Should I get my MBA?
This is a question a lot of you ask me for some reason.
The answer, like most of these types of questions, is “it depends.”
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the MBA. The return on the investment for the typical person isn’t worth it, but let’s explore a few reasons why you should and shouldn’t pursue an MBA.
The first thing you should do when weighing this decision is to determine your expectations for an MBA and what you anticipate it will do for your career. If you’ve taken that initial step, I recommend filtering your decision based on some of the factors that follow.
Don’t Get Your MBA
U.S. business schools churn out more than 150,000 MBAs a year and tuition has sky-rocketed — actually outpacing inflation. The annual bill for an MBA is more than $39,000/year.
Even Harvard Business School graduates had a tough time finding work last year. 25% of them were without jobs at commencement. At Dartmouth, 30% lacked jobs at graduation. Job offers and starting salaries have stumbled. (Source: Why B-Schools Have to Lower the Price of an MBA)
[Editor’s note: I’ve been told by multiple MBAs that I trust that the stat above is misleading and that generally, jobs at commencement isn’t the best indicator. That jobs 3 months after graduation is and that there’s a big difference between lacked job offers and lacked job acceptances. The gap, cited above, is typically due to very picky students. Thanks Rohan and Chase for the insight/clarification.]
If MBA students at some of the most prestigious schools in the country aren’t getting jobs — much less ‘better’ jobs — should you really be sacrificing two prime working years to get an MBA from the University of Podunk Online? The answer is a resounding “no.”
Here are some additional reasons you should skip the MBA:
- Starting salaries are not as much as you think. It’s about 77,000 *with* 5-9 years experience.
- Pair that with you spending almost $40,000 a year (again, average) and likely missing 2 years of working and earning.
- An MBA is *not* a specialized degree. If you’re interested in being an accountant or a banker, you’re probably better off majoring in accounting or finance. This is especially true in disciplines where experience (see: photography) matters more than a certification.
- Modern business changes and evolves at a rapid pace. How long will your MBA curriculum be relevant?
- You do not have to spend two years in business school to “network.” This is especially true given the power of the Internet.
In addition to the dilution of the degree and the high cost of the degree, an MBA is not like a JD or an MD. You don’t HAVE-to-HAVE an MBA to be a CEO. Notably, just 35 percent of U.S. CEOs have an MBA, which is down from 42 percent the year before. Five years ago, nearly half of executives in the top spot held the degree. Furthermore, it’s not a pre-requisite for success. Studies actually show CEOs with MBAs are more likely to fail.
A college education — and the MBA in particular — have become a signaling factor. “I’m smart enough to get this degree; therefore, I’m smart enough for you to hire me.” You’re giving them money… a lot of money. They’re going to give you the degree. The benefits of credentials have declined over time, but the costs have increased dramatically.
In my opinion, there are better ways to get broad business experience and network with smart peers.
Get Your MBA
- The MBA will advance your career path relative to its cost. (i.e. Your company guarantees you’ll get a $20K raise and a promotion to “X” once you get your MBA.)
- You’re interested in learning broadly about business, leadership and management and someone else is paying for your degree. AND, you want to eventually add value by leading others versus being an independent contributor.
- You got into Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, Kellog, MIT, Stanford, etc. (i.e. one of the top 5-10 schools) where the professors, alumni networks and access to amazing companies is worth the cost of the degree.
- You’re able to obtain your degree on nights and weekends while maintaining your current career; thereby not setting your current career and net worth back.
To be clear, I’m not discouraging anyone from getting an MBA. It’s just that like buying a house (or any other big and expensive decision); you should do ample research. You need to understand WHY you want/need an MBA and then calculate the ROI on that investment. DO NOT get an MBA if you’re “trying to figure your life out.” I see this all the time with smart people. They finish undergrad and they still don’t know what they want to do so they decide to get their MBA or go to law school (the two most common). This is a huge, time-consuming and expensive mistake.
Hopefully, the points above will help you determine if an MBA is right for you.
If you have additional questions, feel free to drop them in the comments of the post and I’ll do my best to answer. (Keep in mind that I *do not* have an MBA).
This blog started primarily as a marketing blog, but now I write much more about work/life, social psychology, health and happiness. I will also continue to explore top performers (authors, entrepreneurs, business leaders and more) and dissect what we can take away to be top performers in our own work and personal lives.
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