Is MBA Worth It?

MBA programsOften many of my executive recruitment candidates ask me if they should invest the time and expense of obtaining an MBA. I personally took two years away from my work schedule to attend Duke’s Fuqua School of Business full time to secure one. However, I have mixed feelings about its value.

At Strategic Search Corporation our executive recruiting practice focuses on six areas including R&D recruiting, engineering recruiting, scientific recruiting, technical recruiting, manufacturing recruiting and IT recruiting. Often our candidates start in technical areas (e.g. electrical engineering or mechanical engineering) and then move into management (e.g. Engineering Director or Manufacturing Director). Unfortunately, the focus of most MBA programs is not usually geared for their benefit.

If one plans to work in banking, consulting, marketing, finance or insurance, many of the topics learned are more relevant. Moreover, many MBA programs tend to cover topics more superficially from a macro-level perspective. This contrasts with the more in-depth, micro-level treatment afforded by a masters or Ph.D. in many technical, scientific or engineering fields (e.g. MSEE or MSME). Additionally, a Masters in Engineering Management, such as the ones offered by Northwestern or Duke, tends to be more precisely crafted for technical management principles and issues.

MBA CareerHowever, a recent survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council demonstrates that recent MBA graduates earn about $45,000 more than new bachelor degree graduates with the median starting salary for 2014 MBA new hires in the U.S. being $95,000. This may be a strong reason to consider obtaining one.

Additionally, there are three ancillary benefits one can accrue from toiling to get an MBA. I like to call those the 3 C’s:

  1. Credential
  2. Confidence
  3. Connections

Let’s take each in order. First, by having an MBA, you have obtained a credential that is world-renowned. Many international companies invest heavily in their best and brightest to attend U.S. MBA schools to obtain this degree.

Second, there is the confidence you will gain by toiling to successfully obtain an MBA. Many MBA schools are increasingly adding real world problems and case studies to their curriculum. Successfully navigating through these problems will increase your confidence and ability to handle real world problems in the workplace.

Finally, you will be exposed to many potential connections. This may be one of the most important supplementary benefits of obtaining an MBA. Being able to call on one of your former classmates to help close an important future big deal can be invaluable.

In summary, there is no one right answer as to whether or not to invest the time and money to obtain an MBA. However, there are many secondary benefits such as the connections one can make among classmates. One needs to do a full cost/benefit analysis before investing.

What is your opinion?