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 impart.
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 the job.
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traditionally competitive requirements of robust business experience, a high GMAT score, and solid recommendations have been replaced by a plethora of drive-in degrees whose only genuine prerequisite is having parents with a fat bank account, or a line of credit at the ready.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 management personalities.”
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 learners here.