It’s business school, not a waiting room

Gawker is eagerly reporting that admissions to two-year, US, business school programs has dropped. With a healthy dose of schadenfreude, they gleefully report that all those people who went to business school hoping to help themselves during the recession wasted their money.

While their attitude and sense of self-righteousness is misplaced, the core of their argument is not. According to the Wall Street Journal article the Gawker author cited

The median number of applications world-wide fell 22% in 2012 for the two-year degrees, after a nearly 10% decline last year.

MBA Applicants

The big problem I see is not that an MBA is a bad investment, it’s often the motivation for getting one. Business school is not a good place to wait out a recession. It’s a place to find yourself (although it may help you change direction). It’s a place to go and get educated. And to acquire a set of skills that will help you achieve your goals.

If your goal is just “to get a job” DO NOT GO TO BUSINESS SCHOOL. If you don’t already have a good idea what it is you want to do, you are going to find out a very expensive lesson that MBAs don’t guarantee employment. In fact, outside of a handful of industries, having an MBA makes many recruiters automatically assume you are going to be expensive to hire.

In my opinion, education is never a bad investment. But going to school because you don’t know what to do with yourself, and you need to keep busy for two years is a waste of money. When I started my MBA at Boston College we had a girl drop out after 2 days of orientation. She was trying to figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up, her parents offered to foot the bill for grad school, so she enrolled. After two days of hearing how much work was ahead of her, she decided it wasn’t worth it.

Business school was an awesome experience for me. But when I went in I had a really clear picture of what I wanted to do on the other side. It turns out I don’t really do it. I found something I like even more. But this is rare. Most of my classmates who got good jobs after school came in knowing what they wanted, knowing what skills and experience they had to acquire, and then they did it. The ones who thought that an MBA was going to throw open doors and job offers would line up are the ones who have had 3+ different jobs since we graduated in 2007.

If you have two years to bust your ass, work harder than you have ever worked before, and rack up tons of debt to figure out what makes you happy, go do something more productive. Join the peace corps. Teach for America. Do something life changing that will give you perspective and an interesting story to tell. Business school will still be there when you get back. and having an interesting story about what you did during the recession may help you get into a better school.

I’m not saying don’t get an MBA. Just don’t do it because you don’t have anything else to do.

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About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, facebooker, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

5 Responses to It’s business school, not a waiting room

  1. Jen says:

    great article Ezra!

  2. schwartz says:

    an mba is like a tattoo, or the midnight buffet, not something to do just because you’re bored.

  3. Well said, Ez. Great advice for everyone!

  4. Sodo says:

    Good advice, Ezra. Don’t go if you don’t know.

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