Why am I doing an MBA?

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A previous boss of mine once told me that an MBA stands for ‘Masters of Bugger All’, which is a very British way of saying the degree is pointless, generic and essentially useless. I still find it odd that he said that to me, considering he had an MBA himself and was enjoying his life as a Director, making a six-figure salary and travelling the world.

Hilariously, this same boss wrote me the reference that helped me to get accepted into my MBA program. I wonder if he tutted as he wrote the recommendation, thinking to himself: ‘she is wasting her time and money!’  As I submitted my semester three papers on Sunday, I reflected on my decision to disregard his warnings and enrol on the 3-year course.

I am now officially halfway through my MBA. I handed in my papers three weeks early this week so that I could enjoy a long break before the next semester starts in July. I am going on a trip to New York City next week and could not bear the thought of having papers due when I returned.

Now that I have half of my degree behind me, one thing is crystal clear: I have spent a lot of money. The important question to ask though is: have I wasted my money? This question is not simple. There have been many times over the past 18 months when I have wanted to quit and save the money and focus on a career senior management aspirations.  And since I have discovered the idea of financial independence and early retirement I have questioned why I would get another degree when I really just want to leave the workforce altogether and run away the sunset with my big(ish) pension pot.

Luckily in my very first class, the business school dean forced us to write down the reasons we wanted to get an MBA. I constantly have to look back at this list because when I am 10-hours into writing a tedious essay on strategic advantage or marketing or organisational change or some other cliche business school topic, I want to give up because it seems so unbelievably irrelevant to my day-to-day life.

Here is what my list says:

  • Why I am doing an MBA:

    > I want to gain knowledge in business areas to which I have not been exposed

    > I want to be able to work internationally

    > I want to be able to freelance/consult if I leave my current company

    > I want to earn more money in the future

    > I want to explore starting my own business

When I look at this list, I realise that for me there is more to getting an MBA than the all-important return on investment, though this is clearly a key element. I enjoy learning. I also want to be internationally mobile and have the freedom to work freelance in the future. I work in non-profit finance and MBAs are sought after in my industry. I have also put together a plan to get low interest-rate loans and will have the loans paid off in full before I graduate. For me, the MBA feels like a good fit and I am budgeting down to every penny to ensure it makes sense financially.

However, an MBA is not a good fit for everyone.  I spent about 2 years mulling over the decision to start the degree and wish there had been more guidance to help me with my decision. Of course, I am no expert, but now that I am half-way through my MBA I thought I would put a chart together to help anyone else thinking of starting the degree but who still isn’t sure:

 

MBA flowchart
MBA decision tree

 

For anyone else that has done an MBA, what do you think of this chart? Is there anything else you wish you had known before starting out? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.