Should I get an MBA?

I just answered a question on Linkedin on getting an MBA, and thought it was worth posting here. Whether or not to do an MBA is a staple of the careers and business section of newspapers, so I guess a lot of people are interested in MBAs as a career tool.

An MBA could well be beneficial for your career development, you just have to have a clear goal in mind. A Cost vs. Benefit analysis is a useful decision making tool here.

The tuition cost is anything from $40 to $100k depending where you study. Plus either a year or two out of work, or if you study part-time, three to four years of most of your non-work time. The opportunity cost plus tuition cost adds up to a lot…depending on your salary, you are looking at something like $300 to 500k.

So the benefits should be fantastic. Look past the acronym and the hype, and you find what is essentially a generalist graduate degree in Marketing, Operations, Finance and HR. MBAs are highly valued by certain large companies and consulting firms, which pay well, but you want to be getting a huge increase in salary or work satisfaction to pay off the cost of getting the degree.

If you go to the right school, the networking benefits certainly can’t be under rated. I did a short part-time course at a business school, and found the new friendships, networks as well as the new perspective on business to be fanastic…but didn’t do much else but study and work for six months…it was hard to imagine doing it for the three to four years it would take to finish the course.

If you are considering an MBA should make sure you absolutely love studying and gaining knowledge and that you have 100% buy-in from your family and any other stakeholders in your personal life.

You should also make sure that an MBA will clearly improve your professional brand. If you are just coming out of your undergraduate degree, and you have great marks, doing an MBA could be good if you want to get into consulting…just make sure you continue to get good grades.

If you have been working in jobs for many years where you have zero P&L and management responsibility, doing an MBA is unlikely to be a good move for you. It just won’t fit with your experience.

If you are pursuing a career as an “employee” i.e. trying to climb the ladder within a big firm in the traditional fashion, then an MBA may well be looked on positively, particularly if you are on the cusp of moving into a management level position.

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