3 Bad Reasons to Get an MBA

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

There are many reasons why an MBA degree is a great way to turbocharge your career, and this blog has covered several of them. But there are also bad reasons for going to business school. These three should not be your motives for contemplating getting an MBA.

1. You’re unsure what else to do. Perhaps you are feeling pressured to go for the degree by well-meaning family or friends. Or, maybe you’re just a little too excited about the partying and social events that abound at business schools.

At the dawn of the financial crisis, many young professionals turned their thoughts toward business school as the job market grew increasingly unstable. This is an understandable rationale, but taking a two-year break as a placeholder activity doesn’t make a lot of sense professionally or financially. A better bet would be to take time to travel the world and find yourself.

It’s true that business school is a great time to hang out and let new ideas come and crystallize, but applicants to a top-ranked business school should have a clear idea of the field they plan to move into and how the degree will help.

As part of the admissions process, business school hopefuls should have a solid answer why they want to earn an MBA. The answer should show focus, direction and sufficient self-reflection. If you aren’t 100 percent sure that an MBA is what you need to succeed, the admissions committee isn’t going to take a chance on you either.

2. You’re planning to go into a career that doesn’t require an MBA. The MBA is a super flexible degree, so some people who are transitioning careers think that it can help with just about anything. But there are career paths that it will not benefit, such as arts management or certain careers in sports and entertainment management. Make sure you’re committed to a career in business, not just earning the degree as a way to supplement other interests.

MBA programs emphasize practical application and will train candidates in the various functional skills related to running a business. It’s possible to add a concentration to your MBA studies, but that is still just a few courses compared with a deep dive into a subject.

For folks who want to immerse themselves in one specific area, such as business analytics, accounting or supply chain management, and who plan to stay in the same industry and function long term, a specialized master’s degree in an area like finance or technology would be a better choice.

3. You think the MBA credential will look good on your resume. The decision to pursue an MBA should be based on how it would develop your core strengths. Merely to gain bragging rights or make your resume stand out are not good enough reasons.

Unlike a law or medical degree, an MBA is not an absolute requirement for any career path. But be aware that many companies treat the MBA degree as a pseudo-requirement for the applicant pool, and not having one could effectively lock you out of the leading companies in your industry.

The decision to go for an MBA is not a simple one, and many factors should be carefully weighed to make sure it’s the right course for you. Consider all of the alternatives, and ask yourself where you want to be in five to 10 years.

If going to business school will fast-track you to that midterm goal, wonderful. If not, invest your time and energy into whatever will.


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