Should I Get an MBA?

The path to an MBA.
The path to an MBA.

One sunny summer day, when I was 25, I was driving along the Massachusetts Turnpike between stores, and, from no where, an idea popped into my head. Freshly promoted that July, I was feeling pretty good about myself, and I wondered how far up the corporate ladder I possibly could climb. Maybe I can be CEO. Who knows? I suddenly wanted prepare for my fantasy ascent from middle-management by learning how to manage a huge group of people. And a few weeks later I enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Hartford.

This post is for people considering a Master’s in Business Administration. Not all of the advice below applies to people considering starting or finishing a Bachelor’s of Arts or Science degree. For example, I think an online BA is fine, but an online MBA is borderline worthless. I believe everyone considering a serious career in business should get a BA – including small business people and tradesmen – even if just to learn modern professional habits and skills.

There are lots of reasons to get an MBA – jumpstart a stalled career; ambition to do more; first in the family or pressure from family to get an advanced degree; an affinity towards academia; not wanting to grow up; can’t find a job and you have nothing better to do, etc. These motivators may be drawing you towards an MBA, but going back to school is a tough decision. Maybe I can help make your decision easier, Ben Franklin style.

The PROs of an MBA

  • Post-secondary degrees are becoming much more common (up 62% from 2000 to 2012 according to this article), maybe because young college grads cannot find real jobs, so spend their idle time earning advanced degrees on credit or mommy and daddy’s money. These Masters are your competition for future big jobs, and if graduate degrees become nearly ubiquitous like Bachelor degrees have, you’re going to want to be competitive.
  • You will build your network, establishing valuable relationships with future business leaders, which is the best way to score big jobs.
  • Most of your classmates will be working full-time. Professors understand this and go easy on the “homework” for the most part. There’s lots of time in class to work together in groups.
  • You may be able to get your employer to pay for all or some of your degree.
  • You might be promoted, qualify for a better position, or meet the requirements of a future job you apply for, you know the ones that say, “MBA preferred”.
  • You’ll learn about other companies and industries. I’ve been at the same company for like nine years now. I’m practically institutionalized. It’s good to broaden your horizons.
  • You’ll become a better speaker, presenter, writer, and collaborator – all vital modern business skills.
  • You’ll get to read, write, and think about interesting business situations that you’ll surely face in the future.

The CONs of an MBA

  • Online for-profit “regionally accredited” one-year programs have diluted the degree. The MBA bullet on your resume won’t mean much by itself.
  • Your company might not pay for much or any of your schooling, leaving you with a big bill or lots of student loan debt.
  • Getting ahead at some companies has nothing to do with your educational achievements. If you can make your company money, and you’re smart enough to play office politics, you can probably get ahead regardless of your education.
  • It’s hard work! My MBA program was 17 on-campus classes long, which took me four years to complete. It wasn’t easy or much fun to work 50-55 hours and then attend 6 hours of night classes each week.
  • An MBA won’t land you your first management job. You’ll need some experience first, which is why I recommend getting promoted into your first management job.

My Verdict

The pros outweigh the cons. I’m in favor of the getting an MBA. I really don’t like the $35k in extra student loans, but I did get promoted again just seven months after completing the program. I didn’t get promoted because I had an MBA on my resume. I got promoted because I applied myself during my time in the program, and I became a better manager because of the experience.

Here’s How to Do It

  • Go for an AACSB accredited degree or don’t go at all. You don’t have to get into Wharton or Harvard, but seeking out the AACSB accreditation will help you find respected programs.
  • Most of the classes should be on-campus. I’m not in favor of online MBAs since most of the value and learning of an MBA comes from relationships, networking, and peer-to-peer interaction.
  • Only go back for an MBA if you seek genuine learning and improvement. Commit to doing all of the reading, work hard on your writing, challenge yourself as a public speaker, and participate as a key collaborator in group work. Don’t go if you just want a bullet on your resume.
  • Go out into the world and make some money before going to graduate school. Pay for as much of the tuition your employer won’t pay for with as much cash as possible.
  • When you do go back, get good grades. You’ll want to post your impressive GPA on your resume.

Lastly, if you’re getting an MBA, start by looking into an MBA from the University of Hartford Barney School of Business. I chose this program because it is AACSB accredited, friendly for full-time workers, competitively priced, highly ranked for its quality of professors, and I was able to waive the requirement for GMAT entry exam because of my work experience.