The case of the MBA, a Master of Business Administration, is an interesting one. The qualification used to be an institution in itself. An MBA (especially from a prestigious school) gave admittance to an exclusive circle of elites who were going somewhere – senior management in fact. Serious about your future, an MBA qualification meant others took you seriously as well.
Is that still the case? Not entirely. Over the last few years, the value of MBAs has been on the decline.
Let’s look at both sides of the argument though.
First up, in case you’re not sure, what is an MBA?
Master of Business Administration
Unlike other Masters programmes which involve a specialisation in a particular area, an MBA draws from a variety of disciplines. The programme gives you a broad overview of knowledge and skills you might need in a successful, upper-rung business position (i.e. senior or executive management). So you would draw from various business fields such as accounting, information systems, economics and finance, as well as ‘soft’ or ‘human’ fields like sociology and psychology.
Why you should study an MBA
There is plenty online material that goes into detail about the benefits of an MBA. For the purposes of being succinct, these can be distilled into increased salary potential and career advancement.
With an MBA, you are equipped with the technical skills necessary to understand the ins and outs of business. While the influence of the humanities gives you insight into the consumer’s mind and how social groups behave.
An MBA provides in-depth understanding of various areas. It’s great in that it moves away from the modernist compartmentalisation of knowledge in academia, where the fields you study get more and more specialised, to the point where you lack a holistic grasp of what’s actually going on in a real world setting. If you’re going to be in the top echelons of a company, where you are required to make strategic decisions for the business, a general understanding of various facets is necessary for decision-making.
Why you shouldn’t study an MBA
While it’s true that MBA holders generally have higher paying jobs and better positions, there is good argument that this is more correlation than causation. In other words, someone serious, hard-working and talented enough to get an MBA was probably going places already. It’s not the MBA that necessarily makes the difference between success and mediocrity.
The problem is that MBAs are expensive. Yes, it’s good to invest in yourself, but you might be better off putting that investment of time and money elsewhere. Even if you do have that kind of money to spend, it might be better off going into your first start-up. Even dismally failing at a business is a great education. A unique one that will teach you a few things a degree couldn’t.
Sure, an MBA will give you a good overview of skills to have. But you could easily get your basic business know-how from a short project management course, and thereafter get experience in the classroom of reality.
If you have the money, and aren’t yet too sure yet where you want to take your career in the business world, then an MBA could be a good idea. If it means going into debt, or if there are other ways to get the skills you need, you’re better off without it.
The choice of whether or not to get an MBA isn’t a simple yes or no one. Just don’t get one because someone told you it’s what you need to be successful in business.