Those who want to join the top international MBA college in the world are constantly battling with the ominous question – ‘Is an MBA abroad worth the cost?’
While the question is important, the answer can be quite convoluted.
There are too many hues to consider, too many pros and cons to weigh.
Add to it the fact that an MBA applicant from India may have certain specific expectations after an MBA from a U.S. Bschool that American citizens applying to the same university wouldn’t care about (like the H1B visa application process).
Your pre-MBA qualifications and experience also play a big role in the decision. Whether an MBA worth it for engineers, doctors, army / military personnel, finance professionals is tough to answer with a single statement.
In order to make this post relevant for applicants from diverse backgrounds, we thought it may be interesting to twist the oft-asked ‘Is an MBA worth it?’ question to ‘When is an MBA not worth it?’
By analyzing the counter-views, you could create a simple yet nifty little decision framework to help you tackle the big dilemma of whether a foreign MBA is worthless or useful in your specific case.
An MBA is not worth it when…
1. Your expectations are unclear
This is the situation where you know that you aren’t happy with the current job, but you don’t really know what’ll make you happier. The vague idea that an MBA abroad will do wonders for your career, isn’t good enough.
There’s a reason MBA Admission Officers insist on the ‘Why MBA’ essay in most bschool applications.
When you aren’t sure what you really want from the experience, you’ll probably not be happy after graduation. A bschool is not the place to gain that clarity.
In fact, with all that’s happening at break-neck speed on campus, don’t be surprised if there’s more confusion than clarity once the program starts.
2. Your timing is wrong
Even if you are perfectly sure about what you want from the MBA, the timing could make or break your decision. When you apply too early or too late in your career, investing in an MBA may not be worthwhile.
The average age of MBA students in USA (2 year MBA programs) is quite consistent. Ditto for the average age in the shorter 1 year MBA in India, Europe, Canada, Australia.
Just as you wouldn’t aim for a 2 year MBA in IIM after 10 years experience, you’d have to be choosy about the geography and MBA college you choose.
An MBA after 30 has its unique set of challenges.
3. You have incorrect perceptions about what you are signing up for
There’s nothing wrong in expecting a better job after completing an MBA abroad. In fact, that’s probably the primary reason why you are planning to empty your pockets and take on a humongous education loan.
But is it what the bschool promised you? Nope!
Think about what you’d have done in those 2 years as an international MBA student and how much of it was directly related to the new job you are targetting.
Apart from a ton of theoretical work, there’s very little of direct (and practical) relevance for your new employer, specially if you are aiming for a dramatic career shift.
When you start looking at bschools as job placement agencies, instead of educational institutions, that’s where the disconnect starts and the value of an MBA drops.
4. When it’s less about the MBA degree and more of an escape route
Everyone has job problems in India. Right from the job description, colleagues, politics, competition, lack of growth opportunities, salaries, brand name of the company and the constant fear of getting laid off, there’s enough to ensure that you start losing your hair and patience early on in the game.
That’s when the MBA brochures start looking enticing. All those air-brushed, high resolution images of attractive smiling students give you hope. It could be you on that brochure in a year’s time. Away from all the crap you’ve had to deal with back home.
And you say to yourself, ‘Ah, nice. I want to be in that happy place too!‘
5. Your choice of MBA programs is wrong
There are full-time / part-time / 1 year / 2 year / Online / Correspondence / Distance / Executive MBA programs designed for professionals with various career trajectories. A mind boggling array to choose from.
When you target programs that have very little street credibility, the MBA will not be worth much. If you are hoping to give a major twist to your career, stick to full-time MBA programs.
You could also get the country wrong. You might have a free MBA offer in Papua New Guinea, but it won’t get you management consulting jobs in USA.
International MBA programs can’t place you ‘internationally’. Your best options would be to get a job in the country of graduation or return to India.
6. You are happy to embrace mediocrity
The cost of an MBA in USA, India, UK etc includes not just the degree you’ll get in the end. It’s also about who else was there in your class. When you get into a program that has mediocre classmates, the world outside will think you are mediocre as well.
That’s the reason why an Indian student who has graduated from Harvard MBA or Stanford on a full-scholarship is viewed differently by hiring companies from those who’ve just paid their way through an unheard-of MBA college in an unheard-of country.
7. Your post MBA goals are too ambitious
Nothing stops you from assuming that an MBA will help you launch your million-dollar venture. Your fertile imagination may also convince you that all this will happen immediately after you graduate because your new idea (which you will think about during MBA marketing lectures) will be impressive enough to attract seed capital from the student-run venture capital fund in the university campus.
Sorry to burst the bubble. But, when all that an MBA student has done pre-MBA is software programming, it’ll be tough like hell to get a front-office Mergers & Acquisitions job in a bulge bracket investment bank.
If you attach the entire worth of your MBA degree to such dreams, you’ve already made it worthless.
When the premium you are paying for the brand doesn’t justify the value (subjective term, I know) you get from it, an MBA won’t be worth its cost.
Just like those late night adverts that come on Cable, the before and after images conjured by the marketing wizards are too tempting. But after ordering the product, the buyer’s remorse is high when the product fails to deliver on its promises.
The bottomline is this.
If all you have is a headache, don’t sign up for plastic surgery.
If you’ve read Beyond The MBA Hype, you’d know that this post is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many other aspects that you need to be aware of before deciding whether an MBA is right for you at this stage of your career.
Still unsure? Share your Why MBA rationale (as as comment below) and we’ll help you with some ideas on whether an MBA is worth it or worthless for you.
Read these related articles:
– Is a Master’s Degree abroad worth it?
– 6 Benefits of getting an international MBA degree
– Is an Executive MBA (EMBA) worth it or not?