Is Going For An MBA Worth It?

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My humble opinion: no. I could end my post there, but just let me explain (and soften my opinion a little).

An MBA is not a golden ticket to a high-paying job that leads to a lucrative career. In the end, it’s who you are, who you know, and the results you produce that determine your career success.

An MBA will accelerate network-building and give you access to recruiters. It will give you experiences and knowledge that will make you a better person and prepare you to generate results.

But it comes with a high cost: 18-24 months of lost salary, paused career advancement, and tuition and fees. Could you get similar benefits without the cost?

To Have Or Not To Have

The cost might be worth it if you meet the following criteria:

  • You want to make a drastic career change into an area you lack knowledge and contacts.
  • You are pursuing a career path where an MBA is almost required and you don’t have accomplishments that would make up for not having one. For example, private equity and venture capital partners who raise money from institutional investors often have big-name MBA’s or big business wins (built and sold a company for enough that they don’t need to work).
  • Time and cost aren’t an issue and you just want an MBA. There’s nothing wrong with that.
    I can’t think of any other good reasons to get an MBA.

I think most people would be better off by making learning and relationship-building a life-long and intentional pursuit. By targeted I mean being relentless about learning everything you can about the industry and role you are in (and aspire to). I mean saying yes to every possible opportunity, large or small, and doing all you can to be an absolute rock star. Good people are hard to find. Be one of those good people.

Speaking Of Education

You can learn as much or more by building your own custom education plan. The following are some options:

  1. Executive Education Programs.

    These are offered by many business schools. These aren’t full MBA’s but short, intensive courses on specific topics. They tend to be expensive but not nearly as much as a full MBA.

  2. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

    Many schools offer the same courses that tuition-paying students get for free or cheap online. I took a course from Stanford for free on scaling startups. It had the same professors and content as a tuition-paying Stanford student. I just didn’t get the credits.

  3. Read Books.

    MBA students read a lot of books. Decide what you want to learn and find the best books on the topic. Set a goal for how many books you want to regular read. I read up to four business or personal development books per month.

  4. Listen To Books.

    I love I can get through at least two books per month while doing things I have to do anyway: driving, exercising, cleaning my office or garage, etc.

  5. Podcasts.

    Learn from experts who are actually doing what you’re trying to do. Some of my favorite business podcasts include The Entreleadership Podcast, EOFire, This Week in Startups, Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders, and even the $100 MBA (daily 10-minute business lessons).

  6. On The Job Experience.

    The best MBA can’t match high-quality, on-the-job experience. Volunteer for the toughest jobs. Intentionally target opportunities that will help you reach your goals. And as I mentioned, be a rock star no matter what the role.

Getting an MBA may be a good option for some people. But if you’re considering an MBA, think carefully about whether or not the costs are worth it. Consider whether or not you can get the same or greater benefits by being more focused and intentional in your on-the-job experience and off-the-job education.


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