Increasingly, business majors and future managers and CEOs are looking at a curve of diminishing returns relating to the relevance and practical applicability of the MBA degree. Should or shouldn’t young and aspiring future business leaders sign up for a program that is billed to carry the ultimate credentials for a career in business management?
Exactly 108 years after the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration set up their MBA program in 1908, the holy grail of a business education appears to be losing some of its sheen. Or maybe the world is simply becoming a more irreverent place!
How so? Well, if you’re willing to forfeit a stuffy program that will set you back by more than $120,000, plus the cost of not working for two whole years, and you’re open to other sources of learning, you have multiple options to choose from. Yes, there are some pretty darn good moves you can make as alternatives to an MBA. While engineers form the bulk of applicants applying to MBA programs, this post is equally relevant for non-engineers who are looking at cheaper, faster and better ways to improve their career as opposed to investing in an expensive MBA.
More good news…Recruiters are less rooted in stereotypes, including the MBA stereotype, and are willing to give real talent a chance. Remember, they are always happy to hire individuals who add value to the organisation – employees who have a varied skill set and are versatile, the ability to motivate and drive teams to achieve desired results, employees who are target-driven, and those who can think on their feet. With some amount of innate ability to do this and a whole lot of hands-on experience, you can be that employee. Here are some of excellent alternatives to an MBA degree.
Best Alternatives to the MBA Degree for Engineers & Non-Engineers
1. Learn To Sell
The ultimate goal of any business venture is to ‘sell’, whether it’s a product, a service or even an idea. Anyone who has superior sales skills has a huge competitive advantage. Let us go back to that classic cliché about selling ice to an Eskimo. And if you can do that, well, why are you wasting your time reading this!
What we are trying to say is, average performers who can ‘sell’ always outperform exceptional performers who cannot. Take the entrepreneur, for instance… You may have the business idea of the century but if you can’t sell it to investors, your idea will never take off. Even landing a new job involves good sales skills – in this case, selling yourself, your skills and your potential worth to a prospective employer.
There is an avalanche of evidence demonstrating the importance of sales, and a plethora of sales training programs and courses you can take. Then, there’s multimedia that puts a wealth of books, videos and online training courses at your fingertips. Our gut feeling is that MBA degree or not, if you can achieve sales targets, your superiors will sit up and take notice, and you will be well son your way to the upper echelons of management.
2. Learn To Code
Believe it or not but writing code can teach you a lot about running a business. One of the big benefits comes from the flow charts programmers draw to break down a complex problem into bite-size bits before they actually start writing code. These flow charts are akin to the logical thought process one experiences while making business and life decisions; they help you to analyse the problem, view it from various perspectives, and predict outcomes.
When writing code, the programmer has to first understand exactly what the software needs to do. He or she then has to use the grammar and syntax of the programming language very precisely. Mastering the nuances of code is like mastering human communication, where the way you say something is as important as the words you use to convey your message.
Yet another way in which computer programming mimics good leadership is when something goes awry with the software. Called ‘debugging’ by techies, it is the process of getting to the source of the error. Since a software program depends on the program that was written or set of instructions it was given, a good leader will trace a problem to its source before apportioning blame or jumping to conclusions.
There are many other ways in which learning to write code can teach you to be a good manager or leader, so if you are even slightly inclined towards programming, it would be a great investment to actually take a course.
3. Learn A New Language
No, not just any language but one that will give you an edge at work. With China being a great influencer in the world economy at present, Mandarin is clearly the flavor of the season. But, of course, the language you choose to learn would depend on, say, where your business partners and clients are located, where your company has set up regional operations; and where your customers are located.
Language is a core cultural element and speaking the same language is a great way to gain the trust and confidence of your clients and customers. It is thus likely to make you a favoured employee and, perhaps, even get you an overseas posting. It could even put you at the forefront of important negotiations; make you a part of sensitive meetings; and get you co-opted into core managerial teams. Here’s an article on the funny variations of the English language .
4. Gain Proficiency In A New Domain
Just as you would learn different modules in an MBA program, you can switch jobs and go from a job in your comfort zone to one outside it, to broaden your skill set. So, for instance, you can switch from operations to marketing, or from accounting to business development.
This would give you invaluable, hands-on experience in how companies and businesses run as opposed to the highly theoretical knowledge you would glean in a classroom. And employers are open to job switches like this as long as you can justify them and convince recruiters that your apparent ‘job-hopping’ doesn’t mean you can’t hold down a job.
5. Alternative Study Programs
Getting into the management cadre means you will be called upon to lead teams and make sure the company meets its organisational goals. You will also need to deal with financial planning and handle budgets and forecasts.
Instead of spending two years acquiring these skills in an MBA program, you could opt for certifications more directly related to your area of expertise. In the above instance, you might want to get certified as a Chartered Financial Analyst or a Certified Merger & Acquisitions Advisor. There are certifications in virtually every field of business and there is bound to be one suits your career path.
These certification programs, while gruelling, can be acquired by burning the candle at both ends for a while and not giving up your job. They are also much more focused than an MBA program and take less time to obtain. There’s another upshot: Many companies will pay for your certification course even as the probability of promotions increases dramatically. Here are some courses that are good alternatives to the MBA.
On a related note, you might want to consider earning a Master’s degree in Management as an alternative to an MBA degree. These Master’s programs, both full-time and part-time, can give you a competitive edge and turbo boost your career. A Master’s degree also costs far less than an MBA program, takes much less time to complete, and typically covers subjects such as Statistics, Finance and Accounting while giving you an opportunity to acquire practical skills like Project Management, Team Leadership and Business Communication. Read more here – Masters in Management (MiM) Degree.
If you’ve read this post from start to finish, you have lots to think about. There’s a world beyond those three little letters, so go out and seize the day!