Free Shipping on orders $35+ within the continental US

Don’t Pay for Your MBA: Build Your Own Business Education Budget

Executive Summary

Furthering your business education can be an affordable investment in your future with long-term benefits. But, before you begin, it’s essential to know what kind of expenses to expect and how to budget for them.

  • Unwilling to let a lack of finances stop her from pursuing the education of her dreams, Laurie Pickard set out blaze a unique educational path that would eventually pave the way for others like her.
  • Whether you’re looking for a career change or merely looking to supplement your skills, consider online resources such as MOOCs that are often free to audit.
  • Don’t be afraid to look outside of a traditional MBA when it comes to getting the continuing education you need. You can find resources tailored to fit your needs and your budget for a fraction of the cost.

How much money should you invest in yourself and your future? Think of it as your scholarship fund. How and from whom you acquire it matters less than the fact that you have earmarked a certain amount of money for your business education. Setting up this fund relieves you of anxiety if and when you need to pay for courses, materials, or experiences during your studies.


Now that you’ve decided to invest in your future by continuing your business education, what kinds of expenses can you expect to incur? This short list includes most of the primary ones:

1. MOOC Certificates

Most MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on the big platforms, such as Coursera and edX, do not cost anything to audit. However, some providers of online business education require a fee for access to quizzes and assignments and for a certificate of completion. Typically these cost between $40 and $150.

Setting aside some funds for certificates makes sense for a few reasons:

  • First, they offer proof of your perseverance and professionalism. A certificate proves that you are a determined go-getter who will invest time and money acquiring business acumen.
  • Second, they strengthen your determination because they provide motivation to stay the course. Behavioral economists call it “loss aversion.” It turns out that we dislike losing even more than we enjoy winning. Hence, we will more likely complete a course that we’ve paid for than one that didn’t cost us a nickel.
  • Third, it can serve as a tangible reminder that you are making progress toward your goals.

2. Specialized Content

While you can take many courses without dipping into your scholarship fund, some providers do charge fees for courses. Often, skills-focused courses taught by industry experts are available only to fee-paying students. The fees can range from under $10 to over $1,000. You will probably want to invest in such courses as you progress with your business education and begin to concentrate your time and resources on the area of expertise you want to develop.

3. Books

Most courses assign required reading or suggest supplemental books on the subject. Usually, these readings are provided as downloadable documents and are included with the course. The good news is that most MOOCs do not require you to purchase pricey textbooks, which can cost over $100 apiece. However, you would be wise to supplement your classroom education with books. Imagine that you are building a business library that not only gives you immediate knowledge but also allows you to refresh your learning later in your career.

4. Coaching, Mentorship, and Networking

We will spend much more time throughout this book discussing how to replicate the in-person components of a business education. For now, suffice it to say that coaches, mentors, and a strong professional network can play a major role in the development of your career. These services can add a significant amount of money to the cost of a self-directed business education. For example, the services of an executive coach can run over $150 per hour. Use such resources sparingly, perhaps setting aside $500 for coaching, networking, and mentoring services.


5. Travel

Travel, particularly international travel, can give students in traditional business school programs a valuable global perspective. Of course, international travel can cost a pretty penny. Consider the business benefits of any trip you take to a foreign country. Planning a surfing adventure in Costa Rica? Combine it with a few weeks helping young Costa Rican entrepreneurs develop their business plans.

If you decide to include international travel in your curriculum you will need to beef up your scholarship fund by at least $3,000 to cover airfare, accommodations, and meals during your international experience. We will look more closely at the benefits of international travel in Chapter 9 [Don’t Pay For Your MBA].


When determining how much money you want to bank in your scholarship account, you might ask yourself this central question: How much money am I willing to spend on opening up a whole new world of career opportunities?

You can spend your money a lot of different ways. What will you get out of a given expenditure? You might yearn for a lavish dinner at an expensive restaurant, a new pair of designer jeans, or a weekend getaway at a mountain resort, but spending money on those indulgences will not give you many long-term benefits. A self-directed business education will. It can add many thousands of dollars to your lifetime earning potential.

When budgeting for your business education, never forget to ask yourself, “What can I hope for in terms of a return on my investment?” Every good business decision aims at a good ROI. You can use My Business Education Budget worksheet (Figure 1-1) to help focus your thinking about your own scholarship fund.


Laurie Pickard

Laurie Pickard founded the No-Pay MBA website, which has been featured in Fortune, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, Financial Times, and Bloomberg Business. She also works as a business and entrepreneurship development consultant, most recently at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Rwanda.

Want to read more? Get the book!

Sold out

Related Posts

Leave a comment

Name .
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published