires in 2014 are expected to earn a $45,000 salary premium over new bachelor's degree recipients in the U.S., according to the 2014 corporate recruiters survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council. The anticipated median starting salary for Class of 2014 MBA new hires stood at $95,000 in the U.S., the survey showed.

“With every level of education, people increase their lifetime earnings and increase their career stability,” said John Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “It's easier to move positions, and (MBA holders) tend to see fewer periods of long-term unemployment. MBAs, in particular, come away with skills and a stamp of approval and credentials that businesses and employers value.”

But what if you plan to start your own business?

In either case, you must be willing to pay handsomely. Tuition at many programs costs about $40,000 per year — and much more at elite programs.

“It's never been proven to me that having an MBA leads directly to success in a startup,” Jill Salzman, founder of The Founding Moms, wrote in an email response to questions to leaders of Chicago's startup community. “Success' greatest predictors are in the personality, temperament and patience of the people who are running it.”

Here is a look at how Chicago-based entrepreneurs have done with and without an MBA.

Joseph Sheahan, co-founder and CEO of Savvo Digital Sommelier Solutions, which matches shoppers with wine at the point of purchase. Sheahan earned an MBA in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Chicago Liautaud Graduate School of Business.

Sheahan says his MBA helps him in every aspect of his business, including in meetings with venture capitalists. “I feel I know what they are going to ask, why they are going to ask it and, in general, what they are looking for” because of a technology ventures class he took at UIC, he said...

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