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The Insider: Who needs an MBA anyway?

Don’t let education stand in the way of achieving your career goals – that’s my motto.

About three months ago I attended my friend’s MBA commencement ceremony in Hong Kong at one of the world’s finest universities.

I also met many return-to-school business professionals wearing caps and gowns, most of whom had attended the full-time programme for the past two years. They were taught the most advanced case studies and business strategies, which are believed to lead to better career paths and higher salaries.

I too considered doing an MBA when my job was eliminated soon after the 2008 Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. It was a devastating period for me, but I gradually accepted that this setback was no reflection of my abilities, attitudes and what I can achieve.

Notably, I stuck to my belief that MBA-style case studies only work in the laboratory-like environment of a business school. After a period of consideration and discussions with friends, I decided to job search, rather than study. Getting back into the workforce ASAP would be better for my career than taking a year or two to get an MBA.

I think it’s important to know your personality and career objectives, before you decide whether or not to do an MBA, especially if you are in your late 20s or early 30s when it’s still possible to change industries or job functions. And I also believe that if you are self-motivated, you will probably find further education irrelevant to help you reach your career goals.

While an MBA can often be a dooropener, especially to the big consultancy companies, I have also seen many unsuccessful examples. Take the case of a certified accountant I know. He had four years of solid audit experience in a big four firm, but left to do his MBA with the aim of breaking into banking. He failed; he’s back in accounting.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of eFinancialCareers. The author works for a financial institution in Asia.

Comments (11)

  1. Sounds like Grapes are sour :)
    An MBA changes your league. i know many people who changed the whole trajectory of their growth after business school. Yes there are failures, but what you sow is what you reap. If you can not maximize your opportunities in B- School you will be a failure. It can only take you to the door , you yourself have to unlock it.

  2. Yawwwwwwn…such an OLD arguement. Going back to the beginning of the universe I think. We all justify the decisions we make with one-off, anecdotal evidence and then we are happy.

    Here’s the short answer – an MBA makes sense if you can get into one of the “wow” programs – you know which ones I’m talking about. Top 5ish ranked…simple as that. People and companies value the fact that it’s hard to get into these programs – you are generally smart and already had been a success somewhere. The rest of your career you have the benefit of the “wow” and the network.

    Otherwise, it’s a waste of money.

  3. I agree with you that having an MBA is by no means a sure fire way to success. However, I believe education is the best investment one can make – I am working off the assumption that the individual is building upon past successes.

    Like you, I have encountered counterparts whose MBAs played a minimal role in the advancement of their career goals. That said, I know of individuals who made full use of their MBAs by wearing it like a tried-and-tested badge of honor and have subsequently rose through the ranks quickly.

    To sum, the MBA works best for individuals who are looking to build upon their past successes and are ready to move up to a leadership role where all round credentials matter.

    The above are some of my thoughts. I do not hold an MBA nor am I intending to undertake one soon.

  4. I totally agreed with him… it is not necessary having an MBA and expect to guarantee a bright good future.

    I think there is too much marketing on the MBA which causes the dont have to form unrealistic expectations.

    Having a career, earning your keep far exceed having an MBA. Many dont have one and are doing just great!

  5. An MBA degree is useless if you’ve got 5-8 years of working experience in the industry you want to be in and if you’ve already got a strong network and an undergraduate business degree.

  6. I fully agree. Throughout my career I have chosen to ignore the MBA because it is too academic and simplistic, instead taking smaller and more frequent topic-specific trainings to enhance knowledge and skill in the field / sector.

    However, the problem is that many HR departments are also too simplistic and in fact lazy when assessing candidates because they prefer to tick boxes against a checklist befire they wll even conbsider anyone. In large companies it most often includes an MBA tick box.

    And therein lays the choice, do you want to sell your soul to the large Corporates, play stupid political games, work day and night dreaming up financial ponzi schemes underpinned by worthless fiat currency, jumping through all the hoops including spending 2 years doing an academic MBA, all for a well-known brand, or instead you prefer to work in a more dynamic and exciting environment, contributing to its real-world success and to be rewarded for your real results not certificates?

  7. People who did one = “MBAs are great and I will promote others who did one too!”

    People who did not = “All you need is work experience and an MBA is a waste of time and money.”

    Discussion over.

  8. Have I earned an MBA? Yes
    Do I have 5-8 years of previous work experience? No
    Did I already have a strong network? Not really
    Did I go to at “Top 5” ranked business school? No, I went to Kaplan University Online.
    Did I maximize my abilities after business school? Not really.
    Do I live in a 100k(+) household? Yes
    Is earning an MBA directly responsible for my current financial situation? Absolutely

    I mean this in the most respectful way. Every situation is different and its just crazy for anyone to decide, across the board, the value of earning an MBA for any of the reasons mentioned. The key, at least for me, was carefully researching my options, creating a career path, and following my plan. In my situation that career path included earning an MBA. It didn’t matter that the MBA didn’t come from a “top 5” school. I still reached my financial goal.
    For the author of this article, earning an MBA obviously was not of any value and that’s perfectly okay. I just have a problem with the author, and many of those commenting, assuming this to generally be the same for others. Again, every situation is different. One should do the research and then make the best decisio

  9. Equal capabilities, you prefer a boss with MBA or not ?

  10. There are some bitter people, from both sides of the fence, posting their comments here lol.
    To each his own and I’m curious…what gives any of you, any right, to tell someone else if their chosen path is right or wrong?
    How about minding your own damn business and not try to influence someone else to your way of thinking just to pad your own, sizable ego lol.

  11. Yes, an MBA is just another ‘door-opener’. Many ways to open doors, this is simply one of them.

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