Is Getting an MBA Worth It?

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People traditionally flock to grad school when the economy makes finding a decent job an acrobatic challenge.
However–when you factor in the monetary- and opportunity costs, (barring the notion that higher education fulfills a wild passion of yours) is grad school really worth it?

Author and Harvard Business Review writer Scott Berkun explores the question vis-a-vis MBAs. He says getting one in the traditional way costs more than the average American’s annual wage. Meanwhile, Internet-based MBAs (Personal MBAs, or PMBAs) are practically free.

(The PMBA is) a web 2.0, Internet based, self-driven program, that focuses on a $1400 reading list of 70 books with web forums, discussion groups and coaching.

I bet many MBAs are over-valued, and the Personal MBA (free, except for books which are available at your public library) is undervalued. The big gap is in recruiting: the PMBA program provides no system for Google, McKinley and Microsoft to recruit PMBA’s best students, and has no track record of “graduates” (there is no degree) entering the workforce to earn a reputation for the program. But if they did, they’d soon attract interest from recruiting corporations, and develop prestige, two big reasons folks want to go to well respected business schools.

If you’re business-minded, you want a cost-efficient education. And if you’re business-minded, you want to network. The way things stand, you can’t have both. Berkun highlights the fact that if you’re truly business-minded, you’ll find a way to bridge the gap between the cost benefits of a PMBA and the networking advantages of a traditional one:

For any entrepreneurs out there: Business 101 is to exploit these kinds of gaps. Find a a way to split the difference between a PMBA and an MBA, and you’ll make a fortune. An easy one is exit exams. Imagine an exam that tests people as they graduate (not when they enter), where PMBA’ers can compete against folks with traditional MBAs. I’m no fan of standardized tests, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a business opportunity here. Maybe PMBA will do it itself (unlikely, given their manifesto) and dare Wharton and Harvard grads to participate. Who knows.

These days, MBAs almost seem as risky as self-educating and starting your own business. If you don’t have a specific career in mind–consultant, for example–what’s the point?

If you don’t have an MBA, would you get one? If you do–was it worth it?