A Smart Investor Would Skip the M.B.A.

From the Wall Street Journal

Imagine that you have the money to get a Harvard MBA.  There are two options open to you: go to Harvard, or invest in yourself.

Imagine that you have been accepted to Harvard Business School. The ivy-covered buildings and high-powered faculty whisper that all you need to do is listen to your teachers, get good grades and work well with your peers. After two years, you’ll emerge ready to take the business world by storm. Once you have that degree, you’ll have it made.

But don’t kid yourself. What matters exponentially more than that M.B.A. is the set of skills and accomplishments that got you into business school in the first place. What if those same students, instead of spending two years and $174,400 at Harvard Business School, took the same amount of money and invested it in themselves? How would they compare after two years?

If you want a business education, the odds aren’t with you, unfortunately, in business school. Professors are rewarded for publishing journal articles, not for being good teachers. The other students are trying to get ahead of you. The development office is already assessing you for future donations. Administrators care about the metrics that will improve your school’s national ranking. None of these things actually helps you learn about business.

Consider what you could do instead with that $174,400. The first step should be to move to a part of the country that supports your interests. If that’s film, move to Los Angeles. Technology, San Francisco. Oil, Houston. You could live decently in these cities for $3,000 per month. Over the course of two years, that still leaves you $100,000 to invest in yourself.

To get the education, the author recommends “OpenCourseWare or Coursera. You’ll get to watch the same lectures, but for free.”  And how’s this as an alternative?

Consider investing in hard skills such as programming. Dev Bootcamp, a 10-week training course in programming, costs only $12,200. It takes people with no experience and teaches them how to code. In 2012, 88% of its graduates got job offers at an average starting salary of $79,000.Those outcomes are far better than for students fresh out of M.B.A. programs. According to Payscale.com, the average starting salary for M.B.A. graduates with less than one year of experience was $46,630 in 2012. Dev Bootcamp offers a much better return on investment.

By the way, if you can’t get in to Harvard, going to another school is an even worse investment!  Put yourself in the shoes of someone looking to hire.

Instead of relying on business school to succeed, deliberately practice the skills necessary to become a master in your chosen field. Build a network that supports your professional aspirations. Work on projects that show you can have an impact in the real world, dealing with practical problems.

Most of all, put yourself in the shoes of your future boss and imagine whom you would rather hire: the candidate who built a profitable business over the course of two years, or the candidate who sat in lectures and reviewed case studies to get a degree?

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