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Should You Get An MBA? Some Nice Insights (infochachkie.com)
25 points by mollylynn 2333 days ago | 17 comments



I have an MBA, and this sentence is probably the most important: "If you have a non-business undergraduate degree, then an MBA may make sense, even if your are an entrepreneur." The MBA program was originally designed to be specifically for engineers, who, in mid-career, were taking on management roles, and needed appropriate business training to do those jobs well. And if was supposed to be for people that had been away from school and had work experience.

Unfortunately the programs seem to be full of business undergrads, who go straight from their undergrad and (I guess) see it as a way to differentiate themselves. If your undergrad is not in business, then the accounting and finance training alone is worth it. And lots of people do the degree part-time (as I did) so the argument that its a waste of time doesn't hold up. For the right type of person.

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> If your undergrad is not in business, then the accounting and finance training alone is worth it

I think this is valid, but there is also another option. In my 4th year engineering (my Masters) I took 3/8 of my courses outside the engineering school: Accounting & Finance; Operations Research, Entrepreneurship. I am extremely glad I took Accounting & Finance and Operations Research - I would highly recommend Accounting and Finance to any undergraduate who thinks they may work in management at some point in their career. The Entrepreneurship was very dry, and I can't remember a single thing that I learned there.

The two scenarios I see as valid for doing an MBA:

1. A lifestyle choice (albeit a very expensive one)

2. To get an opening into consulting / banking if you don't already have a background in it (though there are other ways to do this too). Having worked with many MBA hires in consulting I would say the value of the MBA is putting oneself in the pond from which consulting companies fish, and much less so teaching the skills that consultants need.

If I was to go back to academia, it would be for a PhD for sure.

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Well, I went down that road too (didn't finish it because the life of a post-doc didn't seem very appealing). In career terms MBA >> PhD, in my opinion.

On your description of courses, well OR was what I did my ABD in, so I'm biased. I personally loved my Entrepreneurship course. I think its professor - dependent. Our professor was a bit of an entrepreneur (and entertainer) himself.

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> I think its professor dependent

Totally agree. Ours was not an active entrepreneur, though he was a friend. Additionally, I was involved in running the university entrepreneurship society, through which I was exposed to many excellent talks by entertaining entrepreneurs - those made much more of an impression on me.

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While I don't doubt that an MBA can increase one's earning potential, I'm really skeptical about its value to employers. I've worked with over a dozen MBA holders from all the top schools and I've never been impressed with any of them.

Some people mention accounting and finance knowledge as one reason to pursue an MBA. Paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for such knowledge seems wasteful.

I have also read articles in the past indicating that there is no correlation at all between corporation performance and whether or not top executives have MBA degrees.

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+1, the in depth treatment of finance is overkill for someone starting a small business. Most MBA curriculums are intended for the large corporation crowd. Taking a couple accounting/economics classes in the course of your BS is time better spent.

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I am not necessarily advocating an MBA. But this line of argument can probably be applied equally to many if not most degree courses. Especially applicable if you're talking about a degree at a 'better' university vs one that might be cheaper or where you may be eligible for scholarship.

If you want to learn most things there are probably better ways of achieving it. You can gain most knowledge almost free. But Universities give you a bundle of people, a framework, deadlines, teachers and the rest that amounts to something that people don't tend to get elsewhere. It also works without the highest possible level of motivation. While not glamorous, that's valuable.

As far as needing the knowledge, it's a judgement call. There are courses out there with more of a small business focus. It's definitely not a prerequisite, but taking time & resources & dedicating them to gaining knowledge in this area can produce value.

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Just as a data point: I am a serial entrepreneur, and I have a degree in economics. I have never, not even once, been asked or have shown this particular credential. Not even investors have been interested in the fact that I have a degree.

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I have been asked twice, once was in a job interview, way before I began starting companies. The other time was two years after a VC started investing in our operation. But then I am generally quite upfront about my background, so he probably knew enough already.

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The MBA is an investment opportunity - costing 2 years and ~$100k.

Surely any would-be entrepreneur is better off investing 2 years and $100k in starting a company?

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Depending on how you do it. I'm currently in the first year of a rather well-ranked MBA program.

Classes are Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6pm to 10pm. The rest of my time is spent working on starting my company. And this degree is going to cost me $40k total, all of which is tax-deductible, of course.

I'd say its a pretty good deal.

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Not all MBA's are two-year programs. Here in Europe most MBA programs are just one year long, which makes much more sense.

I'm currently getting my MBA at a really good one-year program, and I'm using it as a testbed and launchpad for my new company. If in the course of a year, with all of the connections and opportunities at the University, I can't get enough traction I'll cut my losses and get a regular (but non-consulting and non-finance) job.

So it's not necessarily one or the other. Doing both is pretty tough, but certainly not impossible.

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I have done both.

Doing an MBA is so different than starting a business.

With an MBA, there is no risk, its a fun, intellectual 2 year experience. Even better if you have a business education background, chill out, enjoy the networking.

Starting a company on the other hand is a grind, ups and down everyday.

My MBA gave me the business confidence that I knew pretty much everything that is teachable in business. However, be aware, only 20% or so of business is teachable, much is not yet understood, or dangerously subjective to be applicable to a particular situation.

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Funnily enough investment is one of the things they teach you about when doing an MBA, so when you finish it you can work out if it was worth it :)

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Sure, if you don't have anything better to do with your time.

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I like the contraian approach here. Too much credence is put in getting advanced degrees, especially in business.

Get a basic undergrad degree and then get a job in a startup. That is the best way to 'learn' business.

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I like the reference to the hot dog venders...They definitely know way more than college professors.

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