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Is an MBA worth it? Quartz readers weigh in

January 16, 2013
January 16, 2013

Quartz has received dozens of emails responding to Jay Bhatti’s commentary, “If you can’t get into a top-five MBA program, don’t even bother.” We’re rounding up some of the best letters here and will keep updating as they pour in. Send us your feedback at ideas@qz.com.

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What the hell is wrong with you?  I agree that MBAs do not represent what they used to, but I believe it is more that a master’s degree has become the new bachelor’s degree. Besides, I wouldn’t be able to work on my PhD without a master’s. Now, it may not be from the prestigious Wharton, but I’m still proud of it. I think people should be encouraged to continue education any route they choose, we certainly have enough stupid people in this country. The best thing that could happen to America is to have more people that know SOMETHING.

Don’t dismiss other schools, some of us have to go somewhere.

Kristie M. Holmes
Nashville, Tennessee

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While I think he makes some valid points, the article would be much more valuable and interesting if he had offered options for people looking to advance their career, change careers or simply further their education.

One key reason many people get an MBA is that they want to move ahead in their career and they know they are going to keep living in the city they currently live in. If you live in Seattle and know you will stay there an MBA from the University of Washington can be of huge value for networking.

Grant Hosford
La Canada, California

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I agree with most of your points, but would add that there is value in the diversity of your classmates and the experiences that they can bring to your working groups and class learning.  I definitely agree that you should go for the top or don’t bother, but I specifically didn’t want a top school in the US because it was too focused on domestic business matters.  So I applied to the top three international programs, according to the Financial Times, was accepted to two and have never looked back.(The one I chose happened to have an exchange program with Wharton, which made it more appealing and more recognized by US companies as a top school with international exposure).  In my class were students from more than 65 different countries, and not more than 5% of the class was from any one country (school rule).  Four years after graduating, I now lead an international virtual marketing team for a major international engineering services company.  I would still stay that several times a month, I continue to draw on the knowledge and experience from my MBA, but as time goes on, I draw more on the shared experiences of my classmates and less on the core material of the program.

John Matthiesen
Toronto, Canada

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I appreciate the writer’s complete honesty on the whole MBA dilemma. I myself have been teetering back and forth with this and finally made the decision a few months ago not to pursue an MBA. Not only is the job market completely different than it was 10 years ago, but most big companies now requiring an MBA to advance without providing any financial help is unfair. Why would I want to go back to school for two years, acquire debt through the means of school loans, and not have the guarantee of advancement when done with the program? My final decision factor was that if I wasn’t 100% into it, it wouldn’t be worth my time to do it. I feel I made the right decision.

Amanda Gluck
Ellicott City, Maryland

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Truthfully any degree is meaningless if the individual who possess the degree itself has only book knowledge. Today’s workforce comes from individuals who not only utilize collegiate knowledge but also experience. You say don’t bother and overall I cannot see how that even makes sense given the number of jobs that ask for a BSBA or MBA to even apply? Now if your article was to say 50 years ago the workplace asked for something and now it doesn’t matter and the facts really supported the commentary I would agree, every job I have seen and applied for asks for a degree and having my MBA has gotten my foot in the door more so than other people who applied for the same job. We cannot criticize the degree plan as much as the individuals who believe that earned education= job. Wrong. Your article should of instead focused on the fact that individuals need experience along with a degree. I am married and have four kids. I worked my way up an organization and got my MBA while working there and because of that was promoted again and again. Most interviewed said it was meaningless… Please, if a company doesn’t value the education of you have sought and the potential it brings then you sir are not working for the right company.

Trust me everything you learn in school is not always applied. Bottom line for me is that I got more out of my degree because I went to a university that allowed me to do just that. University of Phoenix.  I make a high paying five-figure income almost six … if it wasn’t for my MBA … I would have never got the interview with a capital investment owend organization that was re-inventing itself and essentially was a startup.

Marcel Barrera
Plano, Texas

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I am a recent graduate of a top 20 full-time MBA program. I agree with much of what you are saying. The most successful candidates in my class are the ones that had strong technical (engineering, computer science, etc) backgrounds prior to business school, or had a large network and utilized it shamelessly. I feel that MBA programs are well behind the business world and lacking in familiarizing students in modern business processes at today’s companies.  The biggest learning curve coming out of business school was learning how to operate the ERP systems, and the internal terminology and processes at my company. Nothing I learned in business school, except Excel modeling (notice I did not say financial modeling) was relevant to my finance role in a Fortune 500 company.

Christopher Moore
Atlanta, Georgia

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What if I said that I learned a lot of value in business school? I didn’t apply to the top 5 schools. If I had it to do again, I’d have worked full time for a few years before entering business school. As it was, I probably had more practical experience than many in my entering class from years of summer work in a family business. When I came out of business school, those around me respected what I had to offer, in spite of not getting a “coveted” post MBA job. I can tell you that when I take to time to work “on” my (or someone else’s) business, instead of  “in” my business, my MBA experience, and the way of thinking that came from it, was pretty valuable.

Casey Hart
Darien, Connecticut

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Enjoyed your article about MBA.  My only complaint would be that you could almost make the same arguments for a bachelor degree.  I am a CPA and I hire an assistant every tax season to help me with my work. When I first started hiring about five or six years ago, I would get a college student and pay them about $10 per hour.  Today, I am still paying about $10-12 per hour and I am hiring college graduates and I have interviewed guys with master’s degrees for this job.  Don’t get me wrong, its important to go to college, but in the last couple of years, the graduates are lucky to have a job and if they do it’s minimal salary. A cousin of mine graduated from Loyola Marymount  1.5 years ago and probably spent close to $170,000 and made $10 per hour at his first job. He just jumped companies and now is making $15 per hour.  Neither a BA nor a MBA is actually worth the money these days.

Daniel Hutnicki
Los Angeles

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I respectfully disagree.  Sure, if you’re lucky enough to land a job at McKinsey, Goldman Sachs or KKR, you’ll be set for life.  Those jobs really can only be attained through a top MBA (or undergraduate business program).  Let’s face it though, only the cream of the crop is lucky enough to land these jobs, even if they went to Harvard or Wharton.  If you’re going to go to a Fortune 100 company, the return on investment is just not as extreme.  You don’t need a Harvard MBA to get into a GE.  You can probably get there from a local state school.  Once there, your success will depend upon your performance and ability to network, not necessarily your MBA title. Furthermore, going to one of the top five schools is incredibly expensive and you’re less likely to receive financial aid.  One statistic that I read showed that a Stanford MBA program would cost about $160,000 for two years, once you factor all expenses.  If you’re not in consulting or banking, that’s a lot to pay in student loans, even with a MBA corporate salary.  All else being equal, I’d agree that going to a top five program would be better than an equally expensive private school.  However, if you do not want to do the consulting/finance route, you may be better served in going to a state school with a strong functional program, where you do not go severely into debt. As for myself, I graduated from the MBA program at Arizona State University in 2005.  While not a top five MBA overall, it is a top five program in my field (supply chain management).  I was offered a substantial scholarship, to where I needed to take less than $20,000 in student loans.  Since that time, my career has progressed in both a consulting role and my current position at a Fortune 100 high tech company.Don’t get me wrong, if I had been able to get into Stanford, I probably would’ve taken the job.  However, with my career path, I most likely would’ve been in a similar role to where I am right now, just with a lot more debt and a fancier diploma.

Aaron Michaels
California

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