Is An MBA Really The Golden Ticket To Career Success or Not?

October 15, 2010  |  

For many, the decision to get an MBA is among the biggest financial commitments of one’s life. The tuition for a traditional MBA program is $25,000 per year for a lesser known program to $350,000 for a four year program at a top tier school. The combined tuition and living expenses are above the average annual wage for adult Americans.Paying for an MBA is like taking out a mortgage on one’s career, with no guarantee of future earnings to pay for the degree.

According to best-selling business author and blogger Seth Godin, an MBA is a screening tool for job placements such as being a consultant or an investment banker. He wrote, “it’s hard for me to understand why this is a better use of time and money than actual experience combined with a dedicated reading of 30 or 40 books.”

One of Godin’s followers was recently featured on CNNMoney and for espousing the same sentiments. Josh Kaufman, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and former assistant brand manager for Procter & Gamble, has become a well known MBA basher, based on his Godin’s writings. Kaufman applied Godin’s writings to his own personal experience and is now using it to turn a profit.

Five years ago, Kaufman was working at P&G as an assistant brand manager after graduating from the University of Cincinnati.  Most of his colleagues held elite MBA degrees, which was intimidating to Kaufman. So, he began to self-educate by reading numerous classic business textbooks such as the “Essentials of Accounting,” to “Competitive Strategy” by Harvard professor Michael Porter and “The Effective Executive” by the late management guru Peter Drucker. Kaufman said, “After I went through the self-education process, I felt like a peer, I was able to walk into a boardroom and hold my own with people who had graduated from Stanford and Wharton. It was very exciting.”

Kaufman then created, an online self-education program and penned a book “The Personal MBA” to pass along what he feels is an economically viable alternative to attending an accredited MBA program. He started doing coaching and consulting for $1,000 a month, created a 12-week online crash course delivered live and on video for $997. His website features what he considers to be the 99 best business books that lay out all the basic principles of business and a community in which to discuss the ideas with others.  Kaufman claims he is already pulling down what a freshly minted Harvard MBA would make upon joining Boston Consulting Group or McKinsey & Co. “Without any of the debt,” he quickly adds. He also posted a “manifesto” to explain the idea to newcomers and to urge them to “skip business school” and “educate yourself.”

Kaufman presents an interesting and viable alternative to paying for an MBA program. The pursuit of knowledge both inside and outside of the classroom is what keeps the mind sharp and competitive. However, it is questionable just how many candidates will actually get to the interview with an MBA from an online study program by a self proclaimed educator. The notorious Godin says that both experience and education contribute to career success. It is questionable how many candidates will get through the door without the educational background the employer is seeking. Kaufman was fortunate in obtaining the needed exposure to rub elbows with the upper echelon when he joined P&G. However, he was placed there after graduating from the University of Cincinnati by virtue of the school’s cooperative education program. He then decided to rise to the level of his peer group through self-study.

For the low cost of Kaufman’s program, it is certainly worth a shot for those that would seek an MBA but find it cost prohibitive. However, both Godin and Kaufman state that experience counts just as much as your education. Kaufman would likely not have been inspired to branch out on his own without it. But my advice is get the best education that you can afford, and keep your day job. In doing so, your success will find you.

Candi Sparks is the author of the “Can I Have Some Money?” books series.

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