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MBA or something else: Is the MBA the right degree for you?

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August 2, 2019

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Josh Jones

As a way to combat rising costs or simply to distinguish themselves from other programs, more and more B-schools are offering degrees other than the traditional MBA, but are these degrees good values?

I think we can’t answer that question unless we first ask ourselves why we’re seeking an MBA in the first place.  

If you want a traditional consulting or I-bank or finance job, then you really need an MBA from the Magic Seven, no questions asked.  I think you might, in some cases, get a pretty good shot at your dreams if you use one of the top foreign business schools, but – honestly – that’s about it.  If you want to punch your ticket, then your choices are few.

If, however, you simply want to “learn,” then – sure – all B-schools have pretty similar curricula.

So what’s the real argument for a non-traditional degree?  It’s that these degrees might help you sneak into a better program than you’d otherwise make, and that could be a good deal for some.

But it’s not the deal you should take.  Look, the GMAT can be beat – it’s not some talent contest that measures what God gave you; it’s an achievement test, which measures how well you’ve learned to play the game.  Rather than looking for a short cut, get help learning the game. Honestly, if people spent half as much time and money preparing for the test as they spend trying to circumvent the test, I think they’d soon realize that beating the test is the best short-cut of all.  Sure, it’s not cheap, but it works.

Second, I think you’d be better off building up your application than looking for new places to send it.  B-school isn’t law school or med school; b-school takes plenty of second-tier academic talents because B-school isn’t looking for school smarts alone.

Third, I think that’s the ultimate problem with “alternative” degrees – what, exactly, are you going to do with your finance degree or whatever?  Prove you’re smart? I mean do you honestly think that your future employers can’t figure out what you’re doing?

An MBA, in large part, signals to employers that you are the kind of person who can get into and graduate from that sort of program; economists call it “signaling”.  So, unless the specialized masters is in the field that’s “exactly” what you’ll be doing after graduating, the MBA-alternative degree only proves that you aren’t the sort of person who could get into a great MBA program – why would that help you?

Yes, I know – I’m biased: I think you should study for the test and get admissions counseling instead of looking for a short-cut, but biased doesn’t mean wrong.  We’ve built this business because we believe in what we do: we can help you get into a great MBA program.

Or you can look for a short-cut.  The choice is yours.

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