MBA: A Mere Option

So many executives have enjoyed stellar careers without the benefit of a master’s of business administration that its value is clearly overrated. Pro or con?

Pro: Save Your Cash

Some of the best businesspeople I know don’t even have an undergraduate degree, let alone an advanced one. During the Internet boom, people dropped out of the best undergraduate and MBA programs to pursue once-in-a-lifetime career opportunities. Famous MBA dropouts include Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer and filmmaker Georgia Lee, who left Harvard Business School and was discovered by Martin Scorsese (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/20/06, “Unfinished Business: Is the Degree Key?”).

Business school might improve your quantitative, presentation, and communication skills. It might even get you thinking about ethics and strategy. But two years of case studies aren’t going to turn you into a leader if you weren’t born one. There’s no learning charisma, persuasiveness, elegance, or gut instinct.

If you’re going to B-school to acquire a network, you’re not taking advantage of the one already in front of you—alumni from your undergraduate institution, professional organizations, your current and past colleagues, and all sorts of Internet communities. These folks already have relationships with people who can help you advance, whereas you’ll have to wait for fellow MBA students to graduate, get back in the game, and help themselves first.

In fact, only 20% of 133 top international executives said that an MBA prepares people to deal with the real-life challenges that a manager must face, according to a recently released report from executive search firm Egon Zehnder International.

The average age for B-school is 28, when most people are just starting to hit their stride on the job. And those who usually enter top MBA programs already have high salaries and exceptional skill levels. If you want to get ahead, you can do so without an MBA. Who wants to pull himself out of circulation for two years and take on hefty loans to go to university a second time? Certainly not someone with a nose for a good deal.

Con: Many Happy Returns

No single opportunity can so dramatically alter an individual’s career path or earning potential like an MBA. In less than two years, a student can obtain the knowledge, skills, perspective, and networks that otherwise would take a lifetime to acquire.

The best programs integrate theory and practice, and foster an intense collaborative environment among talented faculty, experienced professionals, and the bright, inquisitive minds of a diverse set of students. MBA students expose themselves to leading research, new ideas, and innovative best practices, and have opportunities to explore and take risks they would not be able to afford on the job.

Consumers are smart. If business schools were failing to keep pace with the knowledge, skills, and abilities students consider critical, we wouldn’t see increasing applications. The 2006 issue of the Application Trends Survey Report, published by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), reports that application volume has risen about two-thirds for full-time, two-year, part-time, and executive programs. At the Johnson School, applications have increased 30% over last year.

Likewise, corporate demand for MBAs remains strong, and corporate recruiter data show business schools are fulfilling the needs of companies and providing the kinds of future leaders organizations require. According to GMAC’s Corporate Recruiters Survey (April, 2007), companies plan to increase the number of new business-graduate hires by 18%. Moreover, according to the National Association of Colleges & Employers’ Job Outlook 2007 survey, employers that said they recruit MBA graduates are planning to hire 22% more of them than they did in 2005-06.

Finally, a look at the return on investment for a full-time, two-year MBA program in BusinessWeek’s ROI calculator reveals the annual 10-year ROI for the top schools ranges from 15.9% to 22.3% when using the calculator’s set defaults. Few investments generate those returns over 10 years or even over a lifetime of productive employment.

Because students continue to enroll and corporations continue to hire MBAs, business schools can reasonably conclude they are providing what both types of customers want—a well-rounded, hands-on education that produces extraordinary business leaders who have outstanding technical abilities and add value by seizing opportunities, setting direction, motivating action, and delivering results.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

Peter

I personally don't think the MBA pays off. I received my MBA from a "non-recognized" program, and of the companies I worked for, most small to mid-size, none of them paid above market price for extra training. All they cared about was your past experience. Also, if 80% of all business consists of small companies, and small companies don't really care about the MBA, why get one?

Midwest

I have 20 years of work experience, and I just received my MBA from one of the "not so prestigious" schools this year. After having worked very hard on my grad degree, I can say that a few years of working will provide most people with a similar amount of knowledge. The MBA hype is more of an "I did it, so you need to do it" situation. MBAs look awfully good, especially to others with an MBA. I work for a very large company that does business around the world, and I will receive no additional compensation for my efforts.

brainfreeze

People used to say the same thing about not needing a bachelor's degree that they now say about MBAs. Bill Gates couldn't get a job at Microsoft today with no degree. Times have changed--again. At my company, more and more jobs posted say MBA required. I've been turned down for jobs that require an MBA, even though I have more than 15 years of professional experience. Don't be fooled; get all the education you can.

Back2theBooks

I don't have an MBA but am considering getting one. I think more and more people are getting them, and to compete in the marketplace, it's necessary. I'm just not sure if I'll do an online program from an accredited university or a traditional program. Anyone have thoughts on the pros/cons of either program?

Sean

My experience was very different from those described in the first two comments. One of the most valuable networking techniques is to relocate. You're forced to build new relationships. I attended a full-time program from a top program in a city I had never lived in. That created a dynamic that made the location alone worth the two years. I could have just gotten another job in another city, but I hated the niche I had made myself valuable in. It's not just about the paycheck. Job satisfaction is critical. I now have a job that I would do for a lot less money. In the end, my quality of life is better because of my MBA. There are other paths that could have led me to this same place, but the discipline of a rigorous full-time program was right for me.

Rasputin

Anyone going to business school with the primary goal of making truckloads of cash is clearly misguided in his career. Second, there are certain industries (management consulting being one) where an MBA is a basic requirement for landing an interview. If one wants to explore the consulting career option, an MBA makes perfect sense.

The question is whether you want to chase dollars or let dollars chase you? If you are good at whatever you do, the latter will surely happen.

Robespierre

Rasputin,

I am not certain what your point is, and your quaint people chasing dollars chasing people example doesn't help at all.

Are you suggesting that having a primary goal of making "truckloads of cash" is itself a "misguided" career goal? Or are you instead suggesting that going to B-school to make "truckloads of cash" is misguided in his career--one that may focus on making truckloads of cash--pragmatically since "if you are good at whatever you do, "[the] dollars [will] chase you"? It seems to me a fairly important distinction.

If (1) all jobs pay the same, and (2) there is equal access to consideration for any position in any sector as well as, (3) absolute certainty as to the abilities of candidates, both of your possible points would make sense to me.

But, your cake is disappearing as you eat it. As you note, "there are certain industries . . . where an MBA is a basic requirement for landing an interview." These industries presumably offer pecuniary remuneration in excess of those industries that consider non-MBA applicants. If the difference is less than the direct and opportunity costs of attending B-school and there will be no further future benefit, you may be right if your (implied point) was the latter of the two I consider. Do you really believe this to be the case? If so, you should have shown as much.

In practice, individuals with the natural ability to pursue an MBA from a top-tier institution are likely to see pecuniary compensation in excess of the opportunity and direct costs of the two years studying (even assuming such an individual personally paid for the education). When I was at Penn in the late 1990s before the bubble burst, there were few undergrad Wharton students even talking about business school. Instead, what mattered to them was the pecuniary gain, and it was not enough to offset the other costs.

These people chased dollars, and they succeeded at that goal. As smart people in a mobile society, they demonstrated abilities in other subjects as well. In fact, these people often received the best marks in classes primarily composed of anthropology and history majors. Should they have pursued the truckloads of money or what they were best at? Or, do you even believe that they would have been compensated differently since, ceteris paribus, they were superbly qualified to do both?

Ankush

I agree with Rasputin. I have more than 5 years of experience in the high-tech industry. How much more do I need to get an interview with McKenzie and the likes? Not sure...I don't know when I can expect a break. Apply the 80-20 rule, my friend. If 80% of the time, an MBA from a prestigious school will land me a shot at that interview date, I'll take the 80% shot.

UC MBA

I'm going to a "top 100" business school. What does that mean? Most likely, not the $90K+ starting salary that the top 5 will give you. However, my thought process was: I'm in the military; I have eight years of soft skills and needed to learn some of the hard quant skills to make a better transition to corporate life. Plus, I wanted to have an MBA as a discriminator, so I could say yes, I have an MBA, or it was on my resume.

As for Back2theBooks, if you are looking for a fresh start I would definitely go with a traditional program. On militarymba.net, there is a lot of discouragement about getting the likes of a University of Phoenix degree—that is, unless you work for a corporation that only cares if you get an MBA. For example, the government/military only cares if you "check the box" and have a master’s degree; they don’t care where you got it.

Nick

I went to a Top 3. It has opened many doors for me, gotten me a dream job I could not have gotten without an MBA, propelled my career, allowed me to meet brilliant people who I consider my best friends, and given me the chance to sharpen my leadership and teamwork skills in a nonprofessional setting. I agree that education is not a requisite for success (i.e. Gates), but it certainly does help a majority of people improve their thinking ability and widen their networks. Hey, we all aren't born to be Kirk Kerkorian or Bill Gates.

mbaALUM

Get an MBA to learn not to earn. Value is how you measure it, not how others perceive it.

Rasputin

Robespierre,
Thank you for actually reading and making a sincere effort to understand the rambling of a drunken monk.

I just wanted to convey a thought: Don't do an MBA with the sole intention of making more money. Learn to think beyond this rather myopic perception of an MBA. You will be much happier with the outcome.

Now, the next question is whether you ask about your bonus check or the bonus check is a pleasant surprise every time.
--HTH

brainfreeze

@Back2Books: What I've been told from those who have an MBA is online doesn't offer you the networking opportunities and anecdotal learning from peers that classroom does. I'm still on the fence myself about delivery format.

