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Do you need an MBA to succeed in business?

Do you need an MBA to succeed in business?

According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education, about a quarter of all master’s degrees earned in the U.S. are in business, and more than 188,000 Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degrees were awarded in 2012-13. But is an MBA a requirement for business success?

It depends on your goals. While I know some entrepreneurs who have master’s degrees, I haven’t pursued one myself. The time and financial commitment just don’t match my goals. Similarly, you should think through your own goals before committing to an MBA program.

Though, according to a Monster/Wage Indicator Foundation survey, the median gross hourly wage is $29.60 for people with a Master’s degree in the “market consultancy and in business activities” sector, the sector that most aptly applies to an MBA. In this same sector, the median gross hourly wage is $20 for someone with just a bachelor’s degree. The median gross hourly wages for all workers in this sector is $19.80.

If you’re working for an organization that values MBAs — to the point where they’ll pick up part, or all, of the tab — or if an MBA is a prerequisite for a promotion you know you want, it may be worth it. However, pursuing an MBA is usually a terrible choice for people who are hoping it will help them get that raise or those who aren’t sure what they want to do — but I say that of pretty much all graduate degrees.

Here are some factors to consider as you make your decision.

There may be other ways to learn the same things and more

An MBA isn’t a must-have, says Jonathan Kendall, a business coach who has lectured at several business schools. He says an MBA from from a big school can be a ticket to entry to a large networks of contacts around the world. “That can be a good value, if you have the right ticket with the correct school name on it, and that group of people can help you meet your business goals.”

But be open to other ways to build your network and expertise, says D. Anthony Miles of Miles Development Industries Corp. “It’s better to spend your time getting professional certifications as opposed to an MBA,” he says. “You can gain experience and knowledge working in industries that are in demand, like data analytics and Web analytics. You don’t need an MBA for that. Gain experiences in emerging industries or job sectors that are under-saturated.”

View it as only a starting point

Even some people with MBAs say they’re not necessarily essential to business success. Shreyans Parekh, director and co-founder of Koyal Wholesale and Dress My Cupcake started planning the two companies while at The Wharton School pursuing both his undergraduate business and MBA degrees. He says he built his companies by aggressively pursuing partnerships with their respective client bases through trade shows and social media.

“I do not feel that it is absolutely necessary to have an MBA to have success in business,” he says. On the other hand, Parekh says the business school experience provided a great place for her to vet her ideas and put together business plans. “The rigorous curriculum and structure of the program also enabled me to be able to actively apply course concepts in marketing, merchandising and management to growing the company and building out our internal processes.”

Business success takes a lot more than a degree

Knowing how to use your MBA is essential to making the degree worthwhile, says Boris Kontsevoi, founder and president of Intetics Co. “I’ve met plenty of people with MBAs who have done pretty bad work, but I’ve also met some that are now doing spectacular things.”

And, Kontsevoi says, “What really separates successful MBAs from unsuccessful MBAs is the drive. If there’s no drive, no goal behind your work, then the end result in terms of achievements will be smaller.”


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