What did you do with your MBA?

The area I live in has a good public university with a pretty decent MBA program, and my company offers tuition reimbursement that will cover about 75% of costs. I would continue working full time and take a couple of classes a semester. It would be time consuming but doable. But I’m not sure what I would do afterwards. The university also offers a master’s degree in political science (my undergrad major), and they claim their graduates don’t have trouble finding jobs with the government offices in the area or with private business. The latter option is more interesting to me, but the MBA seems more practical.

I know that some of you have MBAs or are studying to get them. What career paths have you taken or do you plan to take?

Not the most practical follow-up, but…
Can you do both?
While doing a MA in Poli Sci, I intensively aided a student from HK working on his MBA. After awhile, he suggested that I ought to take the MBA… figured I would have done well.
Alternatively, have you considered doing something that would combine the two? Behavioral economics has been a hot area for a while, and continues to attract attention, though that wave may have crested. I’ve been chewing over the idea of a Ph.D in the area.

If your primary consideration is a career, then which ever you choose, bone up in advance, publish a couple of papers, and network like a shameless career whore.

What did you do with your MA in political science?

Of direct benefit to my long-term career path? In truth, nothing Earth shattering. Nothing I’d planned on in advance (making what follows a rather round-about explanation).

I went for the Theory stream, but happened to arrive at the tail end of a departmental shake-up, at a time when most of the Theorists were scattered to the winds, or on sabbatical, so that while I happened to arrive the load was being carried by an unproven dingbat from the 22-varieties of Lockean liberalism school of thought. It also happens that I was heavily involved at my undergrad university – setting up a student association, helping out with the department, serving on the Board of Governors – and decided that it would be better (given that I wasn’t expecting to be there long) to focus on the books.

So, two mistakes: I didn’t make sure that the profs I wanted to work with would actually be on campus that year, and I opted not to play the career whore. On the other hand, by chance, a number of the fellow students I got to know best were those whose first language wasn’t English. One asked if I’d look over his paper, I did so and went to town on it. He was highly impressed, and I acquired a reputation as a first-rate editor. That led to a lot of work that I rather enjoy. First papers, then theses, now book chapters; from those classmates, or their friends, or friends of friends. All those works in process do wonders for feeding my brain. It also set me up to edit a journal at Academia Sinica, which is a very nice part-time position and looks like gold on my resume over here.

Aside from the push towards editing, long-term, the Poli-Sci MA will probably turn out to be most useful as a bridge. My BA is in History. As an undergrad I focused on intellectual history (specifically the migration of ideas between the arts and politics, especially in revolutions). The Poli-Sci MA focused on Rational Choice theory and how emotions distort (or inform) reasoning. Given that focus, my adviser suggested that I take a course being offered in the English department that combined political theory, philosophy and Shakespeare. I did so, was blown away, and ended up doing a second MA in English Lit (and going back to the theme of my History BA by looking at Machiavelli’s influence on Shakespeare). That’s had it’s own spin-off effects.

The editorial work I started doing for classmates in Poli-Sci grew into a small business and led to work in other fields – including a bit of speech writing – particularly after I launched into the English MA. It’s not what I’d planned on–being a university prof–but it’s interesting and pays the bills. However, as a dedicated jack-of-all trades, finding a university faculty position would be tricky now, because for all the talk given to interdisciplinary studies, faculty hiring is about turf battles, jumping through hoops, and ticking off the right boxes on some weird-ass checklist, and I’m a round peg looking for a square hole. I may still take up the Behavioral Economics Ph.D to add another tool set to my bag of tricks. It would make me look even more like an intellectual platypus, but would enrich my outlook (if not my bank account). And who knows what the spin-offs would be.

My plans are always reshaped by the unexpected, and long-term plans have so much built in wiggle room that I’m not sure it’s legitimate to call them anything more than an outline. I don’t know… maybe that’s most useful as a guide to what you should avoid. :idunno:

[quote=“Gao Bohan”]The area I live in has a good public university with a pretty decent MBA program, and my company offers tuition reimbursement that will cover about 75% of costs. I would continue working full time and take a couple of classes a semester. It would be time consuming but doable. But I’m not sure what I would do afterwards. The university also offers a master’s degree in political science (my undergrad major), and they claim their graduates don’t have trouble finding jobs with the government offices in the area or with private business. The latter option is more interesting to me, but the MBA seems more practical.

