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MBA Questions, Answers, & Advice

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    MBA Questions, Answers, & Advice

    Creating per idea from nicholascrawford.

    One of the last things we were discussing in this thread ( was the type/quality of MBA programs.

    I'm only applying to programs holding an AACSB accreditation. Both are pretty local, so I'll be able to actually be networking face-to-face with the other students/faculty in the program.

    I'll be coming in with several years of professional experience (from hourly, to running a multi-million dollar contract at a Fortune 500 company, to working from home, etc.), since graduating college. My goal is to open up new career opportunities in fields that actually interest me & have high compensation, as opposed to just wasting time in boring low-paying fields (ie. what I do now).

    We've touched on this topic in some other threads, so I think was a great idea to lock everything in one location. I look forward to reading all the upcoming conversations in this thread, as I'll be starting a program in the very near future.


    This thread terrifies me. I'm 32 years old, and have been considering going back for an MBA or a similar masters for around 7 years. I actually did a semester at a blah school near my work, but decided that it wasn't worth my time.

    My main question: MBA or not?

    About me: 32 years old, undergrad in Electrical Engineering. Have spent the last 5 years working at a newspaper in the mobile division as a director of mobile making iphone, android, ipad, and mobile web type apps.

    Pros for the MBA:

    - allows for upward mobility if I stick to corporate life

    - I believe with my previous practice gmat scores and work experience I can prob do a top school (or at least top 20).

    - the fact that I can say I have a masters

    - currently at a director level, transferring to a new company and attempting to get a VP level might be impossible without it


    - $100k+ debt for a top program. REALLY my biggest fear.

    - In my techy/product type career path, an MBA does not equal huge money. The ROI is not the same as if you go into investment banking or other finance fields.

    - From what I've seen, you hardly learn anything. I'm surrounded by ivy league mba's at my current job, and I'm not impressed with any of them. The networking is the advantage.

    - Finally: I ultimately question if I want to continue with corporate life. My dream is to startup my own company, in which case the mba becomes pretty worthless. I've been talking about it for years though, and am not sure if it will ever happen given my momentum and indecision. The truth is the thought of days with 8 hours of meetings and typical corporate BS as a VP sounds pretty miserable to me, though.




      @zero, have you looked into a joining a startup now? You're right that in that world an MBA isn't worth much, so could you maybe try it out for a year or two to see if it's a better career path for you? Don't forget the two years of lost salary, so it's a lot more than 100k in the hole.



        @trash: I'm keeping my eyes open for all possibilities. Equity somewhere would be great! As far as lost salary, I would definitely do a part-time program. A few top notch programs have them (kellog, chicago, and stern come to mind)



          I got my MBA when I was 22-24 at UW-Milwaukee. It was strictly night classes 4 nights a week and cost $20,000. Took two years so I paid as I went, despite my dad, my employer, saying he would pay but didn't. I have no regrets, but I don't recommend an MBA to most folks.

          I would only recommend an ivy league school for someone who can pay cash for it. There are far cheaper networking avenues for the rest of us.

          In my mind, the crux of it is this: college degrees, especially MBAs, more often serve as markers of success than actual gateways to success. Meaning, a CFO may have an MBA, but it wasn't specifically the MBA that landed him the job. Getting a degree is a sign of a go-getter. It doesn't turn the rank and file into executive material.

          The program taught me a lot, but I could have learned much of it from reading $100 worth of books. I don't learn that way, though. It was before having a wife and kids so losing my nights didn't matter.

          If you want to advance your career, do awesome things. Go above and beyond. Start a side project. Be the best. Maybe an MBA is part of that for you, and maybe it's an essential box to check, but it should not be a knee-jerk motion for career advancement.



            I 100% agree with the posts above. Honestly, I would hold off on it until someone (like your boss) tells you that not having one holding you back.

            I got my MBA when I was 22-27 at one of the better local schools that offered a part-time program. My employer paid for all of it until I got laid off with 1/3 of classes left. I like to say that my first, sound "business" decision was to continue making money while not going 100k into debt. There are a lot of stories out there, especially these days, where someone went back to school in hopes of landing a higher-paying job, and ended up with lots of debt and the same or no job.

            If you do decide to get one, keep in mind that you only get out as much as what you put in, Ivy or not. You can coast through even the top MBA programs with little effort. This may be along the same lines, but when I went at 22-27, I didn't feel I got as much out of it as others I know who got theirs later in life. There is something to be said about having the real-world experiences that you can apply to class discussions, and vice-versa.

