Does getting an MBA actually help your career

The only studies I’ve noticed that said that they do are from business schools. I also recall (no cites) other studies that show that at best they’re for moving you one step up the Peter Principle ladder once your career has stalled.

I’ve known two types of people who look to get MBAs: 1) the person stated above, who has stalled out in their career and is looking to get an “advantage” over everyone else, maybe moving up from lower-middle to upper-middle management, basically banging their head on another ceiling. Often, these people just seem to get a slight raise and title upgrade while still doing the same job. 2) Guys who go for this right out of school because they believe that they’ll be able to jump right in to a sweet management position where the magic lessons they’ve learned in business school will help them jump ahead and keep going until Kenneth Lay looks at their salary in awe (by the time they’re 35 no less!).

The problem that I see is that generally #1 hasn’t advanced as much as they’d like because they don’t have the intangible not-easily-taught skills that good managers have and never will. They, like #2 look at the school as a silver bullet that will equip them with buzzwords that will smite their enemies and they’ll be carried to their reserved parking space on the shoulders of highly efficient and happy coworkers. These guys get out of school and come back and their boss immediately wants to see what they’ve learned and puts them in charge of all sorts of stupid shit (TQM, pep rallies, endless meetings about SWOT and etc.). The new MBA, not wanting to disappoint anyone now that he’s the genius (or show that he hasn’t learned as much as he thinks he should have), happily spawns thousands of Pit threads about wasting time in meetings, making everyone do Japanese-style group calisthenics in the morning, arranging contests and worse shit like throwing out all the furniture and replacing it with stuff several times as expensive and in colors that are reminiscent of the children’s ward at the hospital.

#2 is suspiciously like #1 except that he’s just gone through ROTC for business, ended up with a lot of knowledge that may or may not be useful and is in charge of his juniors, who nonetheless have a significantly better sense of what works and what doesn’t in the area. The funniest example of this that I have is a guy who worked for my former company who had a tremendous resume (one that you could swear was padded like a pillow, but everything checked out) and then ruined it by getting an MBA. He came in like the Sheriff to Tombstone, guns blazing and endless meetings where we had to listen to some of the most idiotic drivel about…who knows because we didn’t understand the buzzwords. The two biggest signs that this guy wasn’t all he was cracked up to be were 1) calling in all of the field personnel (the majority of the company) on a weekly basis for meetings that effectively shut down the job sites for a half a day (he also didn’t take my suggestion that you want to feed people after the meeting, like they do at the mission, because otherwise everyone falls asleep) 2) suggesting that we look to expand in China as they’re one of those up-and-coming markets. Needless to say, we were specialized in markets that really didn’t lend themselves to international escapades. New tech initiatives that were unecessary, etc. He was gone in six months and apparently couldn’t find a new job (which was too bad, if he dropped the bizarre sort of MBA holier-than-thou, he was a smart guy).

I’m also amazed at how easy it is to spot these guys (the current students and recent grads); always have a bounce in their step, a knowing smile, incomprehensible speech and a complete inability to answer questions. Getting stuck on an elevator with them is close to torture.

There are, of course, exceptions that I’ve known/heard of (President of the US being a big one), but they really are few and far between.

Anyone have experience? Do those of you with MBAs feel that they were worth the time? Does choosing a particular school make all the difference?

Well, I have an MBA from one of the schools that is regularly ranked #1 in various polls. Here’s my take: ** an MBA helps open doors to careers that require an MBA on your resume. **

  • if you want to get into a line of work that requires an MBA, like high-end mgmt consulting, investment banking, venture capital, brand mgmt marketing at places like Procter & Gamble, etc., then yes, you must get an MBA. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between (assuming we are discussing senior finance, marketing and strategy positions at these companies). These companies specifically recruit and hire from top schools like Stanford, Harvard, Kellogg and Wharton.

  • if you don’t want to work in one of those types of jobs - in other words, if you can get into your chosen line of work without a top-tier MBA - then the MBA will have limited benefit. You may know more from a business standpoint by having it, but it won’t be an automatic plus for your career.

  • if you don’t get your MBA from a top-tier school - I am not sure. You would have to research and determine if a target company hires from that business school.
    In terms of “does having that MBA make you better?” Clearly there is no way to answer that. I know people with graduate degrees who are dicks and some who are great. I know people without grad degrees who are dicks and some who are great…

What you’re talking about isn’t just having an MBA, but using it as a license to act like an asshole. Of course that’s not good for your career.

Really, it’s just like any other form of certification.