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Should you go back to business school to hide from recession? (Part 2): 4 compelling reasons and 3 overrated reasons

October 30th, 2008 · 4 Comments

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, please read Should you go back to business school to hide from recession? (Part 1) before you read this post.

Below is my list of top 4 compelling reasons to justify going back to business school:

  1. You want to make a career transition to a new field. The new field tends to hire a lot of business school graduates. In my opinion, only three fields fit into this description: strategic/management consulting in firms such as McKinsey/Bain/BCG, Investment Banking (which is disappearing), and Brand Management in traditional CPG companies such as P&G. Notice that I have left out quite a few career option such as high tech product management, venture capitalist, and investment management.
    • High tech product management: I have known plenty of MBA who struggled to get a product manager job in high tech, while former engineers, support specialists, or sale engineers move into product management without getting MBA degrees. The high tech industry is very much a meritocracy. If you know your stuff, you’ll find a way to move into product management. MBA is neither necessary nor sufficient for making transition to product management.
    • Venture Capitalist: regardless of which business school you attend, it’s virtually impossible to get a VC job out of business school. And most of the really great and successful venture capitalists had very strong operational background, and/or have started their own businesses. Having a HBS/Stanford/Wharton pedigree won’t get you a job in Venture Capital. It might be helpful in the long run, but I just don’t think it should be the primary factor that motivates you to apply business school.
    • Investment Management: even with a MBA, you probably still need get CFA certification. However, if you’ve the CFA credential, you probably don’t need MBA to move up in the ladder.
  2. You work in non-profit, government, peace corp. or other low-paying fields. You fed up with the low salary, and you want to get a big pay increase without taking whole lot of risk. Attending business school will give you the credential and skills to enter the corporate world, and start to make six-figure salary within a reasonable period of time. Comparing to starting a company or other making-money scheme, business school is also low-risk and legitimate. However, you need to make sure you attend a top-25 business school. Otherwise, you probably won’t see a big salary increase as you expect.
  3. You have served our country by enlisting in the army, navy, National Guard or other branches of our military. You plan to enter the private sector. Business School will provide you the training, skills and opportunities to make the career transition.
  4. Your current career track requires you to attend business school, and you plan to continue to climb up your current career path. For example, you’re an analyst working for McKinsey. Attending a top business school is almost like the recommended next step in your career.

I left out a lot of other reasons because I think they’re overrated, and you could accomplish those goals without spending the $80K+ to go back to business school. Below is my list of top 3 overrated reasons for going back to business school:

  1. “Business school is largely about networking. I’ll make a lot of great friends who are future business leaders of the world.” It’s true that you’ll meet a lot of people. But, the fact is that most of them are struggling young professionals like you. And they’ll still be middle-level managers for the next five years. When they become super successful (which is unlikely), you probably haven’t seen them for a long time. If you’re in high tech, your odd is much better by joining a promising start-up, and getting to know the founder, the venture capitalists that fund the company, and the early employees. They will be more valuable and helpful contacts for you than your business school contacts. Plus, one thing I learned about friendship in business school is how superficial they’re. Remember, most people go to business school because they want to make a lot of money. Very often the relationship is based on how much value you can bring to the table.
  2. “Business school will teach me to be an entrepreneur. I will start a business after getting my MBA.” You learn to be an entrepreneur by doing it. You cannot learn to be an entrepreneur. Most of your business school professors don’t have a club about running a business. To be brutally honest, I think the name “MBA entrepreneur program” is an oxymoron.
  3. “When I have the HBS/Stanford/Wharton/Kellogg/Chicago GSB/whatever top school” brand on my resume, people will forever view me differently. I’m part of an elite club.” I attended one of those aforementioned schools. But, you should never feel entitled. The truth is that a lot of people don’t really care which business school you attend. Your school name/brand will open a few doors for you during the first 1-3 years after you graduate from your school. Afterward, it’s all about your experience, track record, and who you know in your industry.

Tags: Beat Recession · Go Back to School · MBA

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mike Harmon // Oct 30, 2008 at 7:16 pm


    I like your site and wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging blogroll links.

    Thanks in advance

  • 2 X // Nov 11, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Great site. Thanks!

  • 3 Pradeep // Nov 26, 2008 at 12:39 am

    I like your comments on reasons for b-school. I think they are very realistic, and even more so, since you come from one of the top b-schools. Especially on the entrepreneur programs.

  • 4 Jim // Dec 12, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Shouldn’t that be a CFA instead of CPA for Investment Management?

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