One recurring question the up-and-coming Finance professional asks oneself is whether doing an MBA is mandatory in order to progress in your Finance career. I went through the “MBA or no MBA dilemma” 15 years ago, in 2005; later on pursued my MBA at Columbia Business School and have been in touch with Columbia and other business school students in the US and in Europe.
So here goes my answer to the dilemma: you do not necessarily need an MBA to advance your career or come closer to your goals. However, if pursuing that MBA fits in well in your life plan, it will be a great boost and great contribution towards being a “well rounded” professional.
Why you should do it?
- It greatly increases your chances of progressing or getting into finance, by plugging yourself into your MBA school’s student and alumni network and connecting you to more potential employers.
- It is a great life experience: the reason why so many people get into formal MBA programs each year is not only an economic/professional one. A big part of it will be enriching your life with 1 or 2 years of social and professional experiences and building life-long friendships.
- It will be a great social time, for single or married students. It will be unique point in your life when you are not a very young adult, you have some money in the pocket and you have a big group (depending on class size) of like-minded people with whom to socialize, travel, create companies, network, etc.
- It is a good investment: education is, in general, a great investment (see Patience on the list of things to consider). In the case of doing an MBA, that investment can actually materialize in a multiplier to your revenues and the “terminal value” of your career.
- It can be the pivotal change you are looking for: you may use your MBA for a geographical or career change. I did the former to move from Latin America to New York first, and to London later; and it is a very nice and orderly way to transition into your desired professional destination.
- Anyone that is considering doing it SHOULD DO IT. Otherwise, you will find yourself 15 years from now asking why you didn’t do it when you had to
What things you should consider? (it’s not all rainbows and sunshine)
- It is not the silver or magic bullet. It helps a lot, especially if you join a school that is strong at the specific sector you are aiming at; but it will still require effort on your side.
- There is no “one size fits all” MBA. Two people in the same learning team, in the same cluster and in the same year in b-school can have dramatically different experiences. Because as with most things in life, the outcome will vary depending on your interest, the energy spent and the goals towards which you are using the time at school, its resources, its alumni network, etc.
- Consider the cost: the direct tuition and living expenses, as well as the opportunity or foregone income cost.
- Patience: the benefits can be relatively immediate, as it happens to someone coming from emerging markets and working full time in New York or London after school, with a 3-4x multiplier on pre and post school jobs. Or someone achieving the jump to the dream job right through the MBA. However, in many cases it might take you a longer journey to reap the career and economic goals. Just be patient! I can tell you that the effort finally pays off.
- Social time: you will have a great time in any school you pick. But don’t fool yourself: go to the best school that is on your reach and your target, ie. The best brand that you can get on your CV.
A final consideration of online versus in person: due to the global lock-down, classes of 2020 and 2021 had the last three months of classes of the 2019/2020 year remotely. I see this as a convenient way to deal with an extraordinary situation. But the personal view of the author is that, same as the physical office will continue to generate “synergies” by having informal interactions other than in meetings, in person education will continue to add more than just taking an online course
To sum up, I would do an MBA in every future life I have. And I would do it a couple years earlier (I started at 29 years old). It helped me transition from Latin America into my dream of working in New York and London, developer a rich network in Europe, have a great time along the way, and the journey took me to Spain where, by the way, I found my soulmate.
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