            The only other thing I have to add is to think long and hard about what kinds of jobs you think an MBA will really get you. I've heard of plenty of people going to top schools and getting jobs in supply chain management after they graduate. It probably pays more than what they were making going in, but it still doesn't sound all that exciting to me (unless you're at Apple...



              I'm a faculty member in a business school, and I teach in an MBA program, so obviously I'm a bit biased, but I think there is value in the degree. I've taught in two schools that are what you'd consider mid-tier programs: urban universities, night/part time and/or executive programs only (no full time), public, not top tier but not bad either (think the equivalent of, say, George Mason, UIC-Chicago, or Georgia State, but its none of those programs). Some of the value, unfortunately, simply comes from getting the credentials. Many large firms look favorably upon graduate degrees. Other value comes from the networking. I find this particularly true talking to my students, who nearly all work full time jobs (they are the most rewarding students to teach, also, because they bring their daily business issues into the classroom). I disagree with the comment about being able to learn the same things reading a few books. I teach negotiations, and put my students through an intensive 15 weeks of face-to-face negotiations. They gain real skills that you can't get just from reading, and you can't get from real work experience alone, either. I'd also like to think that my colleagues in other areas (finance, econ, operations) teach things that are reasonably up to date and at a very minimum allow you to be conversant in most areas of business. This can be particularly useful if you don't have a business background as an undergrad. Even if its not your specialty, understanding the basics of the fed's monetary policy and understanding what derivatives do will make you a better rounded business person.



                I'm a strong negotiator, and my teacher for the negotiations class was brand new, so I didn't get much of it. Other than realizing that I could whoop most anyone in the class in the face-to-face exercises! I bet I would have learned a lot more from your class. My favorite classes were always the ones that had the greatest teachers.

                A friend of mine at the Marquette MBA program is frustrated by a class the requires 3 pages of writing every week and 10 pages every third week. That seems ridiculous, especially since everyone is working full time. Anyways... I agree you get what you put in. I am the the type that coasts through 10 things instead of investing in one thing at a time, and most MBA programs will let you get away with that. In a good way.

                Agree that most students are getting their tuition paid by their employers. Probably 80% of my classmates were getting full reimbursement by their employers.



                  I agree with most of what Nicholas stated, and come from a similar background.

                  I started my MBA at 21 and finished in one year (5-6 courses each semester and a short study abroad over the summer). I went to a school similar to the ones AMProf described and was on a full ride scholarship for a JD/MBA program, so I didn't have the issues of paying for tuition.

                  I personally believe MBA's are best served for people with less experience (ie 5 or less years). It's really best served as a piece to get in the door for certain opportunities that you may not have access to with just a bachelors. It is not a replacement for experience, but does show initiative and is another piece to separate you from the crowd in a very tough job market.

                  In regards to Ivy League, I believe it is beneficial if you are in certain fields (ie finance or aspirations of being a Director level or higher executive at Fortune 500 company). It's not a guarantee that you'll be more successful or make more money, but the cards are definitely in your favor with a degree from Harvard, Wharton, etc. You may come out with $200k in debt, but the average salary for a Harvard MBA in finance fields at $150k, some even higher with hedge funds or equity firms. You can pay that debt off pretty quickly if you're making double what you would coming out a good but not prestigious B-school.



                    This may sound a bit pedantic, but Ivy status doesn't carry the same weight among business schools as it does at the undergrad level.

                    If you hadn't already guessed, I went to a top non-Ivy.



                      @chetsteadman: I don't think that's true at all, ESPECIALLY in the finance industry. Even at my company I've witnessed conversations after interviews that made fun of low-ranked MBA program applicants. I'm not saying it's fair, but it definitely happens.



                        A little different in the tree and landscape world where I'm one of a handful of people nationwide with an MBA and an undergraduate degree in the green industry. I could be a Harvard grad, and it wouldn't make a difference since I'm already way over educated. There's an insanely strong preference for hiring within which makes it hard to move into a new city and get a high level position like before. Finance is probably as opposite a field as you could imagine.



                          @zerostyle: I think chetsteadman was specifically talking about Ivy League schools, not schools with top vs. non-top MBA programs. For example, you listed Kellogg, Chicago, and Stern - none Ivy.



                            Yeah- I'm talking about a program that's top 5 across the rankings (and empirically in recruiting). You can't say the same for most of the Ivies.



                              @zero: Sounds to me like you've answered your own question. The cons seem significantly stronger than the pros for you.

                              If an MBA isn't going to enable you to do much different afterwards, or if it's a financially risky or unsound proposition, then getting one doesn't make all that much sense. An MBA seems to make a lot more sense when it enables you, like Alex, to make an advantageous career shift you otherwise wouldn't have been able to make.