MBA: Don’t Knock It ’til You Try It

by Emily Jasper on October 25, 2010

When I announced I was going to go back to school full-time for my MBA, I was waiting for the fallout. Yep, I said fallout. I don’t think my fellow bloggers would have actually said anything to me directly, but everything I had been reading in my network included comments like, “Don’t go to grad school to hide from the recession, you’re weak!” and “Top leaders don’t even have an MBA, they don’t mean anything.” A lot of this was said by people who don’t have graduate degrees.

I had hit a ceiling where the MBA wasn’t just preferred anymore, but it was required. I may have some amazing experiences under my belt, but as I heard from one recruiter recently: no one is going to believe what you accomplished in four years, you point out their own short comings. If I needed more years on the resume, I’d get the degree, as well.

It’s already changing my life.

I can tell you, even after only three months, you’re stupid if you think you’re going to get everything you need from a job. Maybe if you hop constantly and work in every part of a company. You could totally do it that way, and that’s how I started out. Unfortunately, that means you need a lot of flexibility and personal energy just to stay sane. You might need to be willing to take cuts or move on a whim, and that’s fun for the first couple of years. Then you start thinking about what it might be like to actually not pack up your apartment every year. To stay with a company long enough that you’re not just the “it” girl, but the “go to” girl.

So you look at going back to school.

In reality, what you’re getting in addition to the education is the group of people who all have a lot of information and experience to share. In a job setting, you might not get that because of office politics, or they assume you should already know it. You’re not always seeing the whole picture. In some cases, you could learn a lot on your own, especially in the start-up world. But wouldn’t be nice to know every new job isn’t a steep uphill climb?

Going back to school is a big decision, and it has to be right for you. Think about your potential career paths and interests, and especially your financial situation. For example, a freelancer may not need an MBA. But a lot of us who want to work in traditional companies do.

To me, there’s never any reason to not put yourself in a position to learn. There are so many programs out there, full-time, part-time, accelerated, and with the internet, online programs are getting even better. The MBA may be becoming a standard, not because it’s lost its value, but because managers know Underwater Basket Weaving from undergrad didn’t exactly teach you when to report revenue on your income statement. If you want business foundations and you don’t have time to wait to get the experience in the workplace, you need to think about where else you’ll get that education.

I’m here to stand up for the MBA. So don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Hat tip Ryan Paugh. Photo credit.