Students and professionals debate the importance of an MBA
There’s an ongoing debate about the value of MBA programs. Some say it’s an investment and a necessary stepping stone, while others argue it’s a waste of time and money.
Well, which is it? To determine if you should earn an MBA or work your way up from the bottom, you’ll need to consider both sides of the argument.
• Get an MBA
Brandon Stewart, an MBA student and project manager at the University of Nevada – Reno, said he thinks where you are and what industry you’re in factor greatly into whether or not you should get an MBA.
“Let’s say you’re working for an industry where there are 10 companies in the area,” Stewart said. “You can just step your way up the ladder at those 10 companies if you want to. In Reno, for example, you don’t always have that. If I were to work at a research university, I have one option. So if you want to move up in that university and work experience isn’t possible, a graduate degree is your only option.”
Stewart said an MBA provides a much more well-rounded education than you’d get outside of the program and that it makes you stand out to employers.
“At the end of the day, you need both: You need things that testify that you care about learning and developing yourself but you also need to get work experience,” Stewart said.
Career earnings from MBA grads of both traditional and online programs vary greatly. According to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek, students from top business schools make well into the millions over the course of 20 years, with Harvard grads topping the list at $3.6 million. The average 20-year earnings of the students from all 57 programs the study analyzed was $2.4 million, or $122,513 a year.
Eliran Almog, CEO of the medical aesthetics devices company Viora Inc., said an MBA can also help amidst a career change. For Almog, an MBA graduate of Babson College, it was the switch from a leadership role in the Israeli military to the American start-up scene.
“It opens your mind to the many aspects of business one might not necessarily be aware of,” Almog said. “For a person in the process of a career change, the MBA helps them to choose the industry and expertise that would be a good fit.”
Almog also appreciated the networking side of the MBA — not just the connections made through the college — but also the lessons about how to network and its importance.
• Work your way up
Though Almog said he recognizes how an MBA can offer personal growth, he still feels that he worked his way up from the bottom.
“I think that there are no short cuts,” Almog said. “Most successful people in business work their way up from the bottom. The MBA is only a tool to help you on the way up. The MBA gave me many practical tools and methodologies that enabled me to grow probably faster than I would have without the degree.”
Despite the benefits of an MBA degree, those who argue against earning the degree often point to money. Plenty of MBA programs will cost you over $50,000 and the top ones over $100,000.
Poets & Quants published an article that displayed the cost of 20 top MBA programs. At the top of that list was Columbia University, which costs $168,307, and at the bottom was the University of Texas at Austin, which costs $127,144.
Of course, many schools offer aid in the form of fellowships and grants. But is the degree worth the money and time? Not according to Philip Delves Broughton, who earned an MBA from Harvard and urged readers to think twice about earning an MBA in his article in The Economist. He suggests in the article that the fundamentals of business, innovating and selling aren’t taught in business schools and that you can network just fine outside these schools.
“When you look at today’s most evolved business organisms, it is obvious that an MBA is not required for business success,” Broughton wrote in the article. “Apple, which recently usurped Microsoft as the world’s largest technology firm (by market capitalisation), has hardly any MBAs among its top ranks. Most of the world’s top hedge funds prefer seasoned traders, engineers and mathematicians, people with insight and programming skills, to MBAs brandishing spreadsheets.”
To which the other side points to companies that demand MBAs and successful MBA graduates. So which side wins? Those saying an MBA costs a lot and aren’t necessary or those who say it pays itself off and makes you a better job candidate?
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