Ayush

Quite a generic and shallow debate. MBAs done exclusively for monetary gain have never been fruitful, and exceptions are always there. There can be hundreds of CEOs around the globe with a history of dropping out and not having MBAs, but there are hundreds more who do have an MBA degree.

Robespierre

Rasputin,

Thank you for reading and attempting to understand the ramblings of a drunken (recently graduated) lawyer.

All things considered (i.e., working in Madrid as a lawyer for what amounts to the same salary with a J.D. I would have with my undergrad degree from Penn), I should have gone for an MBA over a J.D. But, I wasn't considering such things at the time....sigh. Then again, despite the low salary, I've never been turned down after an interview in Madrid. The signing benefits work. They just don't earn you very much.

Best regards.

Chris

I'm currently in a (per Businessweek) a top 50 program. For me, it came down to this: Would I feel better about my chances in a job interview with an MBA in my pocket or not? It's one more tool that gives me an edge over the guy next to me. Furthermore, if I look even within my own company, more than 90% of the executives above me (I'm in middle-management hell at the moment) have an MBA. My chances of moving upward internally will be increased.

Do I think an MBA is required to be a top executive or successful entrepreneur? No, not at all. There will always be folks like Bill Gates. They are, however, by far the exception and not the rule. Playing the odds shows that the more education you have, the more likely you will be able to rise further. To me, that made it worth the time and money to pursue an MBA.


Back2Books

I appreciate the comments. In doing an online MBA, or "distance learning" as they call it, I would only go with an accredited university (i.e., no U of Phoenix). Duke has a program and so do a few other top 100 schools.

Most have a residence requirement meaning you would do most of the work online (message boards, conferencing, video, podcasts) and then you would have weeklong trips to the campus to see the people in your cohort. So you get to see and network with people in person, not just online, yet it isn't every day.

With all of the technology, so much work is done online now that it makes sense to me to work with teams (many of the online MBAs have a large teamwork component) online just as I do for work. I rarely have face-to-face meetings with vendors, so why be face to face with other students twice a week?

My concern is that I don't want my MBA to be thought of as "less than" because I did it in the nontraditional format. Same teachers teach the online classes, and the degree doesn't say Duke Business School online, it just says Duke.

WG09

There are many career paths where you reach a ceiling both salary-wise and title-wise without an MBA. This is especially true in corporate finance and investment firms that require MBAs.

I also think an MBA gives breadth and depth to the resumes of people who have worked at one company in their first few years after undergrad and been promoted quickly. It removes the question: Are you really this good, or did you just get lucky?

All this being said, I think if you already make six figures and are going to invest in $100,000 loans and go full time, you should try to stick to top 10 programs to ensure the ROI is high enough. If top 10 is not where you fall academically, an MBA certainly still puts you ahead of those without one, but part-time may be a better financial option.

Matt

It disturbs me that so many individuals are still focused on making themselves more marketable in the job market. I, too, considered obtaining an MBA but realized I could pull the courses' syllabi and read those books. As a business owner, you don't slap your MBA on your business card. Nobody cares. The only thing your clients or prospective clients care about is whether or not you can get the job done right at a equitable price

Regardless of your education, I can promise you that you will make some big mistakes, and that is where the real education comes from. If you are a true learner, you will learn from them and subsequently prosper.

SN

I am an IT professional currently finishing up an executive MBA from a Top 20 school. Within my own company, a whole new set of doors has opened up, and the executives no longer talk to me as the techie in the cubicle with no understanding of the business.

The new networks and a view into the world outside of your industry are tremendous benefits of being in the MBA program. Yes, it is expensive, but my new job gets me more than enough ROI.

Dan

Not all MBAs are created equal.

There is a strong positive relationship between rankings and salary--the higher your ranking, the higher your salary. This relationship persists on a cost-adjusted basis (viewing salary net of the student loan payments for two years of tuition and living expense, hereinafter referred to as cash flow).

On a cash-flow basis, there are two schools (the usual suspects) that produce annual cash flow in excess of $90k, 15 that produce in excess of $80k, 25 that produce in excess of $70k, 45 that produce in excess of $60k, 65 that produce in excess of $50k, and then a few also-rans that produce between $40k and $50k.

Note I have not adjusted for the opportunity cost of two years' excess earnings (salary net of taxes and costs). Nor have I mentioned that the higher the post-MBA salary, the more likely it is to come from a consulting firm, an I-bank, a money manager, or a mega-corporation--and that three of the above four will expect you to work 60 to 100+ hours a week.

All things considered, I would expect there to be significant buyer's remorse at all MBA programs outside of the top 15 to 25.

I should mention that I am graduating from a top school this month and am pleased with the outcome.

Ted

Regardless of one's career goals and expectations prior to entering an MBA program, the bottom line is that in today's marketplace, having an MBA will open more doors for career opportunities in the corporate world. It's a credential that symbolizes many things (hard skills, soft skills, polished communication skills, etc). So getting an MBA is not a complete waste of time/money, but the opportunity cost of not getting one is the potential compensation increase.

jim

Having worked in middle management for 16 years at GE, I decided this year to get my MBA at Emory. Do I expect to make more money after this experience? Not necessarily. Do I think that my networking prospects will improve? Most definitely. Also, it really helps shake up the stigma of being with the same company for as long as I have. So at the end of the day it's been a positive growing experience.

Danny

Any discussion about the benefits of an MBA that treats the experience as a commodity is missing the point. All MBA programs are not the same, and the benefits of earning an MBA are not uniform across all paths to that degree.

Remember that once you have an MBA, the first question you'll be asked for the rest of your life when someone learns that you have the degree is, "Where?" The ROI you can expect from investing in an MBA experience depends on your answer.

Yasser

I'm getting my MBA part time at Michigan while working full time as a medical-device sales representative at Johnson & Johnson. Having said that, I am not a huge believer that the MBA is "worth it" in the vast majority of cases after examining opportunity cost. My company is picking up the tab at a top 10 school (top 5 for marketing, my focus) while allowing me to continue earning an attractive salary and bonus. That meant the only investment I had to make was time, and in that sense, it was totally worth it for me. I'm 27 years old now and will graduate by 29, so I figured, why not use these few years to get the credential instead of being out every night partying? Bottom line: All people need to think for themselves and analyze their own situations, not rely on some universal determination of what an MBA is worth.

JB

@Matt

Overall, you make some good points, but...

"I, too, considered obtaining an MBA but realized I could pull the courses' syllabi and read those books."

This is the way I used to think; then I realized that at least 50% of the value of an MBA is in the network you gain. Also, so what if you read those books? Nobody is going to believe you. However, if you graduate from a top MBA program, that is evidence you not only read the books but also had to pass tests to prove you understood them.

"As a business owner, you don't slap your MBA on your business card. Nobody cares."

OK. But not everyone wants to be a business owner. Some of us want to work at an MC, IB, or top corporate firm. Now tell me that recruiters from such firms don't care about you having an MBA from a top program.

"The only thing your clients or prospective clients care about is whether or not you can get the job done right at a equitable price."

But how do they know whether or not you can do the job? If you are in business for yourself, you might have a string of past references. But once again, not all people want to go into business for themselves, or if they do, they need to gain experience at a top-notch firm and then strike out on their own.

Tarun

Here's what I feel, and would like to know from you all if I am wrong:

There's always a doubt in most of us whether we need an MBA or not.

I would say spend some time alone rather than posting. Introspect, and make a firm decision and do that today.

1. If you are a born leader and have passion to excel, you will never need any sort of degree to prove yourself. Choose your line, and go ahead--face the world but never regret.

2. If you want a good and easy-going life, get an education of your choice and get balance in your life. But don't regret.

3. Realize your dream, and make a decision; it's your choice at the end of the day. Nobody counts how many bucks you have. It's the respect, knowledge, and power you should have.

4. If you do not feel [like getting an MBA], go and enjoy your life.

5. My advice is try to be an entrepreneur and put your best efforts there. You will learn everything you always wanted to.

Michael R

I have an MBA from a Top 15 school, and it has done wonders. Doors are open that would not have been in new career paths. And from an earnings perspective, it has been night and day in terms of what I make now vs. just 2 years ago. But, a few key facts that need to be considered:

1. All MBAs are not equal. Outside of maybe the Top 30 schools, you won't see much lift from an MBA from the 1,000s of programs that have sprung up all over the place, so don't waste your money. There are people I work with now who went to a local university at night to get their MBAs, and they are given no credit for it, nor should they. What they learned one night a week does not compare to the intensity of a full-time two-year program.

2. An MBA is an accelerator. You have to have those critical basic skills to begin with for an MBA to truly provide value. So if you don't have the basic leadership traits, strategic/analytical thinking, and a strong passion and drive, it doesn't matter what school you go to--you won't be successful for long.

3. Of course you can be successful without an MBA. But as long as many of the top companies require one to even interview or get promoted, I would rather have one in my quiver than bang my head against that glass ceiling for the rest of my career without one.

John

A top-tier MBA is only necessary if you want to crack Wall Street finance (read: investment banking) or management consulting.

Other than that, enroll in a program that suits your time, budget, and expectations, and focus on networking and actually developing yourself into a decent manager an leader.

Demanding the MBA credential is a convenient way for companies to absolve themselves of the responsibility of investing the time and resources in hiring qualified, experienced candidates.

They wrongly assume the MBA has trained someone in management, and for that matter, management consulting or investment banking.

Furthermore, I find it ironic that the Graduate "Management" Aptitude Test has absolutely nothing to do with assessing management potential. Any dean's want to respond to that?

