To MBA or Not to MBA

I spent 13 years climbing the corporate ladder and achieved the heights of vice president, all of which ultimately prepared me for becoming an entrepreneur.   While this isn't an unusual path to follow, what makes my story somewhat atypical in this day and age is that I did it without obtaining an MBA.
I was the first person in my family to attend college, though it was a commuter school so I didn't have the "traditional" college experience.  During the time I was building my career, MBA's weren't as common as they are today and job opportunities in Corporate America were much more plentiful.  In addition, because I was divorced and a single mother, I had to start working sooner rather than later so I plunged right into the working world as soon as I was able to.  
Corporate America is filled with stories about presidents and CEOs with the letters "MBA" behind their name.  And there are just as many who never went to college, much less got an MBA. While I do advocate for the pursuit of higher education, I do view the attainment of an MBA for career growth as a personal choice.
If you decide to pursue an MBA, don't look at it as the magic ticket to the C-Suite.  According to, possessing an MBA and top grades from MBA courses don't necessarily translate to career success.  While you can get great training for how to handle yourself in the boardroom and learn effective methods for dealing with problems, there's really something to be said for learning on the job. 
Fenorris Pearson, CEO of Global Consumer Innovation, Inc., is much more blunt in his assessment of the value of an MBA, believing them to be "worthless."  In his book, "How to Play the Game at the Top," Pearson feels MBA's don't adequately prepare you for what it takes to really succeed at the top of the Corporate America chain.  Pearson puts more stock in such skills as peer management and developing the right type of alliances will take you farther in your corporate career. 
On the flip side, the pursuit of an MBA doesn't mean you have to stay locked into a career in corporate America.  According to "HR Management" magazine, many executive MBA programs actively recruit people from a wide range of industries including teachers, journalists, non-profit professionals and doctors.  In fact many people go after the MBA with the idea of furthering their corporate career and discover they're better suited to careers in other industries such as the arts or education.  In addition having your MBA can prepare you to run your own business or lead a program, department or initiative.  In short, they can provide an excellent foundation for your ultimate business goals, whether they be within a corporate structure or an entrepreneurial one. 
No matter what spurs you to pursue an MBA, keep your eye on the big picture and be prepared to supplement that degree with internships and other practical experience (many people enter the workforce and go after the degree all at the same time).  Also, keep in mind that getting an MBA isn't cheap.  While many companies have programs in place to help you pay for your education, many don't, so prepare accordingly.  On the flip side, an MBA can result in better opportunities and a great salary, so it could be a worthy venture.  Also, make sure your school can provide you with career placement opportunities, which after all is the ultimate goal.  Finally, don't rule out entrepreneurship.  Charting your own course can be a rich and rewarding experience.
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