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Do you really need an MBA?

Do you really need an MBA? I think this may be one of the #1 questions I hear often. Whether it’s from friends already enrolled in masters programs or former classmates considering enrolling, the question is do you really need your master's degree. Now my answer may be a little (read: highly) biased because it’s based on my singular experience and those around me. I personally knew my sole reason for obtaining my MBA was to learn more about running a business. They don’t directly teach you about running a business depending on your courses but with my concentration in leadership, I received hands-on practice in coaching and leading.

Regardless of me personally having an MBA, my answer on whether or not you need an MBA is no. No, you don’t need an MBA. MBA’s are becoming the new undergraduate degrees. Does an MBA look good on your resume, help you make connections, and teach you new things? Yes. Obtaining an MBA can also come with a hefty price ticket, loss of free time, and potential stress. Here are my reasons why I feel that you don’t need an MBA.

(Disclaimer: if your career path in education, engineering, law, medicine, etc. then obviously you need an MBA or masters in your field because it’s a requirement to advance in those careers. The following advice below pertains to individuals with business degrees or considering obtaining an MBA.)

Reason #1 High Tuition and Student Loan Rates

If you haven’t heard, tuition rates are only getting higher. That’s right, tuition is increasing, especially for the cost of post-graduate programs. Additionally, if you plan on attending a top-ranked school, your MBA could cost you the same as purchasing a house ($100,000). In 2012, Congress decided that the government no longer would offer subsidized loans, so that just adds fuel to the tuition fire. If your employer is paying for your school or you even have benefits or grants like I did, then an MBA won’t be a financial burden to you. However, if the only assistance you’ll have with paying for school is loans and your hard earned money, consider this a call to weigh the pros and cons.

Reason #2 Many employers hire based on skill set vs. education level

As you find out post-graduation, nobody really cares about your MBA. Jobs in business-related fields may list that an MBA as preferred or a plus in their job descriptions, but after scouring hundreds and hundreds of job postings, I have yet to come across more than a handful requiring an MBA. Instead, employers are looking for those tangible skills job seekers have to offer to the company. Yes, you have an MBA but can you code? Do you know pivot tables? Are you a certified HR professional? In this standpoint, research your ideal job and the required skills. Then find local places where you can take specific certified classes for these skills whether at a junior college, university or online reputable course.

Reason #3 Some coursework is very similar to undergraduate business coursework

If you received your undergraduate degree in a business related field, you will find that most of the coursework is VERY similar to undergraduate coursework or not relevant to your intended field. The work may not even be hard so this could be considered a plus but you may also feel that some of this work is repetitive and you’ll wonder what you may be paying for that is different.

Reason #4 The time spent in class could be focused on developing applicable skills in the workforce and networking

An MBA isn’t hard it just takes up a lot of your time; time that’s super valuable when you’re already working full-time. Between driving to class, sitting in class, working on group projects, and studying, enrolling in an MBA program does require time management and making personal sacrifices. This time could be spent enrolling in a class or certification course that is required for your own career journey. If you’re spending 10-20 hours a week in school, why not ensure that time is spent learning an applicable skill?

Reason #5 Earning an MBA doesn’t automatically mean a salary increase

So you think your MBA automatically means you’ll get a raise? Not necessarily. It definitely happens but we shouldn’t rely on our MBA to be the sole determining factor in explaining why we should get a raise or salary increase when interviewing. If you plan on using your MBA as a reason to push for a certain salary, you better have tangible reasons behind it to back up your case. You could explain how certain coursework has advanced your management skills or how you have learned more HR policies. However, you decide to proceed with this conversation, be sure to have the skills and industry stats to support your desired salary.

Now, these opinions are merely just that, opinions. My experience will not be the same as the next person. I suggest you research your ideal career path and research the necessary requirements. For many, an MBA is a great way to network outside of their normal circle and build professional relationships with professors and classmates. Additionally, there are many services that students can take advantage of from their university.

However, these are all benefits that could be accessed through other avenues such as meetups, networking groups, professional organizations, etc. Do your research, consult your friends and mentors, and use discernment for the best decision for your wallet, paycheck, time, career and future.

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