Follow-up: Why do we bother with MBAs?

[This article is a follow-up to my first post on MBAs]

In the week since I first wrote about MBAs, I reached out and met with several people at my company (Pariveda Solutions) to discuss the topic of acquiring an MBA. I was lucky enough to grab some time from someone who has an MBA. I also got to share lunch with someone who has been thinking about getting an MBA for a while, but can’t seem to find the time (I guess having children can be time consuming). The CEO of my company has a few blog posts that discuss MBAs and continued education in general. One of the comments I received on my first post linked me out to an interesting article that had a cool TED talk attached to it that discussed online education as an affordable alternative (TED talks are awesome, I would love to speak at one some day). In summary, I got insight from several sources on the subject of MBAs.

So here is answer you’ve been asking yourself: should I bother with an MBA? The answer is … [drum-roll] … it depends (a true consultant’s answer).

There are a lot of factors that could go into such a difficult decision:

  • What are my goals and how does an MBA help me achieve them?
  • Do I have the time?
  • Do I have the money, and does the ROI make it worth my while?
  • Then, if you decide to go forward in your quest for business superiority (or maybe not, I’ll get to that later) you have to answer these questions:
    • When should I get one (right after my undergraduate degree or after being in the industry for a while)?
    • What school should I pursue?
    • Should I get a specialized or generic degree?
    • Do I concurrently work full-time, part-time, or not at all?

I’ll start with my situation: I don’t think it makes sense.

  • My current goal is to advance my career at Pariveda, and an MBA does nothing for me in that regard. Pariveda is setup in such a fashion that I can learn everything I need along the way. We have neat mechanisms (like case studies) built into our framework that allow coworkers to share ideas. This is a chance to get a refreshing perspective on an interesting business problem that usually has some type of technical twist thrown into the mix.
  • I don’t have the time because it would take away from the precious experience that I gain everyday with my client work, which ultimately helps me move through my career path.
  • I’m not sure if I have the money, but the ROI doesn’t make it worth my while. At least in the short term. Sure, one day if I move to a different company then the MBA looks nice and sparkly on my resume. But I have no intention of needing sparkle on my resume. I feel like I can portray my expertise through my experience.

Now for the generic situation: some more ‘it depends’.

  • If your goal is to be a business administrator, what better way to show that you have competence than to get a Master’s degree in that area? Maybe there isn’t one. Someone that I spoke to (got their MBA after being in the industry for several years) said that they might have learned less in the classroom than they did in the real world.
  • Time is dependent on your current life situation. Did you just get laid off and you have always wanted to get your MBA? Maybe going back makes sense right now. If the situation presents itself, you ought to take advantage of it. I think that working full-time (or even part-time) while concurrently seeking an MBA would be extremely difficult.
  • If you have the money, the ROI could be very large. Certain industries might really like that sparkly *MBA* on your resume – it is very prestigious, especially if combined with the right school. Not to mention, some companies will pay for you to go back and get your MBA. That sounds like a decent deal to me. What I heard from several sources is that the largest (indirect) ROI from getting an MBA is the network of professionals that you build in the process. In my opinion, this is the biggest selling point that an MBA has.

It seems that there are plenty of reasons to get an MBA. But for some it just doesn’t make sense. In the end, it is a personal decision that has many parameters and depends mostly (I think) on your current life situation.

I would love to hear other opinions on the subject. Do you have an MBA and have insights to share that I didn’t? Please use the comments.

Posted in Professional Tagged with: , ,
2 comments on “Follow-up: Why do we bother with MBAs?
  1. Brian Hlavinka says:

    Great notes! I agree with the majority of your opinions, mostly the ‘it depends’ idea. I would also like to add that if your company is willing to pay for you to get your MBA, it’s icing on the cake (assuming you have the time and desire).

    I watched the video on TED that you mentioned and it was very interesting. I find it funny that a PhD who teaches at Stanford is talking about how useless universities can be…but I have to agree with her. You only get out what you are willing to put in when it comes to education. And often the university isn’t going to light the fire for you.

    It also sparked another thought in my mind…would this person have been speaking about this without her PhD? Would anyone care to listen? Would she get the same respect if she was some ‘joe schmo’ who just had an opinion on the subject of online education? What if she had an Associates degree in Education from Blinn? What about a Bachelors from Stanford? My point is…when is ‘enough’ education enough? It seems like regardless of how ‘smart’ a person may be, sometimes doors don’t open without a piece of paper that says you are ‘smart’. I’m not saying that getting an MBA or PhD means you are smarter than anyone else. I don’t think getting an MBA will make everyone a better manager, CEO, etc. I think that industry experience is worth 100 times more than a degree. But if the job you are applying for says ‘MBA desired’, it is another box you can check.

    Overall, I think you are right. Like most things in life, it depends.

    • brhlavinka says:

      Great point about the credibility of the speaker on the TED talk. I guess that at some point, you have to find the balance of when enough education is enough.

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