I know that some of you have MBAs or are studying to get them. What career paths have you taken or do you plan to take?[/quote]

My own advice would be not to go for the MBA. I’ve worked in the private sector for four years since grad school and have worked in the public sector for about four years as well. In the private sector, an MBA will help you get your foot in the door but after that? It’s entirely up to you. In some cases, I think MBA students are harder to train in certain areas because they overvalue their education and have to be reprogrammed in many cases. I personally prefer people to leave their credentials at the gate and work hard, hard, hard. You don’t need three degrees to do that.

I would advise you to take something you love. It will all look good on paper in the end. If you’ve gotten into Wharton School of Business or Yale and want to make boatloads of money, take it. An MBA is about networking, but the best networking can be done in real life. If you’re going back to school, you might as well take something that would really stimulate you. I for one, plan to do a PHd in perhaps a decade or so and look forward to taking a year or so off and immersing myself in old libraries while I do my research. SOAS in London is where I would want to go. Will probably do it on an international development/foreign aid topic. Would I do it for career reasons? Nope. Probably wouldn’t impact my career goals or path at all. I would do it because of the pleasure of learning and for the sense of accomplishment. For my old man, it was the same. He finished his doctorate in his late 50s. Didn’t have to do it (althought he got to teach the film courses he loves), but he was bored and wanted to to keep challenging himself in his later years.

Don’t waste a year or two of your life because you think it will get you a job. Experience counts for 10X as much IMHO.

I think Chewy’s is good advice. And he’s also right about the real long-term dollar worth of an MBA, which lies in the contacts you make while in the program.

For what it’s worth, an old employer sent me to biz school and picked up the tab. That saved me a boatload of money (about $40,000, tax free), but there were also several drawbacks. One, I no longer work for that company. Second the only EMBA (executive masters in business administration) option for me was at the local mid-tier state university. A drawback is that while those contacts are wonderful friends, several of them even lifetime friends…this is going to sound unpleasant because it’s so nakedly in my self-interest…but frankly if I had quit the company first and then applied to some programs with more hitting power then the dollar quality of the contacts made would be better. Contacts give you liquidity in your biz school investment. After all, if in biz school you gained the respect of a dozen students who now hold executive positions at different companies, then you can just pick up the phone and maybe gain an edge for your own firm, your product, or place yourself on the inside track for a new job.

If you do choose to enroll in biz school, then likely you’ll mostly be thrown in with talented engineers whose employers, if they’re paying the tab, value their technical skills but want them to gain some softer skills. There will also be the odd non-technical student paying for his/her own degree, as well as a surprising number of people from the public sector (I was surprised how many military people were in my MBA program).

Learning to manage others (ie, how to get them to to things they’d never do if left to their own devices) is probably the most valuable thing you can learn there. You’ll also start building muscle memory with regard to decision making. By muscle memory, I mean that you’ll be exposed to the kind of mental exercise that will help you to make better financial decisions in the future, when the day passes at breakneck speed and you’re doing more than you ever thought possible. Good muscle memory then is the same as good instincts. Thing is, contacts can also help you with the muscle memory part. That’s because the guy you call with an ops question will be flattered and just may work harder at your problem (for a bit) than he does at his own job. Managing others, though, nobody outside your context can help you with that. Managing other humans is an art.

I started out in finance, but now I manage projects in software applications. Unfortunately I kind of scoffed at the soft stuff while in the program. If I had my MBA to do over, I’d have taken all my electives in org psych.

Chewy’s also right about this. If you’ve been accepted to Wharton or any Ivy League school, or any program in the top half of either the Big Ten or PAC 10, or UT-Austin, drop everything, borrow if you have to, and enroll.

Best of luck.

It depends on cost of attendance as well as your opportunity cost.

If for example, you want to go to a 2 year full time program that costs ~150k USD for tuition + living expenses, there are only about 20 schools globally that are worth going to.

The less you sacrifice (less money to pay, less time unemployed, etc), the lower you can go down in the rankings.

I read this book about a journalist from the Daily Telegraph who decided to goto Harvard B-school, then didn’t do a career in “finance” and instead wrote a book about his experiences. Pretty interesting insider’s take on the value of b-school. Of course, his bias is clear and you may or may not agree with his “idealism”.

Still a decent light read.

The title was something like Two Years at Harvard Business School: Philip Delves Broughton

In terms of MBAs, YMMV. It depends very much on: a) your prior background b)where you get your MBA. Somone told me if the school is not top 10, then don’t bother. At the time, I felt it was snobbery. However, looking back, it is true. The cost of the education doesn’t vary too much between the top 25 schools, but the pay coming out does.

