You could earn multiple degrees in different ways. You could go for a double-major, as Mollie from MIT (pictured above), did. She got 2 diplomas in brain & cognitive sciences and biology. She went on to get a PhD from Harvard in developmental neurobiology. That’s an impressive set of qualifications.
Another way to get a double degree is by joining a program such as the Wharton Lauder MBA-MA dual degree. It is one integrated program that combines two independent degrees. The least common way is to sign up for the exact same degree twice. Strange as it may sound, there are a lot of folks from India applying to MBA degrees abroad, when they already have an MBA from India.
In the past 2-3 years, we have witnessed a surge in those seeking a second MBA. This used to be a case earlier for people who had done their MBA from obscure colleges but now, every year we have folks from the revered IIMs and ISB coming to us, seeking advice on whether to take the plunge one more time.
Is a second MBA worth it? Before I get into the advisory mode, let me first present the reasons why this trend has been happening.
This applies in the case of IIMs and many other CAT based Indian programs that take students with zero experience. For most of them, the experience turns out to be a turbocharged version of their undergrad. They get the theory but when they enter the real world, there is a huge chasm which takes a time for them to bridge. Ever so often, they come across colleagues who have done it from global schools and this starts putting seeds in their minds about a sort of la la land that they’ve been deprived of. Partly true, partly story but that is one reason for you – we investigate this more later.
Some of the MBA programs mentioned above, not necessarily the top tier ones, can be a bit too theoretical/non-cased based. This means that while you know the ‘formula’, you don’t know the ‘heuristics/thumb-rules’ that invariably have to be applied in an actual setting. As time evolves, these industry practices might evolve too and having missed the bus in learning things the first time around, some candidates want to get the learning right. Side note: those seeking true knowledge are a mere minority.
This is another of a subtle reason, similar to the one above. With no or very less experience, a large majority of the people in many of the MBA programs are fresh engineering grads who are committed but may not necessarily light up the scene in terms of real world insights. This means that all students look to the faculty and books for learning but miss out on the crucial peer-learning aspect. Again, this is rarely the reason why people seek a second MBA but tends to be a good motivator for some once they fathom it.
This one perhaps takes the cake when it comes to the motivator, especially for the Tier 1 MBA guys. Indian MBAs can be pretty awesome when it comes to RoI but for most purposes, offer an excellent ‘Indian’ career. Sure, a lot of IIM and ISB grads move out of the country, but as a proportion of the actual class size, it is still miniscule – call it selection bias. Most of those seeking international MBAs come to us with the dream of launching themselves on the global arena – something their Indian degrees take much more effort to; many countries don’t even recognize our prestigious MBA degrees/education as MBA!
With the reasons ascertained to some extent, let’s now look at the pros and cons and finally try to arrive at a conclusion. Expectedly, some of the pros/cons will be a derivative of the reasons already outlined above.
Most good international MBA programs are very hands-on and put a lot of focus on applied learning. Apart from internships, there are a lot of other avenues of applied learning in the form of projects, study groups, clusters, presentations, seminars, student organizations et al. These avenues allow students to bridge the gap between theory and practice to a good extent – the reality is still different mind you, but these help. Employers recognize this as it helps reduce the learning curve they need to provide and everyone is happy.
Harking back to a point mentioned earlier, the average experience range in an international MBA classroom is 4-5 years (read here for more on this). And not all of them come from one type of professional background. In fact, the diversity is just explosive – race, language, color, ethnicity – you find it all. This can be intimidating and humbling for some but for most parts, it is supremely enriching. The experience truly prepares you to take on the world, in any part of the world literally speaking.
This in no way is to comment on the quality of teaching in our country – that’s a different topic. The point is that like peers, the faculty you encounter in a good global school is also very diverse and global. Many of them are very active in the industry and not just academia; some are considered leading thinkers in their respective fields. Tapping into this goldmine can leave you quite satisfied when it comes to the true pursuit of ‘knowledge’.
Just like certain passports mean lesser visas, a good brand can mean more doors – not all MBAs are created equal. A global name means access to a global network which means access to opportunities not just in the country of your MBA, but in quite a few places worldwide. Those motivated with this reason will not find things wanting.
By effort here, I mean the effort required in terms of application. Not all schools out there are open to the concept of a second MBA and even the ones that are, would want to understand your logic for going through the grind again. We’ve put up a list here, but the reality is more complex since not all schools have a standard stance on this subject. Let’s just say that the entire options list is not open for you and you have to research on each option for feasibility at the basic level.
International MBA programs are expensive – period. See a basic comparison here. That apart, especially if you are from a Tier 1 MBA already, chances are that you are at one of the most productive (financially speaking) phase of your career. Consequently, the opportunity cost alone can be huge. The point can be argued alternatively too saying you may have more savings and hence the lesser debt obligation, but it usually gets shadowed due to the opportunity cost involved. Suffice it to say that it might take you longer than a first MBA grad to recoup the investment. So those seeking a second MBA should think beyond money alone.
The risk is more pronounced if you are looking to change your career trajectory/direction through an MBA. It will be tougher to convince a prospective recruiter and in general, you are likely to end up discounting your previous MBA as well as experience. Instead, if it is for career acceleration, the risks can be lower. Even so, the sovereign (read work permit related) risks remain. Generally speaking, the remuneration expectations of a second MBA grad can be higher compared to those who are out in the market for the first time. This can again mean lesser options and consequently, more risk.
Though we have talked about IIM and ISB in the same breath here a short note is in order. ISB in many ways has been designed on the global MBA program and it provides many of the things mentioned above. Even so, there are folks from ISB that explore a second MBA from time to time – in our experience, this population is lower; also perhaps because the school is younger. The main motivator for these candidates is to explore the international market more than anything else.
Should you go for it then? The answer, as they say, is it depends. If the pros far outweigh the cons in your case, go for it. This decision however for many prospective candidates is a more personal one and often times, necessitates a larger discussion with the family. Our stance on this is that of cautious optimism – meaning, go for it but be very very careful.
Read these related posts:
– USA business schools accepting second MBA applicants
– Second MBA for Bschool professor
– Michigan Ross MBA admit for second MBA applicant
– Second MBA degree abroad (USA) with scholarship after 30
– Second MBA for Indian couple
– Second MBA in Germany for Welingkar grad.
– Second MBA from Switzerland for HR consultant after 30
– Second MBA after distance degree
– ISB PGPpro application story – Executive MBA without GMAT requirement
Image credit: mit.edu