I have been asked this question far more times than I care to recall from the thousands of marketers I have interviewed over the years and don’t doubt that I will be asked it many more times in the future – because it is a good question.
Like so many good questions the answer is not a simple one and “it depends” really doesn’t cut it. But the truth of the matter is that it does depend…on:
- Why are you considering an MBA?
- What do you expect an MBA to deliver for you?
- At what stage are you in your career?
- Where do you plan to do your MBA?
- Part-time/Full-time? Campus/distance learning?
- What resources (time/money/corporate support) do you have?
…and to make matters worse these are not questions with isolated answers. They are in fact interconnected and interdependent leading to a myriad of conclusions and circumstances.
So let’s start with some definite benefits. Under most circumstances an MBA will:
- Broaden your commercial horizons in terms of both functional skills and sector experience
- Give you a new network of, mostly, like-minded professionals from a wide variety of walks of life who will likely become close and very trusted
- Empower you with a language better understood and appreciated in the C-suite than your previously mono-chrome marketing tongue
- Challenge your default thinking and opinions in a good way
- Provide you with a more complete and holistic view of business and the wider commercial landscape
- Improve your soft skills such as cross-functional team-working, people leadership and presentation/public speaking skills
All compelling stuff and may well address your personal answers to the question of “to MBA or not to MBA?”
However, let’s also consider some misnomers regarding MBA’s. Under most circumstances, these days, an MBA will NOT:
- Double your salary overnight. In the long run it may give you a slight edge where money is concerned but only if it has made you a better and more valuable employee, as demonstrated by contribution and outputs.
- Instantly provide you with a plethora of new career opportunities. As above – the MBA does not empower you to suddenly jump tracks into a new career path neither will it allow you to leapfrog two roles ahead at the same time.
- Transform a poor career into a good career – “put lipstick on a pig and it is still a pig”. This is just the harsh reality of life and a competitive market-place. An MBA should never be viewed as a career lifeline.
- Make you the best of the best – MBAs are far more prolific than they ever used to be and have a number of newer, more vocational and technical based qualifications to compete with. It is part of the armoury but it is not the complete arsenal.
- Turn you into the most charismatic speaker and leader. An MBA will introduce you to what it takes to become such, but it will take years of continued practice and personal development to equip yourself with these traits if you do not naturally possess them as part of your inherent make up
These opinions have been arrived at from observing what happens in reality for marketers under any number of different circumstances. Two other major considerations that cannot be ignored in the decision to MBA or not MBA that I won’t cover here are the costs and projected payback periods and where/how to do the MBA. It is still the case that not all MBA’s are equal.
I would urge any marketer considering an MBA, to reflect deeply and honestly on the questions outlined at the start of this article before committing to the challenge. Also be realistic about where your career is heading and which path you want – general management or CMO? The MBA has relevance to both but there may be more appropriate options for the latter. Mini MBA’s, personal development workshops and tech courses may offer just as much validity at a fraction of the cost and time commitment – even if they do not carry the same perceived CV kudos of those three letters.