The MBA is overrated, and a significant reason applications are higher than ever is not because students are seeking the intellectual adventure. Rather, they do so because the companies have established it as a minimum criterion for associate and middle-management positions. When the system rewards a piece of paper, people have no choice but to fork out the cash. Otherwise, go work for a small company or become an entrepreneur.

Sunny

If you are planning to work for a company operating in traditional space (like the auto industry) where pace of innovation is slow, an MBA is important. On the other hand, in today's IT industry or tomorrow's biotech world, where rate of innovation is relatively faster, an MBA can turn out to be optional since ample entrepreneurial opportunities exist in such places.

Midwest

Good MBAs vs. mediocre MBAs? My MBA is better than your MBA? Sure, some schools are better than others (way better), but the elitism of top 30 vs. top 100 vs. all the rest is readily apparent in several posts.

I've worked closely with staff that have had MBAs from major (top 30) schools and those from less prestigious schools, and I've seen little difference in them. Why? Because so many programs stress metrics only and zero management skills.

These jokers step out with their newly minted MBAs and somehow feel privileged to run the world. They have no interpersonal skills but also have no idea how to conduct themselves other than to toss numbers around and then data spin. A couple of them were downright thick-headed and couldn't analyze their way out of a paper bag.

There is nothing that suggests an MBA is a requirement for success. Many who get one find themselves with greater opportunities, but I would venture to say that vastly more find limited returns on their efforts.

I received my undergrad with honors from a college recognized as one of the best in the world (yes, the world). In the states, it's always mentioned in the top 2 colleges in its area of specialty. I know what a difficult and demanding education asks for.

Online programs require multiple days of interaction each week (usually a minimum of four days) and consume far more hours than most people think they do (my minimum was 20 hours of time spent on schoolwork per week with only one class at a time).

I am a father and a full-timer, and dropping everything to go back to school was never an option. The online world was a blessing, but I never fooled myself into thinking I was getting a Northwest or Harvard MBA. I got what I worked hard for and also what I paid for. Those $99K programs are only for those thinking they will work on Wall Street.

Get an MBA only if you want one--not because you think you need one or that you'll suddenly become legitimate if you attain one.

Arjun

An MBA acts as a perfect bridge between your careers. From law into finance, from IT into management consulting, etc. Whatever you want to do, an MBA will make a difference. Also it breaks your monotonous work life.

Accepted

I've been accepted into a top three school to begin this fall, and without having even started, I've already seen huge benefits. The recognition and network that is instantly made available is unreal. If you have that opportunity, it's a no-brainer.

Naveen

I think all the hype surrounding the MBA is just bogus. I have been working for more than a decade in various fields, and I have yet to meet an MBA who actually needed it or for whom the education made a difference.

Sometimes I think MBA is just a "sophisticated" way of filtering people for investment bank jobs. And nothing more.

Augustus

I have an MBA from Creighton, obviously not in the top 50 but probably in the top 1,000 or so. Whether the MBA is important or not really depends. My goal was to succeed in my own business, so I wanted good exposure to all aspects of a business.

One thing about education that people don't understand is that it is very hard to stop and develop the basic skills once your career is in full gear. The MBA gives practical skills and knowledge to build on. When you have your own business and survival is critical, such skills are vital.

So my answer to whether an MBA is useful is that it depends on your long-term goals.

Thanasis

An MBA is not just a postgraduate course. It's a lot more. How can anyone judge an MBA when he/she doesn't have one? People who depreciate the MBA course in this debate don't really have one. The only real MBA course is the full-time MBA. Online and part-time MBAs are ersatz.

Cheers.

Chitra

In the IT world, you constantly hear about "upgrading" of skills. You upgrade by not only learning new languages but also learning them in such way that you can build and remodel technologies. There is always a body to certify these skills. And upgrading in nontechnical fields can be learned via the right MBA.

My choice is an MBA from a top school, because here you get what you pay for. I work as an independent business research analyst. I have the necessary experience (8 years) and expertise for the job, but more companies would be comfortable to work with me if I had a MBA.

Cleo

I have an MBA from a top 25 school. The coursework was not particularly technical. Anyone who was reasonably well-read already could not have learned much from the program. The degree has value in helping one compete in the escalating educational arms race. My company is currently requiring MBAs for positions that were previously open to those with bachelor's degrees or in some cases, high school diplomas. As discussed previously, requiring an MBA is a lazy but increasingly common way to screen candidates.

ujjib

My thoughts:

1) Never let an MBA convince you on how great his school is and how going back to school was the best decision he could have made. Hyping the program and school is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It just can't happen that so many people can be happy with the product (especially one so expensive) they get. It is just not human nature to be so satisfied.

2) MBAs are good, and it is primarily because of the highly motivated and talented people who choose to go the MBA way. We need a test/control approach to see where these people would go without an MBA. Can't do that, but the high number of non-MBA people at the top tells us something. We can also look at countries where there is no real culture of professional business education to act as a control.

3) The counter-argument above by Cathy Dove (from Johnson/Cornell) is BS. Firstly, she is never going to take an objective view as she is a dean of a B-school. Second, she talks about consumers and recruiters being smart and hence the increasing applicants show the value of MBA. My instincts say that the b-school success stories get overhyped (the rest of the stories are never told), the recruiters are mostly MBAs themselves (they want more of their kind), and schools want more tuition. Finally, she talks about ROI and says that it is better than most investments. Again, there is no control to compare it with, and also she doesn't really talk about the risk/return trade-off. You expect higher returns on a risky investment.

4) I think b-schools are more about business than about schools. They certainly lack the sanctity of higher education, there is no real pursuit of knowledge, the application and decision-making process is nontransparent (do you really need ED?), case study approach is still theory, grade nondisclosure betrays the students' fear of competition, clubs can be so artificial etc.

Gallant

I am wondering: Does this debate apply to master's degrees as well as MBAs?

Calvin

I am a year out of my undergrad, and chose to read this thread because I am interested in doing an MBA. I'm not going to get into the debate regarding the value of an MBA. What I am more interested in is, what does it take to crack into the top MBA programs? What can I start doing right now to make myself a good candidate for these programs?

I'm not knocking people who didn't attend the more highly ranked programs. My intention to go back to school is to better my education when the time is right. It is truly for a learning experience, not an effort to increase my earning potential. With that being said, getting into a top program is key to getting a good return on your investment. Any pointers?

Slammin

The bottom line is that you are more marketable with a top-tier MBA. The best part of a top tier is that doors aren't closed to you. I feel this is even more important than the doors it opens. How many people go to these programs for the quality of the education? I'm guessing very few; they do it more for the increased earning potential. Companies had to figure out ways to filter talent, and this is the way many of them choose to go about it. Are there well-qualified individuals from low-tier schools, sure, but on average you are going to have better luck finding an intelligent and well-rounded individual from these programs.

How can you argue that the ROI is not worth it? Throw out the large salary increase and instead look at the value of the experience. First, you get a break from the rigors of everyday work for 2 years. You get to meet new and intriguing people from across the world and form a network of peers and alumni that can't be valued. The more than 100% average increase in salary is just a bonus.

Well I hope all this is true, I start my top 25 program in 2 months.: )

anne

If you don't have an MBA, then how do you get into the market? I don't have the experience most of you have, but I can't seem to get into the field without it. I've been told that without a degree, I am not marketable.

Juan

One element that is often left out of these pro/con MBA discussions is timing. You may not be able to leverage as much out of an MBA, the skills you gain, and the network you develop if you are not ready for the MBA. By that, I don't mean academically prepared but rather at a point in your career where an MBA will absolutely take you to a next step. Sure, you can continue to develop the network for the rest of your life, but isn't one of the main goals of MBA programs to help their graduates propel themselves to higher levels, salaries, etc. immediately after graduating? A poorly timed MBA or a properly timed one may make all the difference.

Erica

It seems to me that the people who find an MBA to have the least value to their careers are the ones who went to the least prestigious schools. I decided I didn't want to go unless I could get into a top 20 school...and I'm starting UCLA's part-time program in September. I have a happy hour with soon-to-be classmates this Friday, so the networking is already beginning.

Brite

It is high time employers and business schools evaluate the whole MBA designation. There appears to be some frustration even on this forum about the MBA, because there are people who fell for the hype about MBA but pursued it not at one of the top b-schools. Unfortunately, many employers pay more attention to the paperwork and MBA course format than to what the individual is capable of offering the company.

Top Dog

I'm doing an MBA and have learned a lot of useful things that have practical value in the real business world. Not everything is of value, however.

It's more important to have sufficient depth and breadth in your program than to worry about the brand name or arbitrary ranking of the school.

In my experience, the fact you have, already or are doing an MBA now, sends a strong statement in itself to employers and peers, especially if you are a career changer.

The instant peer reaction is commonly, "Oh, I was going to do one of those but ...." Let's talk about the reasons behind that.

PJ

Is there something here that says since almost every Tom, Dick, and Harry is doing an MBA, the actual value of this degree is getting diluted? If I had the choice between an MBA and a specialized course in my area, I would rather do the latter, especially when you weigh the dollars an MBA costs and the fact that even after spending a fortune, you just end up entering a bigger rat race.

Don

As an adjunct faculty member teaching in a business-oriented school, with an MBA and a PhD in another discipline, and as a longtime business employee working in the aerospace industry, it seems to me that the truth remains firmly in both camps. Graduate degrees of all types are not for everyone. Some MBA degrees do alter careers for the better. I see it frequently. MBA students learn more about how the organizations work together, what they can do to help the company, and what they need to succeed. The MBAs' vision is increased, and so they become leaders. On the other hand, if you are already employed in a good job with a global understanding of the company's diverse organizations, there is little an MBA will do for you if you remain with the same company. You've already established your bona fides with the company. Since perceptions change slowly, there is little benefit to the degree. However, if you change jobs shortly after receiving your MBA, here is where the value is derived.

