Is This Degree Necessary?

“I have an MBA”. Bully for you. So what good is it? Is it worth two years full time at $18,000 – $25,000 per year, plus room, board, books and numerous extra fees just to have bragging rights? Or will an MBA actually translate into a more lucrative and satisfying career? Before you take the plunge yourself, you need to ask some questions.

Talk It Over

Start by talking to people who have earned the degree. Are their goals like yours? Did they learn the kind of skills that you want to learn? It’s impolite to ask how much somebody makes, but maybe you could frame the question in the form of comparison. By what percent did your salary increase? Is your work more satisfying now? Do they think the degree is worth the time and money? Talk to people of different ages and levels of accomplishment.

Now ask yourself some questions. What is my goal? Do I want to advance my current career or start a new one? (If you want advance your current career you need to speak with your boss. Does the company need and value those with advanced degrees?) Does that goal play to my strengths and interests? Would I really be good at this? Do most people who have accomplished this goal have an MBA? Consider a self-assessment quiz available on the Internet. Also ask friends and family for their opinion. Sometimes those close to us know us better than we do.

Look at a real MBA program

Look at a real MBA program that you might consider. What are the courses like? Are there some that you might find exceptionally difficult? Are the courses oriented more to theory or practice? Would you rather have high supervision or work more on your own?

There is no doubt that MBAs make more money than BAs. A management consultant with an advanced degree averages $70,000 – $160,000, while a person with a bachelor’s degree earns $40,000 – $80,000 for the same job title. Where you got your degree matters, too. Starting salaries for graduates of the top schools read as follows: Stanford University: $100,400 Harvard University: $99,848, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan): $94,131.4544577745_ba1d8ed05b_o

Keep in mind that these are all high pressure produce-or-perish jobs that demand total commitment, but give little security. Expectations are high and you must be the judge of whether you can live up to them. Consider how such a job might affect your family life (or your prospects of getting a family life), and your mental and physical health. Money is great, but ten years down the line there might be price: stomach ulcers, anxiety attacks, divorce. If your style is more easy-going, you might be content with less money and more leeway at work.

Your Alternative

If an MBA is not for you what is the alternative? If you are the entrepreneurial type, determined to start your own business, you might be better off with a BA, some real world experience and lots of enthusiasm. Your own business may or may not make an MBA worthwhile financially and extra schooling might not even give you enough practical guidance to make it useful.

If you are satisfied with company where you work and are looking to advance, on the job training might be a better alternative than business school. Your skills and know-how should be specific to that business not generalized information. There is often more job security at a company where people know one another than at a Fortune 500 where you are just statistic.

Some say that the MBA is simply a prize to impress employers and does little practical good. Especially lacking in schools are people skills. Students are encouraged to analyze flow charts and theorize about financial planning. Little is said about what to do when a vital project is two days late because the manager has been out sick and the assistant thinks that the way to get the work out of his team is to curse at them. It is the classic clash between pristine ivory tower academe and the messy real world.

In the end the decision is yours. For some goals an MBA is essential, for others it can be almost useless. And oh yes, more thing. Bill Gates has neither a bachelor’s degree nor an MBA.

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Edgar @ Degrees and Debt

AuthorEdgar @ Degrees and Debt

Founder of Degrees and Debt. Edgar just wrapped up his MS in Project Management with a focus on Information Security Management. Battling back to even from student loans, mortgage and credit card debt is an art Edgar is learning to master. This is his journey.