Do you need an MBA?

Remember that life lesson your parents taught you back when you were six? You know, the difference between “want” and “need”? Yeah, it’s a big one. Especially when it comes to a potential $300,000 investment for an MBA. So, do you need one, or do you just want one? Let’s find out before you dip into that savings, shall we?


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  • figure out who has one
  • find out if you can afford one
  • figure out which program makes the most sense
  • go to the best school you can

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  • get hung up on the short term
  • be swayed by programs that aren’t reputable
  • expect an MBA to be the cure-all

Jon Frank‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do figure out who has one

Not all people require MBAs. In some fields, an MBA won’t provide much of a boost at all. So…which kind of field are you in? I can’t tell you of course, but others in your field can.
What do you want to be doing in 3 years? What about in 5, or even 10 years? Do the people who currently have those jobs have MBA degrees?

They are the people you need to reach out to. Ask the questions to them point blank: “In retrospect, did you need an MBA to achieve your level of success? Would it be helpful if you had one?” There is no need to figure everything out on your own. Go straight to the source for this kind of information. Ask the people who are currently where you want to go in your career.

Do find out if you can afford one

All MBA programs will cost…something. While some scholarship money is available, it does not tend to be nearly as much as the cost of the degree. PhD programs, for example, will often foot the entire bill for tuition and expenses. MBA programs…not so much.

And it isn’t just money that you are forgoing by going to school. Not even close, unfortunately. You are also forgoing your time. Can you afford to take two years “off” to pursue your education? Even for part-time programs, you are forgoing a good deal of weekend time (sometimes, all your weekend time.) So…do you have the time…or the money to pursue these dreams?

Consider it very carefully. Not everyone can afford an MBA.

There is a ton of student loan financing available, especially for students in the US. So don’t assume that you have to pay for this stuff in cash; most MBA students in the US will finance much or most of that cost. Do your research, folks. In fact, here is an article that can help you in deciding whether an MBA is worth it to you or not: ‘Is an MBA worth it?

Do figure out which program makes the most sense

Do ten minutes of research online, and you will come to the following conclusion: MBA programs abound! There has never been a more robust set of MBA offerings available to applicants. There are full-time programs, part-time programs, executive programs, professional programs, international programs, and countless hybrids. So…which one is right for you? This is definitely one of the most important first steps.

Which category do you fall into? If you are on the younger side, you may want to consider a full-time program. Say, from ages 22-30 or so. This younger age makes it more likely that folks can afford to take two FULL years off from “real life” to invest their full attention to their studies. If you are a tad older, and perhaps cannot afford to take these two years off, then executive programs tend to be good middle managers looking for an extra boost in their careers. Part-time programs are also a great option for folks who do not want to give up their jobs.

So… which program is right for you? Well, that is for you to determine, of course. But do your research, and have a deep think on which of the available options fits you best. And then you move forward!

Do go to the best school you can

This is one of the bits of advice that we always offer up to our clients. What do we mean here? Well, it is easy to be suckered into thinking that “gosh, if I wanna go into Finance, I need to go to a Finance program.” In fact, and I say this as a Harvard MBA living in China, when it comes to MBA programs, the most important thing has to be the school’s reputation. Reputation is what opens doors in your careers, especially once you begin to spread your wings a bit. Will anyone in China know that “oh, you didn’t go to Harvard, you went to XY college, but they actually have a great “Actuary” program?” Nope, but they will know Harvard.

Reputation, in the world of business especially, is extremely important. Rather than selecting a school based on its unique or local specialty, we recommend to our clients that they select schools based on national/global reputation.

Again, think long-term here, my friends. Remember, you will take that reputation with you in your business career for years to come.

Jon Frank‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not get hung up on the short term

Sure, when you graduate, there is a chance that you may not see an immediate bump in your salary. But remember, folks – this is not a short-term investment. You need to take a much, much longer view here. What about in 3 years? What about in 5, 10, or even…30? That is where your MBA will make a huge difference. You may not be able to strike out on your own immediately upon graduation, but once you have made your mark a bit in the world, then you will be able to perhaps team up with your buddies from school, and…take over the world.

Sure the tuition seems steep today and, of course, you are also losing out on whatever income you would have made had you not taken that time off. But let’s be realistic here—in the long term, is $20K really so important? Even $40K? The dream is that over the course of your entire career, you will earn far more than that! And if you use your MBA wisely, that is precisely what should happen. So keep your eye on the long term here, and don’t be entirely swayed by short term (especially financial) considerations…

Do not be swayed by programs that aren’t reputable

It almost seems like “the new American dream.” Everyone today seems to be gold rushing into the ‘education business.’ Every day I see Google ads for “MBA without GMAT,” and “Internationally Accredited MBAs for $99.95” etc. Be wary of these programs, folks.

Just because you don’t want to take the GMAT, and just because some program will give you a degree without taking the test, you should not be suckered into joining a less-than-accredited program. The world of accreditation is very complicated, and no layperson can ever be an expert in this field. All you need to know, when push comes to shove, is that any program you are considering should be ranked internationally. Top 50? Top 100? Top 200? All these are just fine. It is when “new” programs come up, looking to make a quick buck, that you need to be very careful.

Remember, any “school” can be thrown up in a matter of weeks, and start to take the money of unsuspecting applicants. Do not fall for these scams! While some “distance learning” and “online MBA” programs are decent, many are not. Be sure to do your research.

Do not expect an MBA to be the cure-all

Congratulations…you got into a top MBA program! Guess what…the hard work is only just beginning. An MBA will not guarantee you…anything, especially in today’s job market. And that is true whether you are in NYC, LA, even abroad in Asia. The job market is tight, and the economy in general is moving along…slowly. So once you have the MBA you will be in a great position to succeed in life. But you will have to do that work on your own.

Even for full-time programs, many jobs (more and more) do not come from on-campus recruiting. MBA graduates increasingly have to get creative, using their networks, their school networks, etc. Bottom line: it is hard to get a job.

By the way, that process (getting a job) begins…immediately upon your arrival at your full-time program. Recruiting, submitting resumes, meeting with potential employers…you won’t have even a month to “get your bearings” before you will begin the job search process. So hold onto your hats — if you’re willing to work hard (both before the MBA to get in, during the MBA to network, and after the MBA to get a job) it should be worth it.


Well there you have it – a crash course in “do I need an MBA?” So, do you? And are you ready to put in the hard work? Trust me, if an MBA will help you get ahead in your life and career, it is more than worth the work it requires.

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