Still, degree credibility is also an issue among some businesses. So merely having an MBA may or may not start the salary clocking ticking. For instance, a bachelor's in business from an Ivy League school may mean more to certain employers than an MBA from a small local college.

Ultimately, there is no reason to polarize on this issue. The answer is that it all depends on the individual, the company, the school, and your personal goals.

Lenny

I am just one class away from finishing my MBA. Like many others, I will not get a pay raise when done. However, there are many other benefits than money. Within my management structure (government), I now receive a higher level of respect. In the past I was not invited to high-level meetings; now I am. Being in an MBA program got me selected to internal management development programs that will lead to a higher-paying job. Additionally, I am more confident in my interactions with senior leaders (not sure why, but I am). I say, go get it--especially if your employer pays for it.

ChangeBoy

You may get the work you want without an MBA. Some--perhaps many--have. But in my opinion, probability of success is lower. In general, education helps, and an MBA helps a lot.

My goal: Change the type of job I had in the same company. I was with a "top best place to work" company. I had to travel in my job, and I was good at the job, but I'd married and had children and wanted to be home more, so I looked to a staff job that would nearly replicate my sales income.

1. Go to the best school you can attend and afford. I labored over the decision but took the top-25 route, and for my job it was necessary. I don't think a regional school would have done it, and I certainly respect the good graduates from those schools--I just had to "ice down" my gambit for a change in division.
2. Try to set realistic expectations. Don't believe everything you hear. You can change company or job function, but the market will determine if you can execute both at once.
That said, I beat the average exit income for my school by nearly $10K
3. I wanted to stay in the same company. My MBA has been exactly the ticket. No other thing I could have done would have made the grade for my goal: moving from one division to another while maintaining a reasonably high income.
4. Be patient. I had to wait two years (after graduation) before the right opportunity came along for the area into which I wished to move. I was dangerously close to giving up when the strike came. I was only looking for a job in a specific area of my company.
5. Be flexible with your family, yourself, and others. Be ready to adopt a new plan when it becomes necessary. Best wishes.

Gallant, I do believe it does apply to other master's (I have another master's), but more indirectly than for MBAs.

Sunil

I think there are more specific degrees that do a much better job of contributing to an individual’s ability and skills. MBAs will say they are narrowly focused. Well, better than no focus and a lot of jargon. However, the image of an MBA being especially prestigious does give the graduates a license to kill. No doubt about it, and hence an excellent return on investment.

Jason

An MBA is just like anything else you do in life to improve yourself. You only get out of it what you put into it (excluding the hefty tuition). I am attending UCI's FEMBA program. If I had to judge the program solely on classroom learning, then I would say it's overpriced. But the contacts I have made are invaluable. I have a great set of classmates, many of whom are looking to get their startups off the ground and could use someone with some financial expertise (i.e. me). I have met heavy-hitters in the finance and investment arena. The contacts I am making now will go a long way toward helping me land that first interview/job after the program.

If you think skating through any program should get you a higher salary and nicer office, you're sadly mistaken.

Nicolas

I certainly agree that you can be a great manager without an MBA. Yet a good MBA will always make a difference.

I'm presently doing the Omnium Global Executive MBA of the Rotman School of Management, Toronto, which has modules in Canada, Europe, China, and South America. The average age is almost 40, participants have great job and life experience, and the class is a good mix of different nationalities.

A top-25 MBA like this one will definitely have a positive effect on your life and career:

1. Obviously, the new network might get you a more satisfying job, and about 30% of our class already changed jobs after half of the MBA.

2. Your superiors, new employers, or head hunters will definitely take you more seriously--especially after you have done some assignments on strategic topics for them.

3. Spending several weeks in some of the key places of the world will open your mind, help you to get rid of stereotypes, discover new business opportunities, etc. Basically, you will be able to work in any place and be comfortable.

4. For somebody without a background in economics, an MBA offers the necessary skills to understand how a company works and how to manage it.

5. I also agree that an MBA is required for more and more positions. But with the proliferation of MBAs, it helps to do one that is well-known. The 10 years invested in my PhD in physics and MSc in chemistry definitely did not have the effect of the 18 months of the Omnium GEMBA, which is a real door-opener for me.

6. Finally, the hard work and excellent atmosphere makes this GEMBA a unique experience and leads to life-long friendships.

For me, this MBA is definitely the right one. After intensively evaluating key MBAs since 2001, I should know.

One thought to conclude: If you think that you need an MBA, do not hesitate to spend money for a top MBA. Spending your evenings, weekends, and sometimes also nights for 1.5 to 2 years just to get a mediocre education is definitely not worth it.

Bob

In my own experience as an entrepreneur, having an MBA doesn't make much sense. Now, if I were to look for work as an employee, it would make more sense in regard to getting hired. Does it equate with being better in business? I think that depends on the person. I've built businesses, not because I have an MBA but through dogged determination. By the way, I earned mine after my business was successful. It didn't teach me about being successful as a businessperson, but it did help in my thinking as my business grew. Personally, my training in the Marines was more helpful in the planning and building phase.

Prashant

I am considering an online program. I think as long as one gains the knowledge an MBA is supposed to impart, it should not matter whether he does it online, full-time, or part-time. I am an IT professional and do not see any difficulty in doing the coursework online. I am so used to being online. In today's wired world, it sounds archaic to say that only on-campus programs have the potential to build an MBA grad. Moreover, online courses save you so much time and money. If you invest that money properly, you might end up making more money than an MBA grad, and believe me, you don't need an MBA to be a millionaire or a billionaire.

Everybody works for money, and an MBA is a way to enhance money prospects (as per the majority opinion), but what I think is that one should crave knowledge, not money. It does not make sense to have an MBA from Wharton and be unhappy in life. Being a good human being and being able to enjoy your life is what matters most. If you have knowledge, you can choose good from bad--this is the only reason education is necessary.

Apart from that, I really feel that the MBA is a big business where the manufacturers (universities) and products (MBA grads) both expect too much from each other.

silve

I will start a part-time MBA in September, and even if in my country (Italy) this kind of degree has practically no value, I think it will be worth the money. As an engineer, I will get the skills needed to play in the global arena.

UC MBA

I received a fully employed MBA from a UC close to my home. There is no question in my mind that the education was valuable. I find my work more interesting, I am a better analytical thinker, and my entrepreneurial ideas are taken more seriously by potential investors and lending institutions.

I think it was worth the time and money--but initiative and confidence aren't taught in any institution.

ceasar

Cleo,
You are right. An MBA makes systematic learning of what is common sense; what we actually learn is much later, after b-school, when we have gained experience in a corporation (the way people use hierarchy), a specific trade and its competition, ups and downs over time, and our own synthesis (purely our own, the way we are groomed, grown, and self-motivated, and the way and what we think of others, in this world and hereafter). An MBA is not the end of the road. Business education should enable us to improve the whole business of b-schools, too. See what's coming next, and adapt to it all. Cleo, these are things you may agree with at age 40 and more.

Confused to hell

After reading the responses, I am more confused than ever. I have more than 10 years of software-engineering experience. The work is hard and tough. But I make a decent enough living, and I like it, too.

Are there any software engineers out there who took an MBA? What benefit did it add to your career?

Just to get a feeling, I took a finance class last year. It wasn't bad, but I also learned that finance isn't as precise as I thought (lots of "adjustments" there, too, just like coding but in a different domain).

InDecider

I am also considering going back to school, not only to obtain an MBA but to finish out the last semester of my BA in international business management.

I was somewhat fortunate to land a job overseas as a government contractor and have managed to put away most of my earnings since 2004. Being single and with no kids, I can shoulder the cost of schooling on my own if necessary.

I hope to get into a European b-school to complement the BA and my experience working overseas. Thanks to all of you who post on here and share your knowledge and advice. It certainly helps newbies like me make informed decisions.

Joel

It seems that the majority of the people who think the MBA is not "worth it" have gone to low-tier schools. I understand that we cannot all go to Harvard--myself included--but there are many other good schools (Wake Forest, USC, Notre Dame) that carry the investment. The problem is that people who go to the University of Phoenix think they will command the same salary University of Chicago grads do. This is not the case. With the MBA, branding matters. Finally, if you are going to an MBA program in which you are not gaining knowledge, I think you should consider the level of program you are attending.

Kent

I once was on the no-degree bandwagon having reached a fair level of success without any degrees. However, as the job market began to shift, I realized that my success had a ceiling. And people with advanced degrees were eventually catching up and surpassing me. Though the Bill Gates type stories are cool, especially if you do not have a degree, they do not serve as an example for most people who are not in the right place at the right time.

With more and more people going to college, you have to find a way to pull ahead of the pack. An undergrad degree is now commonplace. That's great news for companies but not good news for candidates who are now just one of the many in a sea of undergrads competing for attention. So, I see the MBA as a necessary step if one wants to try to stand out of that pack. That is the basis for my pursuit of an MBA, which I will finish in another 12 months at age 44.

It all depends

It all depends on your situation and where you are in your career:

I believe the biggest ROI is for those with four to seven years of solid experience (25-29 years of age). I have seen co-graduates who belong in this demographic double their salary and land sweet jobs without even trying.

If you're an outlier, I would say it's not worth it unless you get your MBA from a top-5 b-school and focused into getting into investment banking or consulting.

