I am both an avid “self educator” and a very recent MBA grad from a relatively prestigious business school. While I am not in the corner office (yet) I have already seen concrete, direct impact from these educational experiences. I have also spent considerable time talking with successful business leaders (both MBA grads and not) trying to understand what has made them successful.
Pros for an MBA
Very, very few people discipline themselves enough to replicate the enforced deadlines of an MBA. Don’t kid yourself…you are not that person. My MBA experience was intense and there were many nights where I worked well into the early AM hours to get my work done. People just don’t do that on their own. Besides, If you are that disciplined already I doubt the MBA will benefit you. You are already in the 99th percentile and will find a way of getting things done.
If you get into a good school your professional network will become incredibly valuable. Whether you like it or not, who you know is nearly as important as what you know. The number of VP’s, directors, and successful entrepreneurs in my personal circle is unusually high and a direct result of connections made during my time in my MBA.
guided learning – How does the quote go? “A self-taught man has a poor master”. It is helpful to have an expert guide you to the important topics and highlight key elements. Also the interactive learning is crucial in some fields like finance and decision sciences.
cachet – having the MBA on your résumé (and in some cases a top 10 MBA) is the only way you will be considered for certain roles. In particular if you want to work for specific consulting or finance firms you HAVE to have an MBA from a particular school with a near perfect GPA. Like it or not it is the criteria they use.
If you look at graduates from MBA programs, especially top-tier programs, you will see a disproportionately high number of very successful individuals.
But there is a cause vs. correlation issue here. The cohort of students I went to school with were already a self-selected group of high performers. They probably would have found a way to succeed with or without the education. The defining characteristic of these students was not their intellect (though many of them were brilliant) it was their work ethic and their drive.
Also, I have several good friends, some without even a college education, who have absolutely killed it in the marketplace. No MBA, no business education, nothing. I have a very good friend who, while several years behind me and having just a degree from a Bible school under his belt, is doing much better than I am in terms of raw income.
B school is certainly helpful but don’t rely on it to make you successful on its own. It is a small piece of a much larger picture involving discipline, persistence, connections, effort, self learning, and luck.
An MBA is not a degree you get for self actualization. If you want that go take a pottery course or something. A good MBA program is ton of work meant to help build pragmatic, practical skills. Also it costs a lot of money and if you are going to a top 10 school you may not get the ROI you expect.
If your company provides tuition reimbursement I think getting an MBA is a no brainer but if you are paying for it yourself you need to count the costs very, very carefully.
And whatever you do please don’t finance it. Find a way to cash flow it. You will be much happier after the fact.
(Originally posted as a comment in response to the podcast episode: Do You Need An MBA To Be Successful? A Discussion on Education)