Albeit the soaring applications to the program, is an MBA the right bet for all?

Many people have been trying to find the answer to the question: do you need an MBA.  The seekers have grown much during the pandemic.

Instead of steering them towards a clear path, the economic meltdown has made the skeptics more ambivalent.

While some aspirants view the commute time freed with virtual working to earn a degree, others look suspiciously at the dwindling recruitment drive at B-schools.

Experts speak

A few experts – admissions coaches, former deans, and M.B.A. program coordinators – have expressed their views on when it makes sense to invest the time and money required to earn a traditional, two-year Master of Business Administration degree.

The right age

The late twenties to early thirties could be the ripe age for pursuing an MBA. During this period, people are financially and physically stable with a perceptible mindset to pursue further education and shift careers/streams. One reason for pursuing graduation in their twenties is the long earning years post their graduation.

The fees for traditional programs fall in the range of $100,000 and $200,000, or more, factoring in living expenses over and above the tuition fees. People in their late thirties or forties who have children may not find it easy to repay the education loan, especially if they also carry a mortgage on their house.

Tycoon views

Tesla CEO Elon Musk however opines that a plethora of MBAs afflicts the organizations’ capability to ideate innovatively.

Blair Sheppard, former dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and current global head of strategy and leadership for PwC, the accounting and consulting firm, states that an MBA is a life reset button. Shepard says that management graduation would fulfill a person’s requirement if he:

  • were looking for an impetus to move his career faster than at the current pace
  • finds himself on the wrong side of the corporate path

Judith Hodara is the co-founder and director of the M.B.A. admissions consulting firm Fortun a Admissions and former head of M.B.A. admissions at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. She encourages the pursuit of an MBA for people aiming for top positions, as it becomes a pre-requisite.

Wall Street firms foster management graduation to accelerate a person’s career in investment banking or private equity, though it may not be imperative.

Associates and analysts at banks and other financial firms with two to three years of experience act as inter agents to top business schools.

Management graduates seem favorites in many technology-oriented organizations for managerial positions.

Ann Harrison is the dean of the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. She finds the typical M.B.A. aspirant a person with three to five years of work experience exploring opportunities for moving ahead in life.

Few top-ranked programs, such as Harvard Business School, extend support for families, such as housing resources, networking opportunities, and various clubs for students with families.

But the two-year, full-time MBA life style is best suited for those with more personal and financial flexibility in their lives.

Miss Harrison asks candidates to consider whether they are willing to work on long-distance relationships or whether their families would move with them.

Kofi Kankam is the chief executive of Admit.me, which coaches M.B.A. prospects on how to apply to programs. Kankam warns people with house mortgages and children’s education expenses of taking on a six-figure debt load in their late 30s or 40s.

Kankam further adds that the traditional MBA experience is ideal for people who lack the necessary skills to advance in their current career or looking at a career switch that will lead to a substantial salary increase. Big switches like going from publishing to finance, or teaching to consulting justify the plunge for an MBA. He says that the degree’s ability to help catapult people into new positions and industries has its limitations.

An MBA would do little to elevate the careers of people who have lost their jobs because of performance issues or short of bosses who can issue letters of recommendation that are required to apply, Mr. Kankam adds.

The degree makes little financial sense for people who plan to work in sectors where getting an M.B.A. would not accrue the kind of significant monetary benefit that justifies taking on student debts.

Mr. Kankam’s advice to people working for nonprofit organizations earning $30,000 to $45,000 a year and still have undergraduate debt, to abstain from enrolling in a B-school for a full-time two-year program. The high amount of debt and the job prospects would end in ill-managing the debt.

Mr. Sheppard of Price water house Coopers says that people who are in businesses they like, or in careers that are going well, should ideally pursue part-time MBAs. He also advises people in their forties and fifties to take up an executive MBA program while they continue working. This step would help them scale the echelons in the corporate hierarchy. 

Alternatives to the traditional MBA

Experts suggest considering part-time, one-year, executive, and online MBA programs, as well as shorter degrees tailored to high-demand skill sets, such as data analytics.

Professionals who hesitate to pause their careers for full-time studies or taking on additional student debts must pursue short-term MBA or online business courses.

The two-year full-time degree is not a one-size-fits-all program, considering the time and money one must invest. Only those who can attract packages that can write off the humungous financial burden should enroll in the traditional MBA.

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