I have more than 15 years of software-engineering experience with small- to medium-size companies. I am a recent grad from a globally reputable business school. I was told that I will easily get into top consulting (management and IT) companies because of the combination of my MBA and IT experience.

Boy was I wrong. The companies thought I had too much experience (old dog?) and my MBA was not from a top-10 school (pedigree?). Companies have an ideal profile for new hires (25 to 29 years old). I ended up going back to where I left off with a small company, making the same money. Most companies I interviewed with did not even put value on my newly minted MBA (in some cases, it was a detriment; they thought that I was rusty because of my two-year break from working). I ended up leveraging only my working experience. It took me awhile to restart my career.

If I were to do it again, I would invest my $90,000 elsewhere. Maybe take a kick-ass vacation abroad while getting an online degree or a tech certification (PMP, Microsoft, Six-Sigma, etc.) instead.


business designer

After 6+ years as an entrepreneurial business owner, I felt it was time to get an MBA--well, sort of. It seemed that everyone was getting MBAs from anywhere, and unless I went to a top 10 and spent 100k+, I didn't feel that it would really benefit me. So, in all my research, I came across some new hybrid degrees, combining business and design, mostly in Europe (I'm from the U.S.). I decided on a program (in Italy) that combines aspects of business with a design solution. It seems to be the trend all b-schools are going toward (Stanford's D-school, Rotman, IIT, etc.). So maybe this will be the difference: a new approach to boring administration and more about innovation. My advice is to look down the roads less traveled and set yourself apart. Besides, being in Europe has exposed me to a global influence and worldwide connections.

John L. Hoh, Jr.

GE values MBAs. GE was started by Thomas Edison. Edison did not have an MBA. He did not have a bachelor's degree. He was home-schooled. Many entrepreneurs don't/didn't have MBAs. But their career paths are different. They had visions of needs and ways to address needs. MBAs can give one a sound business sense. But another sense, of people and how people interact to keep a company going and running, often gets lost.

MBATexas

Bottom line: Let's interject some common sense here and throw in some reality checks. Some of you have gotten carried away with that philosophy minor of yours...

1) You can't discuss the value of an MBA if you don't have one. I refuse to listen to anyone who demeans its value if he or she doesn't have the degree. It's just plain silly. I've never understood people who criticize things they've never experienced. If you have one and now think that you wasted your time, that's ok. Otherwise...

Also, there's no "formula" for it, despite what people say in their posts. There's an intrinsic value that can't be calculated. If you were to ask some economists, many would tell you having children is not economical and doesn't provide a good ROI. "I love you, but let's pull out the spreadsheets first. I need to perform a regression analysis on this second baby thing."

2) Education is rarely wasted.

3) Reality check. If you go to job boards and look at the majority of the middle and senior positions, they say "MBA or advanced degree preferred." This is truth, and your "intelligent" musings can't change that.

4) A top-tier MBA program is not a necessity (but it doesn't hurt either). Many CEOs/VPs didn't attend top-25 programs. If your school has a strong local or regional presence and you want to stay in the area, that program will probably be fine. Not every job is in NYC on Wall Street. More reality.

5) Only you can determine the value of your educational experience. It's what you make of it. No one on this board is qualified to tell you what route you should take in your education or what is the best way. We have no idea. If you want to royally screw up your life, then sit around and let people plan your life for you. You have no idea about the past experiences of some people and why they say what they say. I have an uncle who once told me I read too much. How stupid is that? Don't allow people on this board to make you into their "Mini Me."

What is right for you? If you want an MBA, go get it. If not, that's OK as well.

WC

The bottom line is that you can be very successful in both regards--with and without an MBA. This has clearly been shown throughout business history. That said, let me give you my simple-minded approach. If you are completely lost in the wild and you'd like to survive, what's going to help you more, a dagger or a Swiss Army knife? Most of us would pick a Swiss Army knife since it gives us a greater variety of tools to work with and can be adapted to fit most situations. That's what the MBA provides in the business world. Plain and simple.

Nitesh

I have six years of experience and am currently an MBA student in a top-10 school. My money is on an MBA anyday.

JohnB

Interesting points.

I've never heard anyone say, "Dang, I wish I didn't have this business education. What a waste of time!" An education will last a lifetime.

Now, for working adults going for a master's degree, I would suggest going to a school that offers programs for working adults. "Networking" can happen anywhere; if you haven't discovered that in your current job, going to business school won't help you.

Essentially, if you want a master's degree, then get it; if you don't, then don't. I'm glad that I'll finish with my MBA, because when compared to other people who don't have one, I'm leaps and bounds ahead.

UtahPaul

Somehow I stumbled onto this thread and after reading all the posts, I thought I would ask a question. I have an MPA. (I was a superintendent in a government agency in Chicago.) I relocated to Utah and have left government employment. I am now in the business arena, and I find I can only use some of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes I got from a top-30 b-school. I am now part of a startup tech company and am contemplating an MBA program. There is only one other MBA here in the company of 20 people, our CEO. I feel I want to do the MBA to invest all the knowledge I will gain into this little startup company. I can talk public policy and public service all day long. But having a "business" sense, I think I need to work on that. Should I invest in a local university's EMBA program here in Utah? I am sure no Utah b-school will crack the top 10. Will the ROI on this scenario be worth it? Any thoughts?

Daniel

An MBA gets you in the door. Smarts, intellect, charisma, business sense, and personality will keep you in the door and move you up a lot quicker than a "goofball" with an MBA. If you have all those qualities and an MBA, the world is your oyster. Go get what you deserve. The ability to properly interact with people and be persuasive with your thoughts and ideas is the most important skill anyone can have.

Godie

Has anyone thought about getting an MBA overseas? Would that be a good idea? I am looking foward to finishing my business degree and going to Germany to get an MBA. I know it is much cheaper than in the U.S.A.

Manohar

Having an MBA does not mean you will get everything, but any type of education helps, and the MBA is one type. An an MBA student, I've found my skills and confidence level to have risen, and am getting more respect from peers and managers.

But it is not an automatic ticket to success. Having an MBA is like having an extra cylinder in your car. How much leverage you get depends on how you use it.

Tayeal

I don't think the MBA is necessary. There are many entrepreneurs without even a university diploma. Experience is more important than a degree.

Cyndy

I am a working mom/student. I worked through my entire undergrad education. I waited 10 years and at the age of 48 (next year), I will have my MBA.

My undergrad is in accountancy through a top-20 school. Several of the grads went on to get their MBAs at the same school or other universities, because they were afraid to start their careers, while others went because they knew what they wanted. The ones who were afraid to go out into the workforce still are not making much more than I. Yet the ones that got their MBAs because they knew what they wanted are leaps above me.

Knowing why you are getting your MBA is what is going to catapult you ahead--not getting one because you either think you need one or are not ready for the real world.

NRK

MBA Texas makes some good points after his/her first poor point. For example, I can criticize poor engineering without an engineering degree. Had your car recalled? Only when a lot of non-engineers tell the government that the brakes don't work is the vehicle recalled. I will bet next month's paycheck they don't all have an engineering degree. In the same light, I can criticize poor management without a management degree.

For an engineer, an MBA is just a tool (we do not understand why one would pursue an MBA without first having hard skills) in the toolbox and not an especially sharp one. Get an MS in engineering management, project management, or systems engineering (you don't need an engineering degree to go for these programs) and learn how systems go together, how to make critical decisions without bias, and how to bring systems you have decided to pursue to the marketplace. Hire the business support, and keep it on a short leash.

Look at some of America's top companies. When they lost leadership at the core level, i.e. what product they provided to the marketplace, and were headed by non-core-knowledgeable MBAs, they went down hill. Examples are HP, Boeing, Singer, and Apple. When core management returned, they returned to profitability. Do you want an MBA in charge of building the next airplane you fly in--or an engineer? My observation is the MBA is interested in the bottom line, not people or products (most likely the subject of my PhD thesis). My experience says that if you take care of people (workforce, customers, suppliers, etc.), the people will take care of you. This philosophy has never failed in the marketplace.

Yag

Getting an MBA definitely helps. I just completed mine, and already there are doors opening up for me that would've remained shut. Also, there is a misconception that getting an MBA catapults your salary. You get compensated for the job you perform; receiving an MBA doesn't change your job responsibilities. Where it comes in handy is the promotion that is soon to follow (let's hope) or when you change jobs.

TheTruth

An MBA degree is a self-fulfilling prophecy. They convince all the best and brightest young people that you need an MBA to be successful.

Then when you see these young people being successful, you immediately want to make the correlation that an MBA is needed to be successful.

If b-schools want to prove their worth by accepting people who are below average, and then making them successful, I just might believe the hype

Have you seen the people who get into the big-three b-schools? These people are already absolute stars. How hard is it really to make these people successful?

Solomon

There are many people who have made it big without an MBA, but their proportion in the population is very small. Everyone belives he is good enough, but the struggle is to convince the rest of humanity. MBA is a badge on your chest that proclaims loudly to the world you are a cut about the rest.

Rich W

An MBA can be simply thought of as creating opportunities. In the end, a person is worth the abilities within him or her. A person who does not have a level of abilities equal to his or her position in the end will not be able to continue for long in that position.

Johnny V

MBA MBA MBA

Some people will benefit from it, and for many others, it won't make a big difference. Some professions really demand it; other may not, and for many others it really doesn't matter.

I'm finding a lot of companies want you to know their business before you can move up with an MBA. You need to put your time in first; then the MBA will surely help later on. Otherwise, go to the competition, who will appreciate your previous knowledge and experience and will definitely love the MBA.

