To MBA or not MBA: That is the Question

In a world in which a bachelor’s degree is essentially the 1970s equivalent of a high school diploma, an MBA or similar graduate degree has become an [important] differentiator.

However, how much education does one need if they inherently hold the capabilities of excelling in their area of work — their passion, if you will?

This is my argument against the MBA or equivalent and its hold on society’s modern business horizon.

The Good Old Days

My grandfather was the son of a Polish immigrant, and a poverty-stricken one at that. His family did not have much money growing up, and he was only allowed to obtain an 8th grade education before he had to go to work. Even so, my grandpa had a knack for business and a likable personality, and he eventually scraped up enough money to start his own logging business — big trucks and all. He was also a self-taught chef that catered events for hundreds of patrons as the culinary director at Lake Superior State University [and several country/supper clubs]. A man that had never been taught more than simple math was able to do geometry and algebra in order to build houses and barns, create recipes and survey land. Every business he touched flourished, even a supper club that had been in the red for years saw black within the first year that he took over. If that isn’t inherent ability, I don’t know what is.

If stories like this sound familiar, it’s probably because that’s how people used to be. It’s rare nowadays that you hear of someone teaching themselves arithmetic for the hell of it, or even getting off the couch in high school and turning off the video game console. That’s a bit of hyperbole, but you get my point: we’re the generation that has had it fairly easy, all things considered. [Un]fortunately, we’ve had a lot of things handed to us… it’s up to us to use them correctly.

For the rest of us that can’t afford a bachelor’s or graduate degree at the moment, it’s important to remember that we’re not the only ones being forced to learn from the School of Hard Knocks. So many before us have risen out of the metaphorical ashes and gained unheard of success from absolutely nothing — they just worked that much harder than others to achieve it.

A Doctor is a Doctor is a Doctor

What do you call the guy who graduates last in his class at medical school?

Doctor.

Ha. Except it’s not a joke, it’s true. A doctor is a doctor is a doctor. Regardless of their credentials, the diploma makes it true.

So, then, a lot of last-placers have the letters “MBA” after their names, except we never get to see their transcript or even where they went to school. I will make the argument until I am blue in the face that a hardworking entrepreneurial spirit is more valuable than a piece of paper that says graduate. Which should be more sought after in the hiring process?

Unlike the medical field, a degree does not make someone better suited to a business career. Business is something that runs in your blood: it keeps you up at night, it’s always in the forefront or at least in the back of your mind. You don’t really pick business, it kind of picks you. A degree does not make you ready for business, but it can help you prepare.

What’s More Important?

What do you value, the experience or the degree? It becomes the deciding question that will change your fate. If what you want to do requires a degree, the choice is simple, you “gotta get it.” However, if you’re not necessarily looking to teach or do extensive research publications, a degree is like those delicious frosting roses on a birthday cake: everyone wants one because they’re pretty, but not everyone gets one.

Then at some point, it’s up to public opinion: Are you okay with seeking knowledge from someone who does not have an upper level degree?

Personally, the most intelligent individuals (with the exception of my late uncle, who was a Department Head, Professor, PE, PhD and Pioneer of Environmental and Civil Engineering.. the man was a genius) I have learned from have not had a degree in common. Yes, some have had it, but the real quality they shared was passion and inherent ability. My dad, for example, only had a little bit of college before he ran out of money and joined the military. One successful technology company and a bar later, he’s retired at 50 years old — no graduate or even bachelor’s degree to be found.

So, friends, I ask you: What’s more important? The degree or inherent ability and drive for success?

What this boils down to is, yes, a graduate degree has positives. Learning is always good, and I will always wholeheartedly support anyone who craves knowledge. However, if one is so excellent at something that they want to dedicate their lives to it — should they need three letters after their name to solidify this? Who are we working to impress anymore? Customers? Peers? Parents? The decision to continue to grad school should be a choice, not a rule — and certainly not a dis-qualifier.

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Megan Plis is the Marketing Associate & Social Media Manager at Plansmith in Schaumburg, IL. Follow on her Twitter at @megansummerplis and connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganplis .