This article is an update to a blog entry I posted way back in 2007. A lot has happened since then so I thought it deserved a refresh. Here’s the second article, “Is the MBA Worth It? Part 2“. But read this one first!
Prospective students often ask me, “Is an MBA worth it?” That’s a great question considering the amount of time and effort it will take to complete an MBA. An MBA is a learning experience that can benefit anyone, in any industry at any point in his/her career. Coming from an MBA Director, you probably expected that answer. Ultimately, however, the decision to pursue an MBA depends on where you want to take your career.
I enjoy asking students, “Why are you seeking an MBA?” Some standard answers are:
- “I want more money.”
- “I want a better job.”
- “I want to position myself for success after the recession ends.”
- “I want to move up the corporate ladder.”
These are great answers, but can an MBA get you any of these things? Research indicates that it can. Here are some facts:
- MBA job opportunities increased 24% in 2010 (TopMBA.com)
- The average starting salary of MBA graduates was $79,936 in 2009 (TopMBA.com).
- Companies plan to hire more MBAs than students with other Masters degrees in 2010 (GMAC).
- 96% of recent part-time MBA graduates are employed (GMAC).
- Research has shown that executives who have an MBA are likely to have greater compensation than those who did not pursue an MBA. (Information Week, November 1, 2004).
- 60% of women who possess an MBA have a greater income than their husbands (Business Week, Jan 7, 2003).
- Employees with MBAs earn, on average, $10,736 more than their counterparts with other Master degrees. (GMAC MBA salary Survey - opens a PDF file).
The president of GMAC recently stated;
The knowledge, skills and networks of contacts people develop in business school give them a clear edge in the job market. The remarkable success individuals with graduate management degrees continue to have when looking for employment—even in a down economy—is further evidence of the high value employers place on management education.
An MBA + Experience + Personal Drive = Success
Statistics are wonderful but only tell part of the story. An MBA alone won’t do anything. I believe that an MBA in conjunction with work experience and personal drive is the key to building a successful career. Let me explain.
To create business solutions, you must adopt a “systems thinking” mindset. An MBA education gives you a holistic view of an organization. Effective managers must see their “domain” in view of the larger whole. The organization is like an ecosystem. Each functional area must support itself yet at the same time act in ways to support the organization. If one area is performing poorly, there is a strong likelihood the rest of the organization will feel the impact. The MBA helps you to take the blinders off, so to speak, so you can see your organization as a whole. You will lead according to what is best for you, your department and the organization.
An MBA education also hones your critical thinking skills. Case work is the cornerstone of the MBA curriculum. Analyzing cases helps you to think beyond the obvious. You must delve deep and sift through the facts to understand systemic causes of various organizational issues. Cases also present opportunities for creative thinking. Some cases have you analyze new product launches and ask you to determine the appropriate marketing strategy based on a variety of internal and external variables. Cases force you to think beyond what is on the surface. These are the skills needed to succeed in business.
The MBA will also help you to fine-tune your soft skills. Professors will require a heavy amount of group interaction, case work, a multitude of presentations, and real-world projects where you solve real problems for real companies. In addition, many MBA programs, including ours, offer a variety of events and seminars outside the classroom to help students hone their “softer skillset”.
Though the MBA prepares you well for succeeding in the workplace, nothing can take the place of experience. Experience gives you the “street smarts” and the wisdom to understand how business works. Reading about a failed marketing plan and analyzing the case cannot teach you as well as living through a failed marketing plan. Forming and leading a team through the successful completion of a project cannot be replaced by a classroom lecture on project management.
Though work experience is crucial, an MBA education combined with work experience will give you a competitive edge. Experience can build complacency. Instead of solving a business problem in a new, different and better way, you’ll likely solve it the same way you always have. An MBA education gives you new tools to solve new or old problems. You’ll solve problems more effectively and perhaps more importantly, you’ll begin to see opportunities where you thought none existed.
You don’t need work experience to begin an MBA but the two together make a powerful combination.
Determining what you want to achieve, setting goals, and taking action to achieve those goals is what will ultimately make you successful. Personal drive puts you, and keeps you, on the path to success. I believe personal drive is what separates the winners from the losers. An MBA education and practical experience are utterly useless unless you plan to take action. Without action, and MBA is just a piece of paper and experience just breeds complacency.
It will likely be personal drive and determination that convinces you to earn an MBA. It will be this same drive that will keep you on track with your studies and motivate you to complete your MBA program. After you’ve earned your degree, it is up to you to apply what you learn so that you can set yourself apart, do great things, and achieve the goals you have for your career and your life.
Here’s the second article, “Is the MBA Worth It? Part 2“.