Bottom line: MBAs help those who need a flashy degree to feel good about themselves. The other superstars are already making a killing--they're too busy having fun to bother wasting time getting an expensive two-year educational two-year hiatus.

Mahmoud

An MBA is something valuable. You upgrade your knowledge and your communications skill. I can say it made a lot of difference for me.

I surpassed most of my colleagues in compensation. An MBA allows you to specialize in any niche you want. Being a leader won't be by MBA alone. An MBA will be just a tool to help you be successful manager.

David Culver

Is an MBA required? Not for everyone. But in my case, yes it is. I've been a software engineer for the last 10 years. But I'm very interested in changing my career path. The MBA is the only way I see to open doors in the world of finance. A career in management consulting is where I would like to go. I have an undergrad in computer science. I need to acquire business acumen to make that move. If you believe that you can be successful in the world of business without an MBA, good for you. But I will take the two years of business school.

Nikita

@ TheTruth:
I've read through all the comments, and this seems to be the only post that says something about job signaling. As if all indeed believe MBA knowledge and networking would have helped them much without their paper diploma.

Rohan H

My thoughts:

MBA definitely helps open up doors. I have tried without much sucess to line up investors for an idea about addressing drug-development cost, but without much success.

Now I am headed to an MBA program at one of the UC schools with special focus in biotechnology.

My advice is to pick the school that closely aligns with your goals. Pay close attention to the student/professor ratio and diversity in terms of class profile (background, industry experience, and race). Make the most of it in terms on gaining the knowledge.

Ying Huang

For each individual, whether earning an MBA is worthwhile or not depends on the value added rather than the final product. An MBA does not guarantee each graduate a prosperous future--but may guarantee the value that can be added if it is a high quality program.

js

UtahPaul,

BYU has a great EMBA program and #1 ROI according to BusinessWeek (http://marriottschool.byu.edu/news/release.cfm?ID=305).

Thanks everyone for insightful comments.

K A

I am an MBA at a top 5 school, coming from a small startup.

I hear a lot of people arguing about elitism and seeing little difference between MBAs, but I have a great friend in a program that is not a top tier and our experiences are completely different. The true value of the MBA (for me at least) lies in the network. The quality of the network I have built here already has justified the investment I am making (and this is from someone who is not sponsored at all). The coursework is stuff you could learn on your own, but once in a while you have a truly amazing professor who brings in industry titans and those experiences are irreplaceable.

I agree it is not worth it for everybody, but it definitely opens up experiences and job opportunities that otherwise would be completely unavailable.

TheTruth

Let's do the numbers:

Cost of MBA = $90,000
Loss of salary = $70,000 (at 30% tax bracket and making 100,000, YES you have to think about taxes.

Now let's say you make 10% more a year with an MBA than you would without. Once again don't forget about taxes. So that's really only a 7% increase.

All the numbers I run, say that I break even after around 7 years. So that's 7 years to break even.

Maybe my money could be better invested.

Nikki

Cost of MBA = $90,000
Loss of Salary = $70,000
# of years to break even = 7

World-class education + value addition + vast network + new doors opening (for as long as you live) = PRICELESS!

TheTruth

Nikki:

In your answer lies the cons of the full-time MBA. All of the top MBA programs teach out of the same books. Just Google their classes and you'll see. If you're interested in certain subject, shh... don't tell everyone. You can just buy the book. If you want the education, think about a part-time program where your company pays for it.

Value addition. Another buzz word used by MBA programs. Let's add "immersion" to that one.

Vast network: you can probably do the same networking on your own. Just meet people, be social, join societies. Wait--that's all the things MBA programs want from you when you're applying. They already want you to be good at networking.

I've spoken to a lot people with their MBA from a full-time program. Many of them get very honest after a few drinks. Many of them agree they could have done this on their own, without spending $160,000.

Below is a good quote I heard about an MBA.

"If I want an MBA from Harvard, I'll hire one."

MoneyMan

@The Truth
@MBA Texas

You two make the best points, in my opinion. I've decided on taking two years off from work and take on full debt for an MBA, starting in 2008. The reasons are simple: higher salary; more opportunities; chance to switch careers. I support a wife and child, so I did the math based on my present salary at 5% increase per year, and a conservative estimate of my post-MBA salary ($80,000) increasing 5% a year. It would take me about 7-8 years to come out ahead, taking into account direct costs of a Top 20 B-school and opportunity costs (lost salary). Over a 10-20-30 year horizon is when I hope to see the bigger gains from an MBA. But honestly, I doubt I can go on increasing my present salary at 5% a year indefinitely without a higher degree, and an MBA is the most versatile, portable grad degree out there. I'm asking myself: What degree will give me the most over my entire lifespan? Personally, I think it's stupid to pay for an MBA yourself if you don't think it will pay off monetarily. Study poetry or astronomy or something genuinely interesting instead. Yes, getting a more interesting job has its value, but if you're willing to go into $100,000-$200,000 in debt and take a pay cut from your present salary just to get a more interesting job, save your money and join the Peace Corps. Finally, from what I can tell, questions of "fit" are overrated, and you should attend the highest-ranked B-school that will accept you. Unless all the stats at BusinessWeek and elsewhere on starting salaries and signing bonuses are bogus, there's a huge difference for MBA grads from top 10 schools. You get what you pay for!
(You MBA grads, please correct me if I'm wrong.)

Makerz Mark

I am making a salary of $120K+ already with barely 4 years experience in IT. I am confused as to whether I should go in an MBA direction. I can access an easy raise of $20K within three years. I don't think that is what I will make the day I walk out of Harvard or Stanford two years from now. Plus I'll have to live like a poor student for these coming years.

The only attraction to me is that I'll be able to change my career--and instead of sitting on white screen writing computer code, I'll be doing a powerful job.

I still am way too confused. To add to that, I do believe if I do not go to one of the top 3 schools, there is no point in doing it at all as I'm already better off now. Comments?

Chintan Shah

To all you guys I have two simple questions to ask:

What salary do you think is good enough for sustaining your family?What do you mean by job satisfaction?

c

Makerz, I'm in the same boat as you. I make $100K+ four years out. I can stay at my current job in finance and aim for a manager position in a few years or get an MBA. You said it all. I am aiming for top 10, and if I don't get in, I'm not going. If I do want an MBA later on, I will probably do a part-time program near work.

Makerz Mark

A salary good enough to sustain a family is a salary that will fulfill all desires of the family. I want to be able to buy a home for every kid of mine, a good lifestyle, and at least a hundred thousand in the bank for emergencies.

Job satisfaction means I should not get bored while working. I should not yawn, and I should not be pissed at my manager. I should have a constant smile on my face, and a few "wows" a day would be nice.

whoindatgarden

After reading and scanning through most of the comments, I felt I needed to share something myself.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, the less knowledge you have the more likely you are going to take the plunge. Having an MBA in many ways hampers one's ability to take the risks necessary to be an entrepreneur, and thus few MBAs have been successful starting from scratch.

Having the soft tools that an MBA provides allows one to manage and streamline enterprises that already have established themselves.

When a startup tries to do things in a structured way, it tends to stifle the creative energies that make the startup get off the ground in the first place.

Having an MBA for most seems to be a way to get higher pay. To think otherwise would be absurd.

It is more about membership to a club than making a difference in any way for society. To believe otherwise is wishful thinking.

Chintan Shah

Makez, I am absolutely with you. And I think it's not the MBA that will give you success. How many MBAs have started their own organizations? Not many.There are people who have MBAs from the best institutions in the world who are running businesses--but they're legacy businesses (family-owned).

math_guru

Some great points made here, but let me guess: All those who commented about the MBA's not making a significant difference are the ones who either don't have an MBA or earned one from a non-prestigious school. The others are probably from top-tier schools, so if you have not been to HBS, Wharton, or any other top-tier school, how would you know what it is like anyway? Maybe the MBA doesn't make a lot of difference, but the school you got it from makes at the least some difference. If your resume shows you obtained an MBA from HBS, you probably can get a job anywhere. But if you got your MBA from a non-prestigious college, there is less chance of getting a job anywhere--there will be limitations. In the former case, you can probably pursue your dream career and make loads of cash. In the latter, you may get your dream career, but chances of making loads of money will be only for a few exceptional ones.

The education, training , and networking that you acquire from a prestigious college will change you and your life forever,.because day in day out, you do almost everything with the most intelligent, savvy professionals. It is not really what you know but who you know.

Good luck to all either way.

Tmont

I do believe going to a top-10 or top-20 school opens doors that may be closed to the rest of us. I, however, did get into a top-20 school, and I chose a top-50 school that gave me a full-tuition scholarship and stipend. I do think "fit" is important. As an engineer going back to get an MBA, I plan on using my previous contacts and to work hard at networking to improve my salary and position upon graduation in two years. Yes, top 10/20 is big, but in some cases it is better for the individual to go elsewhere and leave debt out of the picture.

Chintan Shah

I agree with the above-mentioned by math_guru: Most who have said they are against the MBA have either have no MBA or have one from a non-prestigious b-school.

London

The vast majority of the comments above concern full-time courses. I have just graduated from a top-10 executive MBA, which allowed me to continue working whilst I studied.

Given the delay in the return of a full-time course, many prospective students should consider part-time (day-release) courses. You will not suffer loss in income from not working, and gain a premium qualification at the same time. The biggest issue will be time management (lots of late nights and lonely weekends studying), but think of that as a challenge.

Choose a course that suits you, your aspirations, and your budget. Whichever method you choose, good luck.

