Do you really need that MBA?

An MBA is meant to demonstrate a mastery of certain business principles.  Specifically that you are trained in the art of running some sort of operation – financials, HR, management, etc.  When done right you graduate with your base degree, get a few years of work experience and then go back to get the MBA.  It’s the experience that helps put the MBA program materials and lessons into a real life perspective.

But the MBA has somehow evolved into something else.  It’s hit some perception tipping point where it’s so common that it no longer differentiates or distinguishes.  Let me preface now by saying that I do not have an MBA and have no desire to get one.  I’ve been told by people on both sides that their side is the right one but no one has ever presented an argument beyond “it helps you make more money” or “some jobs require it” as a valid reason for needing it.  Sure, you get training in a number of areas – but you get that training through experience as well.  So ok, it accelerates the trajectory but I’m not sure that’s actually a benefit.

So what does the MBA really MEAN these days?  Essentially that you were smart or talented enough to get accepted into a program and you graduated.  Not like a Masters degree though – the MBA is more broadly focused and less deep.  It’s a flag that says this person is smart and has drive.  Good things to know but doesn’t prove much.

When it’s time to choose between two people with similar qualifications and experience the MBA may show something.  But I’ve met enough bad MBAs to know that it’s just as likely they received it just to have it as a distinguishing mark that I’m wary of using it as a deciding factor.  And in fact sometimes it may be a negative.

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