The ubiquity of MBA grads mean that the degree has been commoditised. Accordingly, here’s a stream of reasons why you’d probably be better off putting a deposit down on a house than pursuing an MBA:
Diversity in the workplace is considered optimal to produce the best business outcomes. Business Schools try do the same and encourage applications from all professions. Many people do an MBA to switch careers so their first question to their classmates is about what everyone else did before and whether they liked it. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, vets – almost everyone tells shock horror stories about their prior lives and say, "I don’t care what I do next as long as isn't what I did before!"
Wait, what?! So where should you take your career next? Management Consulting is for most people just a temporary post-MBA career so even if you defer the decision, you’ll still need to select an industry you want to work in. Despite all the time you have to ponder during your MBA, 2 years later you might still have no idea what to do next. Ouch.
2. The cost + loss of earnings is significant.
Let’s presume you go for a 2-year MBA full-time. At a top University the fees will set you back north of £60k. Then there’s living costs for 2 years. Throw in a bunch of extra-curricular activities that are almost mandatory to benefit from the networking plus lest we forget about not earning a salary for 2 years. Needless to say, that’s a chunk of change and is one of the first big lessons in an MBA, the meaning of return on investment!
3. You may forgo a great opportunity at work.
Employers generally like it if you hang around for a while. That’s when the real opportunities and promotions emerge. If you have a great job, is it wise to leave your post unmanned for one of your co-workers to potentially snap-up the next big opportunity? If it’s a risk, will you be OK with the outcome?
4. You may be unemployed for 2-5 months after you finish – don’t trust the stats!
Many Universities cite a 98% 3-month post-MBA employment statistic. That’s pretty high I hear you saying and indeed it is. Often these figures are blurred by the University ‘employing’ their own students. Also, it does not say whether everyone is gainfully employed or not. Some pursue start-ups (insert failure rate here) and many go back to their old jobs.
If you want to break into a new industry it may happen that you’re on the bench for another few months post-graduation. Think opportunity cost and more expense, not to mention anxiety.
5. Maybe a year of travelling is what you actually need.
OK so you’re an A-type and want to be the best you can. Perhaps this time round what you really need is a break. If you need a year off, you don’t necessarily need to shoehorn your plans into an MBA. Rather travel the world for a year and put in on your CV as symbol of pride. Travelling is a great way to rejuvenate yourself, stimulate creativity, make interesting contacts and perhaps come up with a revolutionary business idea.
6. MBAs are becoming quite commoditised so top schools matter increasingly more.
The three letters after your name are perhaps less important than the 5 letters after that which show where you obtained it from. If it’s not an internationally-recognised school in the Financial Times Top 100 ranking then you’re taking a career risk. You’ll likely be over-qualified for your old job and uncompetitive when interviewing against people from better Business Schools. Yes, there are ways around this but often you’ll end up having to become an entrepreneur of out necessity rather than choice. OK so you might make it big this way but then again, if this is your plan then why not invest your money and time into a start-up for 2 years rather than waste it on an MBA only to return to the same point?
7. An MBA is a generalist degree
An MBA isn’t going to make you an expert in anything. You will know a little bit about everything. Globalisation means that specialisation has become more important than ever. If you want to break into Finance, then studying a Masters in Finance will probably be more beneficial. See Point 1 above.
8. Changing careers after your MBA is great and all but often comes with a pay cut.
OK so you don’t like what you’re doing and really want to change industries. Are you sure you’re ready to take the pain of making the change? Yes, it will likely be painful. Think about it, you’re mid-career in your current industry, let’s say 5 years’ experience. Switching will mean you know less than someone who finished their undergraduate degree the same time as you and started in said industry. Plus, you’re taking another 2 years before you even get there. On paper you’ll be 7 years behind everyone else. Yes, you will catch-up and quick at that but it may involve lots of nights of noodles and water before you get there!
9. Work will probably get harder / longer because you’ll be in a more competitive pool.
Employers like MBAs because they work hard. You’re not going to occupy a fat-cat senior position in a firm where you can call the shots. No. You are going to work in the engine room churning out analyses and business cases. In addition, with your new fancy degree you will be applying for the same jobs as other A-type highly educated people. You will need to consistently demonstrate your value-add to your firm because the reality is that you are replaceable.
10. If you’ve already done a business degree, you probably won’t learn that much.
If that’s you then you really don’t need an MBA. You might want one to boost your confidence but the truth is that you know enough about business to be successful. There is something to be said about the networking but that alone feels like an expensive exercise.
If you’re wondering, I experienced many of the above hardships and it took the better part of 6 years to regain life/career stability after embarking on my MBA. I would definitely do it again but I concede that it’s not the right option for everyone so wanted to present an honest appraisal of what you’re getting into.
After you’ve done all your research, remember to do what’s right for you and always trust your gut.
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*Cover photo by Roxanne Desgagnés on Unsplash