A.C

I have just graduated this May (2007) with my MBA. I am a traditional student with little experience. I kept reading all the overrated reviews, that once you get an MBA you will get great job offers. I have applied to more than 100 firms (been to major job fairs, too) across the USA and don't have a single job offer. I did not go to a "brand-name school," though my school is accredited for its MBA program and well-respected.

All I will say is if you plan to get your MBA, work for at least 5 years before you go get it. I am sure it would give you better results in your career.

OldCPA

I have an MBA from a top-10 school, plus a CPA. I did learn a few things that were helpful in starting and growing a business, from which I earned a mid-six-figure income for several years. Now, after 20 years, my business model doesn't work any more, and I'm looking for something else. Unfortunately, my MBA and CPA don't seem to be worth much at this point. Nor does my experience in a small company count for much. My guess is that it's because I jumped off the career ladder to do something different. To enhance your career with your MBA, you need to embark upon a journey focused on an objective and gather experience seen as relevant to achieving that objective. Otherwise, a brand-new MBA may get you in the door somewhere, but it loses its potency in the years after that.

Habib

What ever happened to the mantra "hard work"? Yes, an MBA opens doors, but how far you walk depends on how hard you work--not whether your degree reads CUNY or Harvard.

Bling Bling

I am just about to start the one-year MBA at Kellogg. Even though it's only 12 months, I still don't anticipate a fantastic return on my investment in immediate dollars, but do expect that it will lead to much greater opportunities two or three steps down the road and an irreplaceable life experience. I have way too much time to work, so why not?

MBA Texas

NRK,
Great example. Sure, you can criticize poor management without a management degree. But with my MBA, I will charge you $100 an hour to help you with a business solution for your poor-management issues. And that is part of the beauty of an MBA. The value of anything is the amount that people will pay for it. A dollar is worth a dollar, because the majority of folks agree that it is worth 10 dimes or 100 pennies. O.K.

Reality: People will pay you for your MBA education. It may not be you, NRK, but there's a high probability that someone else will pay. That may hurt your sensibilities, but I will pay for your counseling. I say this with a background in engineering.

The evolution of the MBA is in part due to the poor management practices of those not well versed in business theory. There's a reason for business specialization. In your examples of HP, Apple, Singer, Boeing, etc.: Were not each of those companies run by that core knowledge group before the "non-core" MBA came in to "fix" the situation? Just wondering. Some MBAs succeed; some do not. It's like anything else.

Back to those who are seriously considering pursuing an MBA. Each of you is in a different situation, so each answer will be different. Personally, I think a great candidate for an MBA is anyone with a liberal arts degree.

Reality: Most people think they're intelligent. The MBA is part of a screen, just like the BS. The fact that you use to solve a Rubik's cube faster than your sister, while cool, is not of interest to most companies. Some companies desire another check in their estimation of your abilities and commitment to a career in business. That is a part of the MBA's value.

Reality check: Take a look at job boards. Once again, for those mid- and senior-level positions, you see an MBA as a preferred qualification. I'm not making this up.

Reality check: Will the MBA fade in prestige? Possibly. But at the worst, it will become a minimum requirement for certain jobs. Educational requirements for the more high-paying positions continue to increase. The BS is the minimum standard for most decent-paying jobs/careers right now, agree? Do you see that changing? No. The competition will only get tougher and more intense.

Bottom line: The MBA is the next minimum standard in Corporate America, like it or not. Although it does not guarantee my success, I love having it in my back pocket.

If you are willing to hedge your bets on this not being the case, go ahead.
MBA'ers: Insert smiles here.


nanheyangrouchuan

"I've been turned down for jobs that require an MBA, even though I have more than 15 years of professional experience. Don't be fooled; get all the education you can."

The people you actually work with in a company, including a board of directors, may have mixed opinions about MBAs, and a good track record may be better in their eyes than a piece of paper.

Who pressures job-seekers to get MBAs? Human-resources people, who create utterly ridiculous requirements for many jobs so they can justify their departmental budgets and salaries.

Kayd

I have always viewed master's degrees as a way to branch off into an additional area of expertise. Everyone gets too focused on the money; obtaining a master's degree should be about personal improvement. I have seen people who already know business or who already have a bachelor's degree in business obtain little educational value from an MBA. On the other hand, I have known a person with a bachelor's degree in social sciences really catapult herself educationally and in the business world. Money will come and go, but no one can take away what you learn.

Luis Bello

I only have to say this:

If you have the money, go for the top-10 b-schools. Many of my colleagues consider me very bright, but when promotion time comes, all my top-10 to top-30 b-schools colleagues get the promotions--just for the name of the b-school (at least this is how it works in the Mexican investment and corporate banking sector, and yeah, I am from Mexico).

Another comment: I was at an interview with one of the senior directors (corporate banking sector), and he told me I couldn’t apply for a position since I did not have a top-30 MBA. I know it sucks, but that is the sad truth in some investment banks and corporations (either in the States or Mexico). If you can afford it, go for the top name.

alexander hernandez mera

I really agree with what Yasser said. I am 24 and actually doing an FIU MBA while working full time in a banking company. It is a phenomenal experience not only from the ROI perspective, but also for the relationships you build. In my class, I believe they all are all stars and will contribute directly or indirectly in my development as a human being.

Best regards,
Alex

vamsi

MBA is not a degree that fits everyone-- just as engineering degrees and doctorates aren't for everyone either.

Mo Jin

I am confused by this debate. In today's world, having a successful career (I assume, for the sake of argument, that we are talking about becoming a successful business executive) means having talent, smarts, and social abilities and using them for the benefit of one's particular organization or team. One also requires a "breakthrough moment"--and being able to continuously achieve it for an extended period of time.

Summary: No one wants a mediocre executive--even one with a prestigious MBA. I should know, because I've rejected a few who applied for positions in my company.

Increasingly in all arenas, especially in the high-tech business (my industry), we want talent who can actually deliver. I'd rather have someone with just a basic BA who can super-deliver and get along with the team.

anuj

MBATexas: Awesome points!

Great discussion I must say. I have browsed through most of the comments and found some great arguments. One thing I did not find much talked about is the MBA as an option for switching careers. I am an engineering major with a master's degree, and having worked for 1.5 years in the real world, I feel that I need a career change into management consulting to enter a more dynamic and challenging work environment. For this, I am considering an MBA from a good business school that has a one-year program and boasts great placement statistics.

Personally, I do not have a strong track record for showing leadership/management skills, but I think that an MBA from a good school will help me hone these skills. After all, now or later you have to start somewhere.

MBA school expenses are formidable, especially in USA. As a few people here have pointed out that it could take up to seven years to break even, I would suggest looking at good MBA schools abroad. Asia is a great option. More and more Asian universities are now being recognized worldwide. The top 10 b-schools in India are visited by the likes of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and BCG.

I think Cyndy says it absolutely right: "Knowing why you are getting your MBA is what is going to catapult you ahead--not getting one because you either think you need one or are not ready for the real world."

Gregg

If companies were paying for the degrees and looking at the ROI, I think there'd be far fewer MBAs.

I've thought about getting a law degree. Every attorney I know says "Don't!" and it seems like there are attorneys behind every door.

I've thought about getting an MBA--but then I've worked with an exec MBA from Cal Berkeley. He had no idea what GAAP was, and would ask brilliant questions like "what is out-of-network coverage?" in staff benefits meetings. That's called business education?

I'm inclined to think it's become more of a ticket-punching exercise, like the high school diploma and the bachelor's degrees were before in the business community. For talented people, studying in a top program could definitely have benefits, intellectually as well as in networking. For a genius, it's just keeping you out of the fray for two years. For the average joe, unless you lucked into a top-5 school, it's more of tool to get an edge on getting in the door. As I said, if the company was paying for it...

Mary

I believe this discussion is not mentioning a very important part of an MBA program: the international graduate students. Many MBA programs have 40%-60% international students (for instance, Stanford, one of the "top," has 60%), and the exchange of experience and culture that this provides can be extremely profitable for the Americans and for the foreigners. Let me explain.

The exchange provides students with a network that they would not normally get in their professional mid-level career (where most MBA applicants are). I don't agree with Francesca's statement that networking is not one of the reasons to pursue an MBA since you might be already ignoring the network in front of you. If you are from Europe, you don't have that much of a network in the U.S. If you are from Latin America, you don't have a lot of network in Asia. If you are American, you don’t know a lot of businessmen in South America, and so on. This is what I believe it is so special in an MBA: It opens the door to the world. I know this sounds cliched, but it is absolutely true. Once you get an MBA, you significantly expand the network that you had in your home country (which can be the U.S.) and start getting job offers all over the world.

Also, this experience of meeting Asian, European, American, African, and Latin American people and becoming friends with people from a very different culture is very fulfilling on the personal side. OK, an MBA is a high price to pay for this, but life is not just about money (again a cliché) and you have loans (I come from a country where loans are impossible to repay--so, you Americans, just to be able to get a loan is a benefit that you do not realize in my opinion). But I am not saying that making friends is a reason to pursue an MBA, I just believe that the whole cultural/exchange of experience might be.

Last, as a foreigner, from a country that does not have a University like Oxford, Harvard, or Stanford, I have to say: The experience of living on an American campus and all that a campus like this can provide you with (smart people, lectures with Bill Gates, and other top executives, high education, and so on) is already a reason for a foreigner to pursue an MBA. If you already had an undergrad in the U.S., you might not realize how special this is. But foreigners: Watch out for this every time you see an article like this. There is no right answer to the question “pursue or not pursue and MBA,” but certainly the answer might be very different depending on where you are from.

