“Now days, MBAs are a dime a dozen. I’m not sure they are worth much now.” That was a comment I heard at a social gathering I recently attended. While there are a lot more people who have earned an MBA, what differentiates people who have earned an the signals you are sending if you have one.
When a someone first sees the letters next to your name, one of the first things that goes through their mind is: “Oh! This person has been trained in some of the basics of business.” Depending on their background what you know or are expected to know may be different. If they have some business background and know a little about MBA programs, they will expect you to know some basic accounting, operational organization and have some better ideas on business strategy. But that is just the start, because usually they will begin to wonder where you were trained. Before I had a looked into MBAs I assumed a person with an MBA had knowledge of strategy and a specific way of thinking that set them apart from the rest of people in business. In some cases this is true, but I look at MBAs a little differently now.
Where you get your degree from is important, now more than ever. Lots of schools out there are jumping on the wagon to confer degrees on those people who are willing to go through their programs. It does not mean that the quality of the instruction or material is good. Even accredited programs vary in their quality but at least there is a minimum standard on what people should have learned.
After seeing a person earned an MBA, the next thing I look at is where they earned their degree. Often I wonder if it was worth it for them, especially if they went to one of the more expensive colleges. Essentially, I’m asking if there was a good return on investment.
And that is really what is at the core of the initial statement: The value of the MBA.
There are a lot of things to consider when enrolling in an MBA program. You could learn all the material from the program on the job. That will take a fair amount of time. In some cases you may never be exposed to some of the material. The people you meet as part of the program are also important. You will be learning from them as much as you learn from the professors, especially if you are enrolled in an executive MBA program. Finally, you are also buying into a credential as well. A certain amount of expectation is associated with having an MBA. No matter where it has come from, you are expected to have a basic amount of knowledge and that is an important signal to the people you work with as well as potential employers.
Having that credential contains an amount of weight that those without it do not have. It signals a desire to go beyond a regular bachelors degree. It signals a willingness to work to understand how companies function. And it signals to others that you want to progress in your career beyond a certain level of management into a more senior leadership role. If you obtained the degree as part of an executive program it also shows you are willing to sacrifice to gain that education and do what it takes to level up and improve your skills.
Those are all important signals you send by working to get that degree. The most important value, however, is the learning itself. If you enrolled in a quality program then you will have been exposed to concepts and ideas that can help you. I’ve heard many times from people how being in the program has increased their skills in negotiation and from that one class alone they were able to increase their salary, land a great deal with a great commission. Both of which paid for the program. And those are skills they can use going forward. They can be used over and over again.
What is the value of an MBA? It depends on what you put into it, but if you do it right, it can be a life long asset that pays you over and over again throughout your career and your life.
The image, titled “Dr. Neil Fassina”, was taken by “NAIT”. You can find it on flickr.