From a good school, think of it as a, “seal of good housekeeping”, an economic signaler if you will, that you’ve been through some kind of vetting process.

In my case, I would not have a job even near what I have now were it not for my MBA. I wouldn’t even have gotten the interview. Of course, once into the interview, the rest I had to do myself. The longer you are out of school, the less the school and the more your track record matters. That said; I find I used my education almost daily. Six years out, I don’t remember all of the techniques and details, but I remember that certain techniques & concepts are out there and then can look up the details or go through my old notes. In the good schools you’re taught by people who actually consult part time for major corporations or consulting firms, so what they teach is not theoretical at all, but very practical.

Chewy and Jaboney hit the nail on the head, especially Chewy. If you’re going to do a MA/MBA then do what you love otherwise you may be disappointed in the program. Also, really interview the program, the professors and students. See if the over all mission of the program fits yours, I can’t stress this enough. It’s great, during this poor economy, that your company is willing to assist, but don’t let this be an influence on going back to grad school.

Best of luck!

I ran across a book at Page One criticizing MBA programs, with the observation that they illegitimately combine two fundamentally different types of training: one for new university graduates who want the extra credential (and maybe a job too), and another for those who already have serious managerial experience, and are studying as a part of their career. This really hit home for me, as I was definitely in the first group. I would never hire me to manage anything, but I probably did learn a lot from the program anyway (despite squeaking by with C-minuses).

Basic marketing and management courses are widely considered to be bullshit. Upper-level courses may take the form of “war stories.” When I was there, group projects were all the rage. I guess they were less work for the progessors.

Accounting and finance have something to do with equations or something. (I never did get this part.) Oh yeah! “Buy low, sell high.”

But I liked my language and international studies classes. Heh heh, way back in 1988, I recall predicting the unification of eastern and western Europe. My professor thought I was nuts. Which was true enough (my analysis being inspired in part by Hal Lindsay), but I’ve always wanted to go back and ask him to raise my grade on the grounds of successful prophecy!

Thanks all for the advice. I’m currently preparing to take the entrance exam for business school (GMAT). The school I’m trying to get into is just a local public university, but is a good school nonetheless. I don’t have any illusions about getting a job on Wall Street afterwards, but right now my career is at a standstill and the MBA will help me to progress forward. The local program is well-respected by the high-tech sector here, which is what I work in. The MA in Political Science, well, hardly anyone knew of its existence. I had to ask myself where I’d be after graduating. The MBA just opens up a lot more possibilities.

I really appreciate everyone’s comments, and special thanks to the poster who PM’ed me lots of great advice.

And Screaming Jesus, didn’t get you an MA in Theology at some point as well? Was it after you got the MBA?

Edit: Never mind SJ, I found this post.

So what do you do? :slight_smile:

Hence the creation of executive MBA programs so middle aged soon-to-be CEOs don’t have to sit through class along with hung-over-from-last-night’s-toga-party new grads.

Well this is a night MBA program, so I doubt there’s going to be many toga-clad drunks there, thankfully. (There’s an eMBA program too, but I’m not interested in that).

What exactly does an MBA teach anyone? Why is an MBA needed to do some jobs?
I feel it’s a sort of artificial barrier put in place but for what reason I don’t know (they are very expensive to get a well ‘respected’ MBA in the US). It it sort of the Freemason’s club of the 20th/21st century?

Always felt an MBA was only good after the fact

By this I mean where you have experience in various situations, the MBA clarifies or gives insight into these situations.

For people doing MBAs with little practical experience or exposure to the elements of the MBA course … well put it this way… A person could read a book on swimming and then dive into the deep end, and probably drown. Else they stay in the shallow end “advising” those learner swimmers and the life guard on something they read in the book

MBAs expose you to tools and moreover to contacts. They are not a sub for practical experience.

But couldn’t you do the same from reading a few books and discussing things online? Should have to pay 20-40,000 to meet other executives to get a better job in the future. How does this ADD VALUE to your actual job?

That’s too bad. Cuz it is in these “real-life” situations that friendships and invaluable business relationships are often formed. In Japan, there is sometimes a few days of drinking before business is even discussed.

Many MBA program apparently do quite a good job at simulating scenarios (i.e. case studies) that one needs to work through with other team members. Kinda like the difference between just reading a book on flying and reading that same book but also training on a flight simulator. Neither is the real thing, but the latter is a whole lot closer.