Cheers!

saurish

Well, everyone here has been talking about running after high salaries and job satisfaction. Let me explain with a simple example:

There's Harry who is earning a decent salary with complete job satisfaction, while on the other hand, George gets a handsome package and superb lifestyle with all the comforts of life.

There will come a time when Harry will feel that effort he is putting in his job, though equivalent to that of George, is not reaping much dividend. That's going to make him lose interest slowly but surely in his job--and all because he didn't have the three-letter word "MBA" after his name.

Isn't it worth the effort to instead do an MBA rather than think of excuses for not doing it? An extra bit of education is not going to harm anyone.

M

I am considering applying to MBA schools in the fall and feel that I have a good chance of getting into a top-20 program. Like many of the other posters on here, I hope that my tenure in the MBA program will enhance my business skills, knowledge, etc. Additionally, I believe the credential will help me open doors that are currently closed. However, perhaps this is unique to me (and it's purely ancillary--it was not a factor in my decision to earn an MBA credential, but it will be satisfying nonetheless), but my MBA degree, especially if it comes from an elite university, will add to my social prestige. To whit, my undergraduate degree is from a tier-3 university (I couldn't turn down the full scholarship offered). With that in mind, I feel that an MBA from a top-20 will put me on a par with peers who have undergraduate credentials from tier-1 programs. At the very least, it will allow me to silence individuals (my family) who have for years on end continued to keep asking me why I didn't go to a "good school."

J Reeves real name no gimmick

I say go ahead and get the damn degree. Some companies will reward you for it with a promotion or a higher salary, and some will just add it to your personnel file. I earned an MBA because 1.) My job paid for it and 2.) I wanted personal satisfaction. If you really want to be promoted and get the big bucks, work on projects that are high profile and make the company money.

Haki

I do not have an MBA or undergrad. I took two years of business college and realized that I didn't want to take on too much debt. I'm a real entrepreneur by means of research and experience. I read a book called What They Don't Teach You at Harvard. Right now, I only make 50K without a degree, though I spent much money on network marketing companies and read books on wealth and business. Education comes from many sources. Of course the MBA is a baseline, though I know many folks in debt and living above themselves with bad credit, no real estate, and no network marketing experience, which I received and invested in for years. I'm happy I did not accumulate those student loans. I would feel like a slave now that I'm learning about others who are deep into debt. I'm free.

These posts are very informative, This is my first time here, and I would like to learn more from you all, and if anyone here has a group, I would like to join.

Haki

Also, I believe that I read somewhere that two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies are not Ivy Leaguers.

Mawi

Asking the question, "Should I get an MBA," is much like asking the question, "Should I visit Japan?"

The answer, of course, is, "It depends." Do you like to travel? Do you want to see something new? Do you want to go to Japan?

Obviously, there's no perfect answer. No one can tell you whether you should or shouldn't get an MBA. But we all want someone to tell us, because we're so scared of making a mistake and so worried about making the "right" decision.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about doing research and learning the facts--as long as the research is not, "Tell me whether I should do this or not."

I still remember what one wizened old business leader told me when I was making my decision, "It's like cosmetic surgery. If you need it, or want it, get it."

camiwa

I want an MBA, but to be honest, I really don't expect it to do much in terms of knowledge. I hope to be pleasantly surprised. I basically want the diploma. And, if I can get it from a Top 20, and I think I can, all the better.

I have a philosophy degree and some grad-school philosophy--no degree. That really helped me to have great critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. In addition, I have experience with a company that throws you into the ocean, and you decide if you sink or swim (I was a swimmer).

I will be really surprised if the MBA teaches me something that I haven't already heard a basic version of (philosophy is pretty far-reaching; many business theories have a philosophical basis) or experienced.

I feel I have the skills it takes to go where I want to go eventually (no CEO for me, just a nice regional VP of operations position).

However, I do know that with the Internet, every posted job has a million applicants. So many corporate employment Web sites ask for your education. Not having an MBA gives a company an easy reason to say no. Especially after you get to a certain salary point. My salary has reached a point where I know I need an MBA. I'm looking for a job now, and I hope my next leap will take me to the $90K mark--the starting MBA salary. So, basically, I'm competing with the new MBA's.

Right now, I hate putting "BA" for education. I feel like I've just eliminated the chance of anyone actually reading my resume.

I also think you need to assess what you are looking to get out of an MBA. I just want to stay in the running for a position long enough to get an interview. If I learn something new, that's great, too.

I've seen some MBA candidates with problems an MBA may not actually fix: horrible personalities, assertiveness issues, general appearance issues, etc. Like I said, I think an MBA can help anyone get additional consideration when job-seeking. However, certain individuals may need to address some other issues as well if they expect to move up the management ladder.

Realcheck

Only one-third of Fortune 500 CEOs are Ivy League graduates? I'm not sure if it is one third or one fourth, but it is high either way. I've read many articles like this. As if they are saying having an Ivy League degree doesn't help all that much. There are only eight Ivy League schools. There are 500 AACSB accredited business schools. So using rough math, people from eight schools run 150 of the Fortune 500 businesses. That is pretty impressive. If you want to be a CEO, go to the best school you can.

MLC

I'm in a part-time MBA program with Ellis College. I'm just about done with my fourth course. Ellis College is affiliated with NYIT. So far, I am impressed with the quality and the number of interactive discussions with students from diverse backgrounds. The instructors have been top notch. It is expensive, though. I work full time but this is the only way I could have done this and still had somewhat of a life for family. I don't know if this will help me or not. But my plan is to get enough graduate courses in accounting so I can take the CPA exam. I currently work in marketing. I spent time in finance/banking and learned a lot on the job and in on-the-job training. In the 1990s, training seemed to be the norm.

Nella

MBAs are not risk-takers. They are just like engineers in that regard, wanting to "play it safe" but too dumb to get a technical degree. I mean, if MBA students really want to be in business, why not take that $60K to $100K plus the two years it takes to complete the degree and start their own?

Nav

I have been working for a mid-size IT firm for one year. I am into technical basically, and I want to branch out to management.

Folks, can you tell me whether a "part-time MBA" carries any value? I don't want to lose my job instead, and that's why I am planning on a part-time program.

Jacob koshy

I strongly believe an MBA program has added value to my professional life in the following aspects:

a) It gave me a whole new perspective about what business is all about.
b) Improved my presentation, analytical, and communication skills.
c) Boosted my confidence to handle new assignments.
d) Gave me an opportunity to interact with different people from diverse fields of employment.
e) Developed my patience and hard work and improved my personality.

I am very confident that I will be able to land in a more suitable position in the future, and take on new responsibilities that otherwise would have been closed to me for lack of an MBA.

Kenzie

BackToBooks,
I am currently an undergrad student at the University of Phoenix and just wanted to say that it is an accredited university. Actually, the largest one. Just for clarification.

r

The University of Phoenix is known to be a joke in the corporate world. Heard this from a friend who works at Bear Stearns.

Dawei

The key is whether you can join a top MBA program with a good reputation and real high-quality education resources. An MBA is not a title, but a kind of investment for yourself to prepare future success. I personally think in the U.S., there are too many MBA programs, and many of them are created for financial purposes, which means schools sell the MBA degrees to those people who are not clear what the value of a real MBA is.

mike

I would do the MBA if I were you. It may not be a substitute for experience, but it's objective proof that you can do business.

I am trying to see it from a hiring manager's perspective: Guy 1 comes in the office. He has 20 years of experience in a family business and no MBA. The boss is probably thinking: OK, this guy probably is experienced, but there's a risk that he only had the position because of connections, and maybe somebody else was running the show, but he just knows the right people, or people like him.

Guy 2 comes in the office, and has a 4.0 GPA from a prestigious business school but no experience. OK, so the guy knows his stuff, since schools tend to be more objective about who is good at business than the real world, but there's a risk he would flake out in the real world or at least it would cost a lot to train this guy--so that he would only leave the company.

Guy 3 has a B average in a mediocre business MBA program and two years' worth of experience.

OK, I think we'll go with Guy 3. And I guess it would be a tie between Guy 1 and Guy 2. I mean, I am just making up numbers here, but you get the idea.

Just like colleges look at your ACT scores and your grades, workplaces look at both experience and formal schooling.

Now, if you plan on opening up your own business from scratch, that's a different story. How well your business will do depends on how good you are. How likely you will get hired as a manager depends on how good other people think you are. So yeah, I would go get that MBA.

Matt

You people don't know what you are talking about and are crazy. I am a 22 year old with little experience who is finishing an MBA soon. I have a couple of job offers already. With my assistantship, the cost of my entire master's is $6,000, and I go to a good business school full time. Why wouldn't I get a master's at this point and have more career opportunities for years to come? An MBA isn't expensive and even if I do start my own organization (like I did in college), I will just have more tools at my disposal. People who don't like MBAs are crazy.

Dave Wilson

I finish my MBA in less than two weeks, and I have been going to a mid-tier university for 2.5 years. All I know is this: I respect anyone who has the drive and determination to achieve an MBA. The schoolwork is not hard, but the time commitment is grueling (with family, work, etc.). All things being equal, I will hire an MBA every time. There's not a better test of stamina and determination than a part-time degree.

Rich Milo

Forget the rat race. Don't be one of life's losers. You people make me sick.

Tom

LOL, some people on here. People always try to make things more complicated than they are. If it's feasible, get the degree; it can't hurt you. If you like your job and don't think you will need it, then don't get it. There are plenty of solid programs that offer online MBAs, so work for an employer who will pay for it. That's what I did. No quicker way of getting a 30k-plus raise.

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