Is an MBA all that important?

By May 16, 2017 March 19th, 2019 Evolve Insights

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on May 16th, 2017

I often interact with young professionals eager to enroll for a Master in Business Administration (MBA). Some of them usually have a business related undergraduate degree while others are from an entirely different field. My answer may vary depending on where one is in their career. However, I am always clear on the fact that one should not get an MBA for the sake of it. Enrolling for an MBA because of peer pressure or because it looks nice on the resume adds no value.

I earned an MBA early in my career. A position in research and development opened up a new world of business that seemed fascinating. Most business schools by then required one to have work experience, to sit the GMAT exam and score a certain minimum as well as to take certain business related undergraduate courses as prerequisites. I found the three years of work experience at middle level management very useful during the MBA experience. In addition, three semesters of basic undergraduate business courses in accounting, marketing management and the like gave the MBA program a good grounding.

The MBA program was such an eye opener especially because my first degree was in the sciences. Not only did I learn the foundational business practices, but was also able to cultivate a passion for the world of business. In particular, I found the management, leadership, strategy, entrepreneurship, finance and marketing aspects of business intriguing. Thinking global, the capstone simulation experience and exposure as a foreign student working in multiracial and multicultural team projects were other aspects of the MBA program that I found valuable. As such, I consider the MBA program to have been a worthwhile investment in time and money.

Today, most universities in Kenya offer MBA programs. At the workplace, the once coveted degree qualification is common. Entry requirements to MBA programs are not as stringent as they were two decades ago. Some universities do not even require work experience as a prerequisite to enrollment. Many others do not require those with a non-business 1st degree to take the basic undergraduate business classes. It is evident that some MBA programs have been substantially diluted, especially by the quality of instruction.

Is an MBA that important? Though an MBA is an added advantage, it is not a requirement for one to advance the corporate ladder. An MBA may get you a job but it will not keep you at the job. In addition, some students enroll for an MBA as soon as they complete their 1st degree. Once in the job market, most such students are perceived as overqualified for entry-level positions and lack experience for managerial positions. In the world of entrepreneurs, the discussions around the value of an MBA are very interesting. I often tell my customers that running a business successfully is a much more valuable experience than enrolling for an MBA.

Maybe the value of an MBA depends on the business school attended. Nevertheless, with or without an MBA, keeping current with the trends in the world of business and in one’s specific field as well as becoming better at what we do is a much greater investment.

Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy