I grew up in a family of business people. I might even dare say, I have business genes. My father is the epitome of ‘started from the bottom.’ He built his company from nothing but dust and was a millionaire before he turned thirty. But I once heard him say, “Anyone can study Business Administration,” and that was a view shared by most people in the society I grew up.
There was this mentality that you could study Economics, Medicine or Engineering, even the ever advancing IT but if you studied Business Administration, you’d be the laughing stock of the Earth. It seems to stem from the belief that you don’t need to study Business Administration in order to own, run or create a successful business. You need the talent of an entrepreneur and/or you need to cultivate it.
Now, thanks to the rise of tech ventures, mystical unicorn start-ups and social media platforms, the whole world, Western and Eastern seems to be adhering to this idea. I personally don’t have anything against the Business courses out there especially if it’s a bachelor’s degree because there are technical skills that are being imbued in the student but when it’s a masters degree, I do have my reservations. Especially because a master’s degree is more of an investment than a bachelor’s degree. It may be one year shorter than the latter but it’s a lot more expensive and rightly so; it gives you that title they place right next to your name for the rest of your life and it takes up two additional years of your time.
Universities romanticise the idea of the MBA because so many people are flocking towards it. According to last week’s issue of The Economist, ‘The New Game’, 688,000 people in the USA sat the entrance test for the degree in 2014, a remarkable drop from the 745,000 that took the test in 2008 during the great depression. But how much sense does it make to try to defy a basic rule of business when you’re studying it. The more the people are that have what you have, the less people would care about what you have.
The trouble remains the same as it was in 2008; no one was looking to hire Business Administrators then, (if the professionals on the job couldn’t do it right then how could fresh buns), no one is looking to hire them now. But American colleges and their European counterparts sure as hell made a lot of money from young hopefuls. Think about it for a second, will you? You’re promised a multicultural experience in a business school that swears the sky is your limit and that guarantees that if you pay them between 10,000 to 150,000 dollars a year they will make you the Zuckerberg or Richard Branson of your generation. Here’s the newsflash: It’s a rip off. The degree will be subject to criticism till kingdom come. If you’re not already stuck with it, you might want to think twice.
Here’s the thing about the MBA;
If you don’t earn it from a top university it’s almost irrelevant. An MBA might be impressive to some people, especially those who study it, but it’s more impressive if it’s from Harvard University, or Berkeley, MIT or INSEAD. Yes, it’s true, they are more interested in the fact that you were able to get into such a prestigious university so maybe there is some worth to your persona after all. If you were awarded your degree by, say, University of Kentucky Fried Chicken and other less than prestigious colleges, they simply won’t be impressed by it.
Start-ups are owned by techies who don’t have MBAs or complete college experience, but could get it if they wanted to. Companies such as Uber (the taxi app) and Airbnb are slowly replacing the traditional companies. They are developed by bright youngsters in zip up hoodies and t-shirt’s (yes, the stereotype is real). Think of it this way: If new kinds of businesses are replacing traditional kinds, a traditional MBA simply won’t do. You need a ‘new kind’ of degree.
It’s too expensive. Look up how much MBAs cost at various universities and prepare to be blown away.Yes, I get it, the experience is golden, but I’d rather buy actual gold with that money.
It doesn’t set you apart from others. Because everyone is an entrepreneur these days, you suddenly seem less special. You might have the most street savvy business mind and your entrepreneurial talents may be remarkable, or you could have a bright diamond halo over your head but you wouldn’t draw attention if you wanted to work at say, a financial institution. Okay so let me see your CV… Oh, an MBA… how great. Next? Now I’m not belittling you if you already have an MBA or implying that you have no chance at success if you’re currently studying one. I’m saying that the labour market is just like the supermarket. Employers go there in search of that special someone. If they see so many of the same product on the shelves, they might be likelier to pick a random one, or look for another version.
It’s too specific. Business Administration is less attractive than Business and Corporate Law, or Business and IT. Companies need more diversity, more flexibility. They aren’t looking for an MBA. It’s great that you’re an expert in this, but can you also do that? I wouldn’t pay someone to be a business administrator, then pay someone else to be my public relations officer, and then pay another person to be the head of the IT dept. if I could pay one person to cover all three jobs.
I’ve heard people say that it helps if you do your MBA in more than two different countries. Hult, for exampe, has a London centre and and another one in Shanghai. Now, if you studied in both centres in the course of your MBA that’s impressive. I would really love to hear more about that at the interview, if I were the employer. But if the CV of a person who studied Economics and Finance was right next to yours, sadly you might not get to tell me about the best restaurants in Shanghai.
My question is: If you study Business Administration… why would you want to admin someone else’s business? I’m of the opinion that it makes sense to get an MBA if you want to employ your skills in creating and manning your own business. At the same time though, why take $170,000 and spend it on an MBA when you could spend it on starting a business and employing someone to help you out? So I applauded when even Apu Gupta, the founder of Curalate, an MBA holder said; “I’ve always found it odd that people go to business school and study entrepreneurialism. If you want to study entrepreneurialism, you need to go be an entrepreneur.”
An MBA might go as far as landing you an interview, but it won’t necessarily get you the job. It might get you the job but it won’t necessarily spike your performance to a higher level than your colleagues and your peers in other places in the world. Blame it on the arrival of computers but It’s just not as impressive as it used to be. If ever it was.