There’s been some discussion lately on the Wall Street Journal, questioning what an MBA gets you these days, and I’m of a couple minds about it myself. Then again, I don’t have an MBA, so I only have an outsider’s perspective. For the most part, though, I think they’re sort of a joke. Unless you want to be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer, why do you really need something beyond a Bachelor’s? Do you not have enough debt as it is?
Well, Jay Bhatti, an investor and advisor to startups in New York City, wrote something about this recently as well for Quartz, and he agrees with me. In addition, he also has an MBA — he got it in 2002 from the Wharton School.
The sad reality is that an MBA is not as valuable today as it was 30 years ago. Stanford University published data stating that from 2005 to 2008, over 94% of graduates had jobs by graduation. However, since then, only about 75% of graduates had jobs lined up at graduation. Stanford is a top MBA program, so you can imagine it being worse at other schools. In fact, 21 schools that are ranked by US News & World Report said that for the past few years, nearly 50% of their graduates did not have jobs at graduation.
Bhatti goes on to explain that MBA programs were created in the 1950s “because large corporations felt that new employees lacked general management skills.” These skills, then, had to be taught on the job. It was a waste of time and resources.
And, I guess, the point is that now many students are “wasting” their time and resources getting an MBA being over-trained in these arenas. Why is it a waste? Because the world now sure as heck doesn’t work the way it did in the 1950’s. Nobody stays at the same company after college for three decades. We move around. There used to be a rule of thumb that folks have about five to eight real jobs in their careers — I think, now, at least going by myself and my plans and my colleagues and theirs, it’s about double that. We shoot higher. We don’t expect corporations to have our backs at all times.
MBAs don’t do that. As Bhatti says, “MBAs were not designed to help you advance your career.” They’re there to get you started.
And if you want to get started and stay at the GEs of the world, then, by all means go for it. Bhatti adds that if you can’t get into one of the top five schools (Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT and Kellogg), don’t even bother.
Honestly, I’m surprised this is being discussed at all. Isn’t this what everyone thinks these days? All my friends who have MBAs feel adrift with their careers and are unsure how to apply what they’ve learned.
So, maybe colleges should smarten up and evolve these degrees or rethink them completely.
Read Bhatti’s full post here.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.