If your name is at all included in any sort of educational
database for pre-college, existing student, or recent graduate suckers, you
will inevitably be pestered with email, snail mail, and even text solicitations
to “Pursue the next step in your career” by enrolling in one of the too many
MBA programs littering the higher education marketplace today. They are
advertised as the saving grace of a poor major choice, the one option to
dismiss every previous mistake and deliver the six-figure income every millennial
feels incomplete without.
But like most promises in the world of education, they are
woefully empty. In fact, ninety-five percent of MBA programs are not worth the
paper they are printed on. Let’s take a stroll and see why.
1. It’s the Golden Ticket!
If by golden ticket you mean the shiny edge of an EBT card, then you are right.
The inter-generational fantasy of MBAs as some uplifting vessel to improve a
person’s career is based on an ancient Baby Boomer script that is just dead
wrong. While it is true that MBAs used to be valuable diplomas pursued by those
wishing to further an EXISTING business career, they are now compensatory
devices for people without such a career.
Most of the schools presenting sample alumnae profiles are
using individuals who went (A), a long time ago, or (B), folks with
immeasurable experience under their belts. The supposed value of the MBA for
them is thus diluted because they could have easily continued with their
successes absent the expensive piece of paper. Were the diplomas actually the
singular feature of their triumph they would not have spent so many years
working to develop the very skills that an MBA curriculum can only pretend to
2. Low Tuition, Easy Admission!
Ok, so the first part of the title is something of an oxymoron, but everything
is relative. At any rate, the accessibility of MBA programs is a poor reason to
pursue them. Historically, MBAs were strictly for mid-level career people who
wanted to enhance their profile for promotion to senior management positions.
The idea was that someone with real world experience would go back to school to
develop some additional knowledge and apply it directly to the objectives of
Today, MBAs are a dime a dozen and growing in classic
inflationary fashion. The traditionally
competitive requirements of robust business experience, a high GMAT score, and
solid recommendations have been replaced by a plethora of drive-in degrees
whose only genuine prerequisite is having parents with a fat bank account, or a
line of credit at the ready. Many programs even allow you to forego the
experience requirement completely, submit no GMAT results, or even gain entry simply for
completing the same school’s undergraduate business degree.
Contrary to the beliefs of the “free college for all” crowd,
the broadening of the masters degree-holding population does not result in more
entrepreneurship or job advancement. Degrees are after all stuck in a whirlpool
of theory, and holding one does not alone make a person employable for the
long-term. The rise and proliferation of low-end MBA programs is only putting
more people into debt for unimpressive laureates that will be more toxic on
their resumes than endearing to the cause of economic growth and development,
at least outside of the cash cow university market.
3. It’ll Train Me For Business Maaan!
Exactly, just like a high school diploma prepares you for
life. The idea that a degree can prepare you for any field at all is quite
disingenuous. Business is after all a process you learn through direct contact
with the particular market at hand. Hence why working customer service in a
retail store is valuable to understanding the field; it will definitely make you
want to pull your hair out, but you at least get the picture of how things
work. Whoever tells you an MBA will give you business skills or make you more
entrepreneurial is laughing all the way to the local Wells Fargo as you
purchase another overpriced Pearson textbook discussing “Common types of
One additional note on entrepreneurship: keep in mind that
state and private colleges are someone’s business too. Their prime directive is
to bring in clients who will pay insufferable amounts of money for a flowery
promise of return. None of them are concerned about your well-being, future
debt load, or general career success. This is why you get solicitations even
after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from one school with tremendous debt
to come back and “expand your perspective” with a graduate degree. It is all
one big corrupt market.
4. With an MBA I have Credibility!
And it only costs $52,000! The credibility argument is
perhaps the weakest available when it comes to MBAs, or for that matter, any
degree. Conventional logic holds that a title after your name on a business
card or website biography makes your words more respected, because a Master of
Business Administration is just that, a master.
What it does not say is how the person in question wasted
valuable time and money on a piece of paper trying to prove their worth. Think
about it for a moment. A guy who builds a solid brand based upon hard work and
integrity has no need of a fancy graduate degree to validate himself to the
world. If we use Steve Jobs as an example, he built an incredible technology
and company through talent and vision without so much as an undergraduate
business degree. Throughout the bulk of his life no one was judging him for NOT
having an MBA or other business diploma; they simply appreciated his genius and
achievements as a man.
Contrast this with the saga of RadioShack CEO David
Edmonson. In his efforts to be successful, he lied about having a variety of
degrees on his resume, diplomas which supposedly gave him more credibility to
lead. Edmonson was forced to resign publicly over the matter, which garnered national
attention. In the end, if he had focused
on ethic and determination alone, he could have avoided the pitfalls of relying
too much on credentials and not enough on integrity and vision.
5. My Career Is Going Nowhere…Might as Well!
One of the greatest mistakes you can make in life is to
assume there is a shortcut to success through a graduate degree. People often
use this as justification for pursuing an MBA, or the eternal argument about
networking. First off, degrees rarely change your job prospects in a major way.
By this I mean someone working for a corporation is either going to make it
based on effort – or because they are on good terms with a person higher up.
Adding a flashy title to your business card will not make up for those two
things unless the competition has everything but that.
In addition, the networking angle only works well if you get
into a filthy rich level MBA program, like those at Harvard, Chicago, or
Stanford. With careful planning and negotiation, your classmates and faculty leaders
at these locations might be able to hook you up with a solid gig, providing you
can get in. On the flip side, Mary Had a Gay Little Lamb University’s “Dynamic,
Cutting Edge, Empowering” MBA is not going to be very helpful in this regard,
especially if it is taken online. Also consider how the financial and time cost
of a program will impact your future. A young or middle-aged person without any
significant debt, family burdens, or Red Bull probably does not want to drop a
couple years’ pre-tax salary on the hope for something better. Might as well
just play the lottery.
As enticing as the MBA can be to folks of different ages, it
is important to ask the right questions to avoid dramatic pitfalls. If you
finished reading the article and still have the flashy cash commitment for a
dynamic, life-changing, program, drop a comment and explain why. We are all