The decision to pursue an MBA should never be made casually, but based on personal experience and industry statistics, there is a strong likelihood you will find the experience to be rewarding and well worth the sacrifice.

By John Gentner

In today's ultra-competitive job market, individuals are often looking for ways to gain an edge over the competition. Landing that ideal career opportunity takes a little luck and a whole lot of preparation. One way to separate yourself from the pack can be through education. Given similar work experience, job candidates who possess an advanced degree are typically more desired than those without one.

However, going to graduate school can be a daunting task. The significant commitment of time and money required to successfully complete a quality program can cause a person to ask, "Is grad school worth the investment?" You may well get a different response based on the type of graduate degree program you investigate. But, if you are considering a Master's in Business Administration (MBA), the answer is fairly certain to be yes, it's worth it, for several reasons.

A valuable financial investment
The investment that comes along with pursuing an MBA may be intimidating at first, but completion does provide a positive return. According to the 2016 Alumni Perspectives Survey Report conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, 93 percent of MBA alumni rated the degree as an "outstanding" or "excellent" value.

The survey was conducted in 2015 and generated responses from more than 14,000 graduate business alumni representing 70 universities in 20 locations worldwide. On average, MBA alumni recoup the cost of their degree in less than four years after graduation.

Faster career advancement
From the same Alumni Perspectives Survey Report, three out of four alumni said their degree provided them with faster career advancement following completion. Although the speed of advancement in one's job may be somewhat impacted when returning to school as a part-time or full-time student, after earning an MBA professionals found it to positively impact their career trajectory.

Development of qualitative skills
It's a given that quality MBA programs require students to demonstrate accounting, finance, and operational competency, however, career advancement and promotions seldom come because a person can accurately spread a financial statement or create pivot tables. What often makes the biggest difference is one's ability to influence others in situations where they have little to no authority, or the ability to quickly build genuine trust in new situations.

In a recent article, graduates from the class of 2016 from various universities all over the country were asked to identify their "best lessons" learned while completing their MBA. Of the more than two dozen individuals interviewed, not one person mentioned a quantitative-based skill or function. Instead, the qualitative or "soft" skills are what came to mind, such as:

Learning to be self-aware

Learning to show empathy

Becoming comfortable with ambiguity

Being open-minded and adaptive

The decision to pursue an MBA should never be made casually. Rather, it should be intentional and done with a clear outcome in mind. Based on personal experience and industry statistics, there is a strong likelihood you will find the experience to be rewarding and well worth the sacrifice.

John Gentner is the Director of the MBA and Graduate Programs in the School of Management & Leadership at Capital University. In his current position, Gentner provides direct oversight of Capital's MBA Program while also seeking out opportunities for additional certificate and professional development programs.